Monday, January 9, 2012

Christians and Persecution

Timothy Dalrymple discusses whether Christians have a persecution complex. It turns out to be about the "War on Christmas." That is something I have not noticed this year. What I have noticed is persecution of Christians around the world. Violently in many places in the world and more politically in the west but increasing at an alarming rate all over.

Tim's post does a good job of addressing the fact that Christians have not really claimed the Christmas issues were persecution but I wonder if we should have. It is becoming clearer and clearer that western society is drifting towards persecution of Christians. The Christmas issue has gone away mostly because other issues have cropped up that are worse. We are now talking about Christians being excluded from government programs unless they agree to support abortion. Christians being fired from their jobs for disagreeing with gay marriage. Christian adoption agencies being shut down for believing children need a mother and a father. These are not possibilities. These are things that have already happened.

The future is looking even worse. The government is setting a very dangerous precedent by making conscience exceptions much narrower than they have ever been. These are clauses in laws that mean government can't force religious institutions to act against their faith. So if a head of a Christian ministry is caught in a sex scandal he can be dismissed on religious grounds and the government can't force the ministry to rehire him because it meets their definition of an unfair dismissal. These protections have covered a lot of church and para-church organizations in the past. The plan seems to be to change that. It is right now focused on contraception and health insurance but the principle is broad. It has the potential to attack any pro-life or pro-marriage organization.

It is the tyranny of sentimentalism. All you have to do is imagine someone who will be hurt if you don't do that. The person does not need to exist. It is not like there were millions of people in agony from being wished Merry Christmas. You just act as if there are. How many gay couples were really hurt because they could not use a Catholic adoption agency? It does not matter if there are none. There are going to be some activists who will claim offense. You can't prove they are lying. So that is enough. Sentimentalism is not about others being hurt. It is about making us feel hurt vicariously. Reality does not matter. If we can imagine a gay couple would feel devastated and not just go to another agency then we are there. Sentimentalism is really self-centered. It is our feelings that matter. We only pretend to care about another person.

I wonder if God is not sending us persecution because we don't care enough for our persecuted brothers. Studies show that Christians are by far the most persecuted religion word-wide. But over 80% of Christians live in countries where Christianity is the majority religion. So we tend not to care about the 200 million or so Christians living under persecution. Christian countries have done little to protest these incidents. So maybe if God gives us persecution here we will start to care. So next time you see a story of some Christian person getting fired or some Christian organization losing funding because of their faith, pray for them, but also pray for the Christians dealing with violence in Egypt, India, Nigeria and many other places.


  1. I think the root of the problem is far worse. People don't care about persecutions because of denominational reasons. Protestants have no use in telling their flock of Catholics being persecuted - for that would entail that Catholics are Christian and we should be supporting them, not sending "missionaries" to Mexico and Brazil.

    On the other hand, I do regularly see Catholic news sources mention when Protestants are persecuted. That's because Catholics see Christian martyrdom to some extent even if the martyrs were Protestant.

    Why we don't usually hear about it in the Homily is another matter, usually relating to the fact most people are uncomfortable hearing about it. How many people would be unsettled to realize that going to Mass and receiving the Sacraments is a luxury to a significant minority of Christians. It would force us to be doing serious Penance for our indifferentism and luke-warm faith. :-s

  2. Like anything in protestantism the prayer for other Christians around the world varies. Some denominations do it well and other not at all.

    Basically we don't see ourselves in them. Denominations is part of it. So is race, culture, economic class, etc. We should see out brothers and sisters. Often we just see numbers. The stories never really penetrate. Not sure how to fix that in my own heart let alone the world at large.