Tag Archive: Persecution

Were American Evangelicals Being Persecuted During Barack Obama’s Presidency?

I  recently watched a news clip from the recent Value Voters Summit. One attendee interviewed said that Christians (Evangelicals) were being persecuted before Jesus-loving, pussy-grabbing, liar-in-chief  Donald Trump became president. The woman’s proof of persecution? People said bad things about Christianity. The following graphic pretty well sums things up:

white christian persecution

Please use the comment section below to list all the ways Evangelicals were persecuted under President Obama.

Dear Evangelical Bible Smugglers and Proselytizers: Don’t Do the Crime, if You Can’t do the Time

tony baretta

Tony Baretta says, Don’t Do the Crime if You Can’t Do the Time

Many Evangelicals have a sense of entitlement. Believing that their God is the one true God, and that their religion is the one true religion, Evangelicals think they have a right to spread their beliefs to the ends of the earth. Many Evangelicals are also flag-waving, right-wing nationalists who believe the United States is a city set on a hill, shining forth the light of Christianity and democracy. Package these things together and what you have are insufferable people who arrogantly think that their beliefs and ideologies are truth and all other beliefs and ideologies are false.

With the above facts in mind, it should come as no surprise that Evangelicals are proselytizers, not only for their brand of Christianity, but also for right-wing American democracy. As people of THE Book, Evangelicals believe they have been commanded by God to take their version of the Christian gospel to every tribe, nation, and tongue. In some corners of Evangelicalism, people believe that the gospel must be preached to the whole world before Jesus can return to earth. This is why Evangelicals are known for their missionary efforts. Thousands of missionaries have spread across the globe hoping to win the lost to Jesus. While most of the missionaries serve in countries that already have established Christians sects such as Roman Catholicism, Evangelicals view non-Evangelical Christians as targets for evangelization. Their goal is not to make everyone Christian as much as it is to convert people to their brand of Christianity.

Proselytizing Evangelicals think that every nation should have the same laws and regulations as the United States. These zealots for Jesus travel to other countries, often smuggling in Bibles and tracts, with the express purpose of preaching the gospel to those they have deemed lost and in need of salvation. If a country’s laws prohibit such things, too bad, the Evangelical says. I’m on a mission for Jesus and his laws are above any earthly laws. Cultural sensitivity be damned, all that matters is spreading the good news of the Evangelical gospel to the ends of the earth.

Every so often, proselytizing Evangelicals are arrested for breaking the laws of the countries they have invaded for Jesus. Most often, these countries are non-Christian, Hindu, or Muslim, nations which have strict laws prohibiting proselytizing. These countries often have laws that prohibit conversion to another a religion. In some instances, Evangelicals find themselves behind bars in countries such as North Korea that prohibit religious worship.

When news of their arrests reach the United States, Evangelicals and their supporters in government quickly claim that the people arrested are being persecuted for their faith. Demands are made for their immediate release. Few Evangelicals seem to understand the idea behind the cliché, When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Sovereign states have a right to have their own laws, and it is the height of arrogance to demand that other countries play by our rules. Yes, North Korea is a totalitarian communist state, but they are an autonomous state, and those traveling within its borders are expected to obey the law.

Evangelicals arrested for proselytizing are not being persecuted for their faith. To quote the famous Tony Baretta, Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time. While their arrests are regrettable, their real crime is stupidity. Blinded by certainty and arrogance, Evangelicals think they can break laws and not be held accountable. The issue is not the justness of such laws. Every nation-state, including the United States, has unjust laws. What I find interesting is that many Evangelicals, thinking the United States is a Christian nation, reject the notion of separation of church and state. Yet, they say they are being persecuted for their faith when arrested in countries that don’t have separation of church and state. Since many Evangelicals want a theocracy, shouldn’t other countries have the right to have a different type of God-rule? And if atheism is a religion (and it is not), as many Evangelicals say it is, shouldn’t atheistic states have a right to bar all non-atheistic religions? Shouldn’t these countries be permitted to govern themselves according to their own religious beliefs? Shouldn’t they have the right to ban Christianity and Christian law, just as many American Evangelicals want to ban Islam and sharia law?

I have no sympathies for American Evangelicals who are arrested for breaking the laws of sovereign states. If they are found guilty and either incarcerated or executed, their punishment is not persecution. As long as Evangelicals believe that God’s law supersedes human law, then they are going to find themselves in legal trouble, not only in foreign countries, but here in the United States. Those who recently seized a government building in Oregon, were to the man, Christian.. They and their supporters believe they are being persecuted, when in fact they are being prosecuted. Break the law and you will likely be arrested, prosecuted, and punished. This is the way it works in any nation that has laws (regardless of the rightness or morality of these laws).

If proselytizing Evangelicals arrested for their “faith” want to be true to their Christian beliefs, they should quietly and resolutely bear whatever punishment comes their way. Isn’t this what the Apostle Paul did? And as with Paul, if God wants to free “persecuted” Evangelicals, he has all the power necessary to do so. But what do incarcerated American Evangelicals do? They turn to U.S. government for help, demanding the State Department get them out of prison. Why not just pray and wait on God?

There is real persecution going on in the world. Christians are being executed by ISIS and Boko Haram just because they have the wrong faith. I support our government’s efforts to stop such barbaric and senseless killing. But, this is not same as what imprisoned Evangelicals proselytizers are facing. The former, in most instances, are not trying to force their faith on others. The latter evangelize non-Evangelicals with full knowledge that they are breaking the law. Their punishment is the direct consequence of their actions.

[signoff]

Evangelicals Say the Darnedest Things: Being a Christian Has Always Been a Risky Choice

jon stewart christian persecution

As a child growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s, I frequently watched the daytime TV show, Art Linkletter’s House Party. One feature of House Party was a segment called Kids Say the Darnedest Things. Linkletter would interview children between the ages of five and ten, and their responses were quite funny and entertaining. According to Wikipedia, Linkletter interviewed an estimated 23,000 children.

Yesterday, Erin Davis, a writer for the Lies Women Believe website, wrote a post titled, When it is Hard to be a Christian at School. According to Davis, Evangelical students who attend public schools are facing challenges to their Christian faith and practice. It’s not easy to be a Christian, Davis says, and she is quite proud of the fact that there are Christian students who are willing to stand up for their faith. Davis, and Lies Women Believe, are starting a new website feature to help students boldly stand up for Jesus and Christianity. Called Stand for Truth Thursdays, Davis and her fellow Evangelical truth-tellers hope to “each Thursday…feature a post on how you can stand firm in your faith no matter where you go to school.”

In her article, Davis made an astounding statement that got me thinking about Art Linkletter and Kids Say the Darnedest Things. As I read Davis’s statement, I thought, I should start a TV show called, Evangelicals Says the Darnedest Things. Here’s what she had to say:

Being a Christian has always been a risky choice.

Really? In what way, in America, is being a Christian a risky choice?

Let’s see. The United States has a constitution and bill of rights that expressly grant every citizen the freedom of speech and religion. The establishment clause forbids the government from meddling in the affairs of religious organizations. There’s a wall of separation between church and state that’s meant to protect religious institutions from government encroachment and any attempt to limit the free exercise of religion. Churches are tax exempt and members of the clergy have special tax breaks that allow them to pay very little income tax. Ministers are even permitted to opt out of social security if they so desire.

Any group of U.S. citizens can start their own religion or start a church, and any individual can decide he or she wants to be a minister. I could decide today to start a new church, say First Church of Bruce Almighty, and by Sunday I could have a congregation gathered up and be holding services. Donations to my new church would be, by default, tax exempt, and here in Ohio my new church would be exempt from sales and real estate tax. There’s no government oversight about what is considered a real church, and the IRS goes out of its way to be vague about the definition of a church.

Every community in America has one or more Christian churches. There are six churches within 5 miles of the town I live in and almost 200 Christian churches within a 30 mile radius. Whatever flavor of Christian that people want to be, there’s a church for them. Groups like Youth for Christ, Child Evangelism Fellowship, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes have ready access to public school students. Churches are free to start private religious schools, often with little or no government oversight. Evangelical parents are permitted to pull their children out of the public school and educate them at home. If  parents wants to teach their child the earth is 6,020 years old and evolution is a lie, they are free to do so.  Pastors routinely open or close government meetings with a prayer.  Everywhere I look, Christianity is on display. Where’s this risky Christianity Davis talks about?

Almost eight out of ten Americans profess to be Christian. Most Evangelical children have Evangelical parents who, from their earliest years forward, take them to a nearby Evangelical church. Evangelical children are encouraged to make a public profession of faith in Jesus as soon as they can understand the notion of sin and their need of forgiveness and salvation. Evangelical children make this profession of faith surrounded by other Evangelical children.  From walking the aisle and getting saved to getting baptized by immersion, the new Christian is surrounded by like-minded Evangelicals. Many Evangelicals call getting baptized a public profession of faith, yet the crowd watching the baptism are those who have already gone through the baptism ritual themselves. Getting saved and baptized in an Evangelical church is one of the safest, most non-stressful things a person can do. Risky? Not a chance.

Evangelicalism has its own subculture with Christianized music, entertainment, clothing, toys, books, and food. Evangelicals start businesses and local Christians are encouraged to support their fellow Christian’s business endeavor. The ichthys symbol is prominently displayed on business signs and advertisements, reminding Christians that a fellow club member runs the business. If Evangelicals are so inclined, they could wall themselves completely off from the wicked world of unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines and Canaanites and only breathe in the pure, righteous, holy air of Evangelical Christianity.

So, when someone like Erin Davis says that being a Christian is a risky choice, I ask, how so? I can’t think of one way that being a Christian in the United States is risky. Evangelicals pay no price for their faith. They are free to live, work, and play without being molested by the government or those opposed to Christianity. Evangelicals are as free as a nudist running down a beach on a warm summer day. Unencumbered by law or opinion, Evangelicals are free to be whatever it is they want to be. If this is so, and certainly Davis should know it is, why would an Evangelical like Davis say being a Christian is risky?

Thanks to Madalyn Murray O’Hair, atheism and unbelief have been part of American life since the 1960’s. Numerous groups like American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Freedom From Religion Foundation, The Clergy Project, and Center for Inquiry now promote atheism, agnosticism, and humanism.  Authors like Bart Ehrman, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens write bestselling books that critique and attack Christian belief.  Numerous blogs and websites are now devoted to atheism and critiquing Christian belief. Recent polls show that young adults are abandoning religion at a record pace, and there is an increasing number of disaffected Evangelicals leaving Christianity. Some leave Evangelicalism and join up with liberal or progressive Christian sects; others seek out eastern religions or abandon Christianity altogether.

It is the rise of secularism and atheism, along with the indifference of younger adults towards religion, that leads people like Erin Davis to conclude that Christianity is under attack and that it is now risky to be a Christian. Some Evangelical talking heads even say that American Christians are now be persecuted for their faith. Why, just a few months ago poor Kim Davis was thrown in jail for her faith, right? No, actually she wasn’t. She was jailed because she refused to obey the law and fulfill her duty an elected government official. While there are certainly individual cases where one could conclude that a Christian is being persecuted, most claims of persecution are really just examples of childish Christians throwing a temper tantrum over not being allowed to violate the law or get their way.  They rightly recognize that they are losing their preferred seat tat the head of the cultural table, and this frightens and upsets them. It also causes them to see persecution and hardship where there is none.

Let me end this post with Erin Davis’s own words and the words of several commenters about what they consider the risk of being a Christian. I’ll leave it to readers to judge whether they have a point. Davis wrote:

A college freshman at Duke University made national headlines for refusing to participate in a class assignment that required him to read a sexually-explicit graphic novel.

The fictional plot for the blockbuster hit movie God’s Not Dead was ripped from actual First Amendment court cases. The makers of the movie cite forty real-life court battles in which “university students, campus ministries, and clubs [were] attacked for their biblical faith.”

Being a Christian has always been a risky choice. That’s as true today as it was way back when Eve decided to fall for Satan’s lie instead of standing on God’s truth.

A group of Christian students in Pennsylvania organized a “flannel day” to show unity against increased LGBT activity at their school. Their peaceful protest involved putting Bible verses on plain pieces of paper underneath LGBT Awareness Day posters around their school. Similarly in my own home state of Missouri, more than 150 students walked out of their high school in protest of a transgender male being allowed to use the girls’ locker room.

And here’s what several commenters had to say:

…My afternoon at school today consisted to yoga in phys ed followed by a less on eveloutuon (sic)  and why they bible is wrong in biology. It was horrible and I have just been praying for guidance because apparently I’m getting yoga and eveloution (sic) every Thursday for a month but I really truly need a way to stand firm…

…I mean this same day in my Christian school I was mocked for doing the right thing and I felt sad but this encouraged me so much…

…I’m in college and we’re working on a group project, which needs a song. With regards to choosing the song, I don’t want to do something of pop culture or past pop culture because it troubles my spirit. At the same time, there’s just about no songs out there that have to do with our topic that’s not influenced by single-person center stage stars unless we do a hymn or a Christian song, which I am not sure that they will approve of. It has to do about not being good enough…

I feel very conflicted when it comes to the topic of lgbtq. I am a Christian yet I was raised in a public school system where it’s very politically correct and relativism and all that. I am confused as to how I should stand up for God in this matter especially as I am aspiring to be a nurse. Right now I believe that I cannot judge the LGBTQ community. That I should love them as myself. That if they ask if gay people can go to heaven, I don’t know. It’s a matter of your relationship with God and that relationship with cost you to surrender your life to Him. Would you be willing to surrender all to Him? Even if you find out that He does not want men to have sexual relations with men and vice versa. So reading this post I am just confused and conflicted with the protest against the transgendered male. I am not against posting verses under the posters but yeah. I just have a lot of mixed opinions about this issue and especially as I need to give equal care to those who don’t know God. I don’t know how I can evangelize in that profession and stand up for my faith properly…

 

Mark Anthony Escalera Follows Dorothy Over the Rainbow Over Gay Pride Flag

gay pride flag

Fundamentalist Christian Mark Anthony Escalera Slays a Gay Pride Flag

Snark, sarcasm ahead!

Over at the fundamentalist Christian Defending Contending blog, Mark Anthony Escalera had this to say: (link no longer active)

…After the flood, God created a rainbow to be His seal in the heavens. It was a declaration to show the mercy and longsuffering of God. The rainbow was His picture to a depraved world that while He would never again destroy the world with a flood, He would be coming again. The next time He comes, there will be no rainbows. There will only be fire and total destruction of ALL that stand opposed to Him.

The true rainbow is made up of 7 different primary colors of a spectrum. It is a beautiful reminder of the wonder that God long holds up His wrath and judgment against the wickedness of this world. Seven in the Bible indicates perfection and completion.

However, Satan perverted that sign and it is now used around the world as a symbol of “gay pride.” It has only 6 colors. Six in the Bible is the number of man. This “rainbow” is not a true rainbow, but is a symbol of perversion, debauchery, sodomy, lust, pedophilia, and bestiality – just to name a few. The one below is a perversion, and for the record, the White House KNEW what was coming and this was done deliberately. Read Psalm 2 for the conclusion….

According to the ignorant Escalera, a TRUE rainbow has SEVEN colors, seven being a number that many fundamentalists think signifies perfection and completion. The gay pride flag only has SIX colors, six being a number that many fundamentalists think is the number of man; you know like 666. In Escalera’s addled mind, the difference between seven and six colors is proof that the gay pride flag is a “symbol of perversion, debauchery, sodomy, lust, pedophilia, and bestiality – just to name a few. ” For a minute, when he started listing all the sins gays practice, I thought he was talking about Evangelical pastors. Just saying…

Evidently Escalera doesn’t have access to Wikipedia:

A spectrum obtained using a glass prism and a point source is a continuum of wavelengths without bands. The number of colours that the human eye is able to distinguish in a spectrum is in the order of 100. Accordingly, the Munsell colour system (a 20th-century system for numerically describing colours, based on equal steps for human visual perception) distinguishes 100 hues. The apparent discreteness of main colours is an artefact of human perception and the exact number of main colours is a somewhat arbitrary choice.

Newton, who admitted his eyes were not very critical in distinguishing colours,[8] originally (1672) divided the spectrum into five main colours: red, yellow, green, blue and violet. Later he included orange and indigo, giving seven main colours by analogy to the number of notes in a musical scale. Newton chose to divide the visible spectrum into seven colours out of a belief derived from the beliefs of the ancient Greek sophists, who thought there was a connection between the colours, the musical notes, the known objects in the Solar System, and the days of the week.

According to Isaac Asimov, “It is customary to list indigo as a color lying between blue and violet, but it has never seemed to me that indigo is worth the dignity of being considered a separate color. To my eyes it seems merely deep blue.”

The colour pattern of a rainbow is different from a spectrum, and the colours are less saturated. There is spectral smearing in a rainbow owing to the fact that for any particular wavelength, there is a distribution of exit angles, rather than a single unvarying angle. In addition, a rainbow is a blurred version of the bow obtained from a point source, because the disk diameter of the sun (0.5°) cannot be neglected compared to the width of a rainbow (2°). The number of colour bands of a rainbow may therefore be different from the number of bands in a spectrum, especially if the droplets are particularly large or small. Therefore, the number of colours of a rainbow is variable. If, however, the word rainbow is used inaccurately to mean spectrum, it is the number of main colours in the spectrum.

The question of whether everyone sees seven colours in a rainbow is related to the idea of Linguistic relativity. Suggestions have been made that there is universality in the way that a rainbow is perceived. However, more recent research suggests that the number of distinct colours observed and what these are called depend on the language that one uses with people whose language has fewer colour words seeing fewer discrete colour bands.

And just like that, Escalera’s  Bullingerian (see notes) numerical nonsense goes up in smoke.

Think this is Escalera’s worst with Dorothy over the rainbow moment? Oh no. Here’s how he ends his post:

…If you are reading this and think that this is the final conclusion of the LGBT community, then you have been duped. The LGBT community will NOT stop until the next step of Satan’s agenda has been accomplished and accepted. Polygamy will soon be accepted. The age of consent will be dropped just as is happening in other parts of the world. Adherents of LGBT, PFLAG, and NAMBLA cannot have their own children and will only grow as they prey on more and more young people trying to entice them to a life of lust-filled debauchery that will never offer anything but disease and heartache for it is not what God ordained.

Soon, this blog may be taken down because it will be considered hate speech. I know that day is coming. Many companies openly rejoice in the ruling by SCOTUS. One day soon, true believers will be given a choice to conform to the world’s standards or lose their jobs…

Someone unschooled in hyperbolic, delusional Evangelical rhetoric might conclude that Escalera is exaggerating (literary lying) to make a point. But, he’s not. He really believes that ONE DAY SOON, (as in ONE DAY SOON Jesus is coming back’?) his blog will be considered hate speech and taken down by the U.S. government. ONE DAY SOON, (as in ONE DAY SOON Evangelicals are going to start caring about the poor and disenfranchised’?) Christians such as he are going to lose their jobs over their homophobic, bigoted stand for Jesus.

Here’s the truth. Yes, Escalera’s post is offensive, ignorant, hateful, bigoted, and homophobic. But, all of these behaviors are completely legal. Escalera seems to forget he lives in the United States. Hate speech is protected speech, so Escalera is free to hate away. The same goes for losing his job. No employer is going to fire employees over what they believe as long as they don’t promote their beliefs while at work. In some instances, employers have a personal conduct code and this might result in someone being fired over hate speech, but most of the time employees, on their own time, are free to swill Schlitz, wave around an AK47, listen to Toby Keith, drape themselves in the confederate flag, and remind anyone who will listen that God hates fags!

Note

E.W. Bullinger was a nineteenth century Fundamentalist dispensationalist who believed the numbers in the Bible have spiritual meanings.(You can read Bullinger’s book, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, here.

020916

Local Christian Takes Courageous Stand for Jesus 

Snark ahead!

As you know, here in rural NW Ohio, religious persecution is quite severe.  Never mind that there is a Christian church on every street corner and the overwhelmingly majority of local residents profess faith in Jesus Christ. In the mind of God’s chosen ones, being forced to even think about two people of the same-sex being married in a ceremony performed by the notorious atheist Bruce Gerencser is enough for them to think they are being persecuted nigh unto death.

While their paranoid delusions have no basis in fact, I do think many Christian zealots have a persecution complex. Why, just the other day I drove though Pulaski, a spot along US HWY 127 noted for Bruce Gerencser having attended third grade there, and noticed the following:

believer lives here

This sign is akin to having a sign that says White Person Lives Here or Republican Lives Here.

Everyone in rural NW Ohio is a Christian. Yet, I am sure this bold as Daniel in the lion’s den Christian thinks that they are making a courageous statement of faith. They should expect persecution to befall them. In fact it already has. An atheist and his agnostic wife drove by this believer’s house and snickered. Such persecution has not been seen since the days the Romans slaughtered Christians in the Coliseum. How will this believer survive the withering persecution of a snickering atheist and his wife?

Stay tuned for updated reports.

Note:

Now, if I put a sign up in my yard that says, God is a Fiction, an Atheist Lives Here, I doubt the sign would survive the night. I know of only three or four out of the closet atheists in this area. I am sure there are more, but most local atheists stay in the closet lest they face social condemnation and economic harm.

 

Ken Ham Thinks He is Suffering Like the Nepalese

Ken Ham

Several days ago, Ken Ham, the oldest dinosaur at the Creation Museumwrote a blog post about K.P. Yohannan coming to speak to the Answers in Genesis staff. Yohannan is the founder and president of Gospel for Asia, an Evangelical ministry that focuses on evangelizing and starting churches in Asia. Years ago, Polly and I supported several native missionaries through Gospel for Asia, as did several of our sons.

Ham’s post recounts some of what Yohannan had to say to the staff. Here’s the part I found interesting and quite laughable:

K.P. finished his devotional presentation during our morning meeting with some encouragement for our staff about the power of prayer. He said, “God is not looking for workers, he is looking for worshippers.” Would you pray with us for the victims of the Nepal earthquake, the ministry of Gospel for Asia (and please consider a donation to the GFA relief effort), and the many missionaries around the world facing increasing persecution for their Christian faith? Would you also continue to pray for the ministry of Answers in Genesis as we too face a degree of persecution in the US, especially in relation to our religious freedom lawsuit with the state of Kentucky over the coming Ark Encounter? We need to pray that the state of Kentucky will decide to preserve and protect religious freedom. And please pray that we will continue to stand solidly on the authority of God’s Word from the very beginning and boldly proclaim that truth to our increasingly hostile culture.

Pray for the victims of the Nepal earthquake+pray for the ministry of Gospel for Asia+pray for the many Christian missionaries facing increased persecution for their faith=pray for Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis because they too are being persecuted for their faith. Let’s see, thousands killed and injured in the Nepal earthquake; hundreds of Christian killed because of their faith. Yep, just like Ham and Answers in Genesis being denied a sales tax abatement for the Noah’s Ark Theme Park. Such persecution for Ham and his staff. I wonder, will they live to see another day, safe from the atheist horde trying to make sure they obey the Constitution and the laws of the state of Kentucky.

The Paranoia and Persecution Complex of the Religious Right

persecution

As of today, there is NO religious persecution in the United States. Every citizen is free to worship any or no God. Every citizen is 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 Barack Hussein Obama has his way Sharia law will be instituted and Christianity will be outlawed. If the socialist, communist, Kenyan born Obama is not stopped, by the time of the 2016 presidential election, Christians will be persecuted, incarcerated, and possibly killed, just like Hitler did to the Jews in World War II.

Think I am kidding? I am on the American Family Association’s (AFA) mailing list. (know thy enemy) In today’s digest was an article written by Jim Shempert titled America’s Future: Christian Persecution. What graphic did AFA and Jim Shempert choose for the article?

prison camp survivors

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

Here’s what Shempert had to say (link no longer active):

…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 Niemoller’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 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 these interests. Like the Christian, atheists like me 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 is 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 the move towards same-sex marriage and justice and equal protection under the law for gays is an infringement of their religious rights. Same-sex marriage really is THE issue that has the religious right foaming at the mouth. However, allowing same-sex couples to marry in no way infringes on a person’s right to believe and worship as they wish. If same-sex marriage was legal tomorrow in all fifty states, absolutely nothing would change for Christians. They would still be free to pray, read the Bible, evangelize, attend a house of worship, and, get this, forbid gays and same-sex couples from being members in their church.

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 who he will marry. It is the marriage license, not the ceremony that gives a marriage legal force. This is why, in states like Alabama, public officials must issue a license to heterosexual and same-sex couples. They are acting on behalf of the state, a secular institution. If they cannot, according to their conscience, fulfill their duty 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 a certain job.

We are 20 months away from electing a new president. Our country faces many pressing and trying issues: war, threat of war, poverty, crumbling infrastructure, government debt, etc. Instead of whining and screaming about being persecuted, 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, knows that their followers must constantly be poked lest they become apathetic. What better way to wake people up than to scream PERSECUTION!  Until Christians realize groups like the AFA are manipulating them for political and material 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)  Until they are willing to actually think for themselves and throughly investigate the issues without checking in with Fox News first, there’s little hope of meaningful dialog.

But Bruce, same-sex marriage is wrong! Why? Without the Bible, please defend your position. I have yet to have someone successfully defend the prohibition of same-sex marriage without appealing to their religious beliefs and a sacred text like 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.

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.

The real issue here is that Christianity is losing its preferential place at the table. For most of our country’s existence, the Christian religion has been the centerpiece. This is natural, of course, since most Americans self-identify as Christian. However, more and more Christians are more 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.

The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss, A Book Review

myth of persecution candida moss

HarperOne, the publisher of The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented A Story of Martyrdom, sent me a review copy of the book.  The book is 260 pages long, 308 pages long including the chapter notes and index.

The author of the Myth of Persecution is Dr. Candida Moss, professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame.  She is a graduate  of Oxford University and earned her doctorate from Yale University.

The Myth of Persecution deals with the persecution of Christians during the first 300 years of Christianity.  Moss shows that she as an excellent grasp of Christian and non-Christian  literature written during the early centuries of the Christian church.

While Moss admits that Christians were persecuted on and off throughout the first 300 years of church history, she thoroughly debunks the claim  that Christians were always persecuted. In fact, many of the instances of persecution were actually prosecutions.

Moss writes:

The Sunday school narrative of a church of martyrs, of Christians huddled in catacombs out of fear, meeting in secret to avoid arrest, and mercilessly thrown to lions for their religious beliefs is a macabre fairy tale. When Christians appeared in Roman courtrooms, they were not tried as heretics, blasphemers, or even fools. Christians had a reputation for being socially reclusive, refusing to join the military, and refusing to swear oaths. Once in the courtroom Christians said things that sounded like sedition. They were rude, subversive, and disrespectful. Most important, they were threatening. Even if the actions of the Romans still seem unjust, we must admit that they had reasons for treating Christians the way they did. The fact that religion and politics were so intimately blended with one another means that it is difficult to parse the motivations of Roman administrators as either religious or political. But from a Roman perspective and from the perspective of members of most ancient religious groups and political organizations, the Romans had the moral high ground. They were protecting the Empire from the wrath of the gods and its effects. That Christians were executed should not surprise us, this is a world in which people paid the “ultimate price” for seemingly small offenses.

As we have seen in the past two chapters, a close look at the evidence shows that Christians were never the victims of sustained, targeted persecution. Even the so-called great persecutions under emperors Decius and Diocletian have been vastly exaggerated in our Christian sources. In general, when Christians were executed, it was for activities that were authentically politically and socially subversive. In the case of the emperor Decius , it seems that the so-called persecution of Christians wasn’t aimed at Christians of all. It was a way of bringing about social and political unity in the Empire, something more like a pledge of allegiance then religious persecution.

Throughout the book, Moss details how many of the source documents for the stories about Christian martyrs were embellished, and,  at times, fabricated out of thin air.  Even some the saints revered by the Catholic church  have histories that call into question their authenticity. I was quite surprised and delighted that Moss, a professor at a Catholic university, did not shy away from the controversies surrounding the mythic stories of the Catholic church.

Moss also details how some of the ancient martyr stories were actually borrowed from other cultures and religious traditions.  There were times when I thought Moss was stretching these connections a bit, but I found the chapter, Borrowing of Jewish and Pagan Traditions, to be quite fascinating.

Moss wrote:

Even a brief study of early Christian martyrdom literature reveals that Christians were influenced by ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish traditions about death. The heroes of the classical world were reshaped into soldiers for Christ. When people admit that Christians were heirs to this legacy, they do so selectively. Many acknowledge the Christian martyrs inherit or at least claim to inherit the mantle of martyrdom from ancient Judaism. The references to and comparisons with the Maccabees provide incontrovertible evidence that Christians saw their martyrs as part of this tradition. This much is acknowledged or at least implicitly acknowledged in most scholarly and religious treatments of the subject.

When it comes to the Greek and Roman influences, however, things are very different. We would be hard-pressed to find any modern denomination of Christianity that admits Greek and Roman heroes and heroines in their canon of martyrs, even if Christians like Justin Martyr were willing to revere Socrates as a Christian before Christ. Why the difference? The distinction is not based on the evidence, but on the way that people think about the relationship between Christians and Jews. For Christians, the Old Testament is believed to contain a series of prophecies about Jesus and the church. If Christian martyrs seem to be like figures from the old and new Testaments, it is because their deaths are fulfillments of prophecies. They are seen as being part of a single unbroken tradition, a single witness to truth.

In the case of Greek and Roman examples, the connection between Christian and pagan martyrs is more problematic. There is no prophetic or divine time between Christianity and Greek and Roman religion and philosophy. On the contrary, the adaptation of paganism and Christianity threatens the idea that Christianity alone has the truth. Those who reject the classical tradition for religious reasons and hold Christian martyrs in high esteem tend to ignore Greek and Roman antecedents to martyrdom.

This is a game of cultural favorites. There’s a theological explanation for the fact the Christian martyrdom stories are similar to biblical narratives of persecution, but there is no such explanation for the similarities with pagan traditions. That Christianity might have borrowed from pluralistic, polytheistic religious traditions is difficult for those who conceive of themselves as part of an unbroken singular tradition. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Greek and Roman religious practices no longer exist. The idea that Christianity borrowed from or was dependent upon morally questionable failed religions ruffles feathers and prayer books.

The truth of the matter is that as we have seen, Christians adapted their ideas about martyrdom and sometimes even the stories about the martyrs themselves from both ancient Jewish and pagan writers. We cannot help but note the irony here. Christians are thought to be unique because they die for Christ, but the stories by which they communicate their uniqueness are borrowed from other cultures. Clearly Christian martyrdom is one of a number of ancient varieties of martyrdom. Even though early Christians adapted, augmented, and otherwise contorted ancient models in their own stories, they were nonetheless dependent upon earlier literature. To be sure, Christian martyrdom stories depart from classical examples of noble deaths, but toying with, trumping, reversing, and usurping are not the same as inventing. Early Christians consciously and deliberately harnessed the cultural power of Greek, Roman, and Jewish heroes for their own ends.

All in all, The Myth of Persecution was a great read. If I were to have any criticism of the book it would be that the chapter on how the myth of Christian persecution affects our modern culture was quite sparse, only ten pages long. I wish she had spent a lot more time dealing with how the religious-right in the United States has a martyr complex that finds its root in the ancient Christian martyrdom stories.

I also found myself wishing that Moss had written a chapter or two about the martyrdom tradition and stories found in the Protestant church.  This, I suspect, was beyond the scope of the book.

As any Evangelical knows, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is considered one of the foundational texts of Evangelical belief. (especially in the Baptist church)  I suspect the stories complied by John Foxe have their own problems, and while Moss did briefly mention Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, she said nothing about the stories contained in the book. Maybe her next book will be on the martyrs of church after Constantine.

I heartily recommend, The Myth of Persecution.

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