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The Paranoia and Persecution Complex of the Religious Right

persecution

Originally published in 2015. Edited and expanded.

As of today, there is NO religious persecution in the United States. Every citizen is free to worship any or no God. All citizens are free to worship when, where, and how they wish. I know of no law that prohibits the free exercise of religion. The United States, when it comes to religion, is the freest nation on the face of the earth. Yet, despite the evidence, many on the religious right think they are being persecuted, and if liberals have their way Sharia law will be instituted and Christianity will be outlawed. If the socialist/communist/liberal/Democrat horde is not repelled by King Trump and his mighty army of Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons, Christians will be persecuted, incarcerated, and possibly killed — just as the Jews were in World War II.

Think I am kidding?  What follows is an excerpt from an article written by American Family Association (AFA) author and CIO Jim Shempert titled America’s Future: Christian Persecution. (AFA has removed the article from their site.) What graphic did AFA and Jim Shempert choose for the article?

prison camp survivors

That’s right, Shempert and AFA think that Christians will soon be treated much like the Jews, gypsies, and mentally handicapped were treated by Hitler and the Nazis in World War II.

Here’s what Shempert had to say:

…This blog is intended for the Church. If you are not a Christian, and your only goal is to tear down Christianity, you can stop reading here.

Church, Christianity is under attack all across the globe. The persecutions of the Church are definitely not the same but they all have the same root. Imagine trying to be a Christian in Iraq/Syria/anywhere south of Turkey right now… Standing for your faith will be met with loss of property, threats, beatings, and death. These are common occurrences. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to go to Google. Type in “Middle East Christian persecution” and hit “search.” In literally half a second, Google will return to you 1.1 million articles/pages on persecution of Christians in the Middle East. To focus on a different area, go back to Google and search for “Christian persecution in Africa.” In .6 seconds, you are greeted with 2.5 million articles/pages that deal with Christian persecution in Africa.

Now, the current resident of the White House believes that the atrocities committed by Muslim terrorist groups are not indicative of all Muslim people. Here’s a potential fire starter: I happen to agree with him there. Personally, I believe the Muslim faith to be incorrect in its focus. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no man cometh unto the Father but by Him. As those Muslims must surely think that I am wrong in my focus. However, I do not think that all Muslims are terrorists, or that they are all on jihad. I also don’t believe the line that these extremist groups are not focused around Islam. I know that the resident of the White House likes to continue his crusade against Christianity by reminding us that at one time, horrible atrocities were committed by those who claim the name of Christ. His problem, and all those who claim moral equivalency, is that he is unable to call EVIL what it is: EVIL. He is able to quickly tear apart Christianity, and say that America was never a Christian nation, but he is unable to say that Islamic terrorism is evil.

I’ve had a long conversation with a friend on this, and we came to the conclusion that if any group that claims Christianity starts cutting off people’s heads while singing “Just as I am,” the first people to respond will be Christians. We will police our own. The soldiers sent to stop them will probably be Christians, at least in some part. Rest assured, the current White House, will seek great joy in touting that it is CHRISTIANS doing this. “See…they are doing it too!” A 5 year old child has more intellect and intelligence.

The point is… American is no longer a Christian nation. Those are hard words to hear. They were even harder to type. That’s not to say that it never was. America was built around Christian principles, with Christian men and women leading it. Those who claim otherwise are just repeating a Goebbels lie: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” The nation that I grew up in, is no more. Being viewed as an evangelical Christian now, is to be seen as a leper. “Those close minded, bigoted, judging Christians.” “Why don’t you just love? That’s what Jesus did.” (That one usually comes from someone who hasn’t opened a Bible since grade school) “Judge not, that you be not judged.” That’s Matthew 7:1 for any of you that use it. You might want to continue down chapter 7 to verses 15-20. Might do you some eternal good…

…What’s the next step for those who only want their ears tickled? To silence those who don’t! Anyone who preaches the Light, will be resisted by the darkness. Offensive words will be created to describe them and shouted over and over and over until the masses begin to repeat them. They will be chastised in the media, lose their jobs, their businesses, their property, their ability to live their lives the way they choose. The assertion that they are ignorant will be constantly repeated. Their very freedom will be threatened. Oh wait, that’s already happened…

Martin Niemoller was a pastor in Germany during the Nazi regime and also a concentration camp survivor. He is remembered most for this quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Ronald Reagan is by far the greatest president of my lifetime. He said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Those words could never be truer than they are today. As Christians, we are at a crossroads in America. We can stand up, and let our voices be heard. We can fight at the ballot box for the rights that we were always guaranteed. Or, we can continue to allow our anti-Christian government to destroy the basic tenants of our faith. The choice is ours…

…What happens to those of us that resist? How long before we become “enemies of the State?” How long before we are sent to “camps” for re-education? Sound crazy? The German people in the ‘30’s would have said the same thing. In a few short years, millions would be imprisoned and executed for their faith…

…I live in relationship with Jesus Christ as my Savior. My life is forfeit. If it is His will that I must be sacrificed for my stand for His Name, then so be it. Even Jesus didn’t turn away from death when presented with it. He was obedient to the end.

American Christian, most of the rest of the world knows this already, from experience. But there is coming a day when to identify as a Christian in America will bring consequences…

I love it when groups like AFA use Martin Niemöller’s quote to suggest that what happened in Hitler’s Germany will soon happen here. Here’s the problem: no one has come for the socialist, trade unionist, or Jew. Yes, many on the political and religious right fight against socialism and trade unions, but no one would suggest that the religious right is persecuting socialists or union members. They most certainly are not persecuting the Jews. The religious right loves Israel — well at least until Jesus comes back to earth at the end of the Great Tribulation and slaughters all the unbelieving Jews.

We live in a free country. While I think personal liberties are under attack by corporate, military-industrial complex, and surveillance-industrial complex interests, I have no fear of being persecuted or jailed if I oppose those interests. Much like Evangelical Christians, atheists are free to write about, attack, critique, and make fun of religion. I don’t fear the government breaking my door down and arresting me for something I have written.

Unfortunately, when one lives in a country where freedom of belief and practice are ensconced in its founding documents and law, the slightest denial of freedom or the slightest inconvenience can be viewed as an attack on freedom and personal rights. The religious right thinks legalizing same-sex marriage and justice and equal protection under the law for LGBTQ people is an infringement of their religious rights. However, allowing same-sex couples to marry in no way infringes on a person’s right to believe and worship as they see fit. Legalizing same-sex marriage changed nothing for Christians.  Christians are still free to pray, read the Bible, evangelize, attend a house of worship, and — get this — forbid LGBTQ people from being members in their church. Nothing in federal or state law required churches and or clerics to accept LGBTQ members or perform their wedding ceremonies.

No clergyperson will ever be required to marry a same-sex couple. Since marriage is a secular function of law, a pastor is free to choose whom he will or won’t marry. It is the marriage license, not the ceremony, that gives a marriage legal force. This is why public officials must issue marriage licenses to heterosexual and same-sex couples alike. They are acting on behalf of the state, a secular institution. If they cannot, according to their conscience, fulfill their legal obligation to issue a marriage license to all who request one, then they should resign. Their resignation is not persecution. All of us have beliefs and moral and ethical values that might, in some circumstances, preclude us from holding certain jobs. Not being able to hold those jobs is NOT persecution.

We are less than a year away from the 2020 presidential election. The United States faces many pressing and trying issues: war, poverty, crumbling infrastructure, government debt, rampant opioid addiction, runaway medical insurance costs, etc. Instead of whining and screaming about “fake” persecution, I wish the religious right and their representatives in Congress would reach across the aisle and meaningfully try to find a solution to the pressing issues of the day.

The American Family Association, and other right-wing religious groups like them, know that their followers must constantly be poked lest they become apathetic and stop sending donations. What better way to wake people up than to scream PERSECUTION!  Until Christians realize groups like the AFA are manipulating them for political and financial gain, they will continue to be outraged every time they are told they need to be outraged. (The outrage machine One Million Moms is an arm of the AFA. Please see the 2015 report I wrote titled, Follow the Money: The American Family Association and their Support of the Gay Agenda) Until they are willing to actually think for themselves and thoroughly investigate the issues without checking in with Fox News first, there’s little hope of meaningful dialog.

“But Bruce, same-sex marriage and homosexuality is wrong!” Why? Without referencing the Bible, please defend your anti-LGBTQ position. I have yet to have someone successfully defend the prohibition of same-sex marriage and homosexuality without appealing to their religious beliefs and a sacred text such as the Christian Bible. Once religion is removed from the equation, there is no reasonable argument to be made for prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying or for permitting people to legally and freely engage in same-sex relationships.

That said, I still believe in the American political process. Christians are free to work towards a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They have the same rights and privileges as I do. Let’s duke it out in the public square. Of course, the religious right doesn’t want to do this, knowing that they would likely never get enough states to approve a constitutional amendment. So, instead, they whine and complain about PERSECUTION!

The real issue here is that Christianity is losing its preferential place at the cultural table. For most of our country’s existence, the Christian religion has been seated at the head of the table. This is natural, of course, since most Americans self-identify as Christian. However, more and more Christians are moving to the left politically and religiously, especially young adults. More and more Americans no longer have any religion. Atheism, agnosticism, humanism, secularism, religious indifference, and “none of the above” continue to increase. Like it or not, right-wing Christians must recognize that they no longer have the political and social power and clout they once had. If they don’t like this, I suggest they get busy attracting new people to their cause. Good luck with that.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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21 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    Well, according to their interpretation of the Bible, Christians must be persecuted before the end comes. So I guess they see signs that Christians don’t get to control everything as persecution. Never mind that they can successfully ignore gay people in every arena, except for the work arena. (And if their work is for their church, then they can ignore LBGT people there too!)

    The thing that really gets to me is, what happened to Christians who would make attempts to be nice to other people? Now, they are angry and defensive and in-your-face about losing “their” country. I do a lot of asking why they don’t believe in “love your neighbor as yourself” and I don’t get ANY. ANSWER.

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      Becky, I think that as Christianity is designed to harm, then the phrase, ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’, is actually being carried out! When one is willing to agree to the assertion that they are born in sin and their personal iniquity is overwhelming without our Lord and Savior, then it logically follows that this will be applied across the board. You see, you may not know you are a bag of shit but you are indeed and some years ago, Mr. Gerencser was calling this out from the street-corners of the town! I was laboring myself in a less public way to help spread the word of Truth. When one has filled their gut and gotten high on Kool-aid, harming others is doing those others a favor and serving the one true God. The deliberate reversal of meanings is very important in evangelical Christianity. When you have to beat your wife and/or children it hurts you more than it hurts them. Isn’t it wonderful that God handed over his Son? Isn’t it terrible the way Americans treat God’s chosen leader, dragging his God-given office through the muck of liberal, Satanic forces! Liberals mean well but the devil has them in his corner. They might not even realize it but dear, sweet Jesus opened my eyes to the Truth. Oh, I don’t condemn them to an eternity of hell, no…. that is for God to decide and so forth.

  2. Avatar
    Stephanie

    Well, you know, they can’t be bothered with the things of this world unless it’s the gays or abortion….or any other pet project…

  3. Avatar
    Scott

    It’s the Religious Right stating that their “religious liberty” is under attack if they cannot discriminate against gays and are “forced” to pay for birth control. It’s amazing that liberty is now being defined by them as the ability to discriminate, intimidate and control others that their beliefs deserve more protection. This makes “1984’s newspeak” look wimpy. They seem to forget that there is NOT a right: to be first to force your views on people, not have people criticize you for your beliefs and ideas, and that your disgust with gays is scared.

    Old white Christian males are getting more and more terrified of losing their long held power. There are younger men who fighting hard to help them as they are seeing that their easy way to power is being taken away. It’s not an easy thing for some people to face.

    • Avatar
      Scott

      There is also the “sincerely held beliefs” phrase that is just nuts. I’ve “sincerely held beliefs” that humans will not wipe our selves out and will reach the stars. It does not mean that I get to discriminate against people who don’t share that belief. The idea that someone who wants to not provide service to gays because of “sincerely held beliefs” is no different than the people who discriminated against people of different skin color for the same reasons. Calling your prejudice a “sincerely held belief” is hiding behind religion.

    • Avatar
      vasiliy

      It’s the “religious liberty” defined as the freedom to stamp out everybody else’s religious (and other) liberty.

  4. Avatar
    Angiep

    I love that he is so offended by Obama being in office that he refers to him as, “the resident of the White House.”
    Also, he needs to open a dictionary and learn that TENETS of faith are not the same thing as “TENANTS” of faith. And this: “Offensive words will be created to describe them and shouted over and over and over until the masses begin to repeat them.” Oh, you mean kind of like Fox “News” and the GOP??? Get real, who is really lying to the masses these days?

  5. Avatar
    Matt Martin

    Ah yes, the persecution thing. The beadswingers have this in a bad way. Recently Australia’s most senior catholic prelate Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson was charged with concealing that another priest had been fiddling with kids.

    The response from catholics online? It’s all a liberal media beat-up to smear the holy mother church.

  6. Avatar
    Kat

    Ahhh yea, they’re persecuted. That’s why we have a church on every corner. Just as bad as CVS pharmacies. What a waste of prime real estate space.

  7. Avatar
    Monty

    One of the best arguments I’ve heard from Fundies is when they criticize the President and I remind them that their bible says that ALL authority is ordained by god, therefore god put Obama in place. Man oh man does this get them going!! I’ve actually had one tell me that god was not respond for that, that the people were. Its yet again another exercise in double think.

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  9. Avatar
    Dave

    “Type in “Middle East Christian persecution” and hit “search.” In literally half a second, Google will return to you 1.1 million articles/pages on persecution of Christians in the Middle East. ”

    I also typed in “unicorns are real” and got about 10.5 million hits on that. While there is persecution in these countries, someone needs to let them know there is no threshold for Google hits to equal truth. Then again “same sex marriage is good” gets 80.6 million while “Same sex marriage is bad” gets only 37 million. Maybe by their logic same-sex marriage is twice as real?

    Sorry, its just way too hard for me to take these people at the AFA serious in any way. For a really good laugh look up their “bigotry map”. I was near one of their map points so I went for a look… it was a concrete island (I did feel particularly ungodly when I stood on it though). That small fact summed them up perfectly for me. A group claiming to know the right direction, but really wrong about both the direction and destination.

  10. Avatar
    Professor Chaos

    Even using the Bible there’s no legitimate justification for opposing gay marriage. You can think its wrong, that doesn’t give you the right to legislate against it. The Bible condemns divorce, yet every state allows it, because it is not for the state to enforce religious rules. People are free to think that divorcees are going to hell or whatever, but as a society. We are grown up enough to realize that your marriage is none of my business.

  11. Avatar
    Ahab

    I just observed a Religious Right conference (U-Turn) where this kind of persecution complex was in full swing. Fundamentalist Christians fail to grasp that being forced to play by the same rules as everyone else is NOT persecution.

  12. Avatar
    Autumn

    The projection lights are blinding me! So if these clowns get any power at all they persecute others immediately! Witness the occasional fracases in the military when some Fundy officer gets the bit between his teeth and decides the whole unit has to be his flavor of fundy. I remember, for no particular reason the case where an outfit was given a choice between attending a christian rock concert and scrubbing the locker room with a toothbrush! (or similar) In spite of my flip language I do worry about this stuff in the back of my mind.

  13. Avatar
    thatotherjean

    Sigh. American Christians remember “being persecuted for my sake” from the Bible, where it made sense in the 1st Century Roman Empire, whose people worshiped different gods. It was promised as a good thing. But, since there’s no actual persecution of Christians in the 21st Century United States, they have to make it up. So they do, enthusiastically.

  14. Avatar
    Ed Martin

    Cultists are pretty much the same.
    “It is interesting to observe that in the year 1935 the average individual’s incurious attitude towards the phenomenon of the State is precisely what his attitude was toward the phenomenon of the Church in the year, say, 1500. … it does not appear to have occurred to the Church-citizen of that day, any more than it occurs to the State-citizen of the present, to ask what sort of institution it was that claimed his allegiance.” ~ Albert Jay Nock
    “The cult of the omnipotent state has millions of followers in the united States. Americans of today view their government in the same way as Christians view their God; they worship and adore the state and they render their lives and fortunes to it. Statists believe that their lives — their very being — are a privilege that the state has given to them. They believe that everything they do is — and should be — dependent on the consent of the government.” ~ Jacob Hornberger

  15. Avatar
    xulonjam

    Re: Israel. There is also this conflation. The current administration is filled with Neo-Nazi anti-semitism and yet the definition of anti-semitism has changed from persecuting Jews qua Jews to criticizing Netenyahu or the genocide of the Palestinians. Trump signed an order making that transition a couple weeks back. Because Genesis12:3.

  16. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Some evangelicals are more interested in their culture wars and forcing their beliefs on others than they are on treating people with respect.

  17. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Garden variety American Christian’s don’t know what real persecution is,or the dread that comes with living under a dictatorship. They seem to want to bad enough though. By so many acting like a-holes all over the place,and crackpots visiting at the White House constantly, they could get their wish. Just crashing the economy and destroying the dollar,or starting WW3, purportedly for Jeezus would kickstart that persecution nicely. They’d have the whole country after them then. Many times these fanatics say America must be ruined so Jeezus can come back. Don’t believe it ? Look it up for yourself. Even Jonathan Kahn,who was on AM Coast to Coast last week was saying this-so that the Third Temple can be built,bringing back the Second Coming. New book he’s touting.

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