There are obvious degrees to the types and intensities of persecution Christians face around the world; they run the gamut from losing life for the faith down to being told not to pray in public. Here in the US, we’ve been fortunate that the persecution the church has received has been of the ‘lighter’ variety – our churches aren’t being burned, our people aren’t being slain in the streets – yet persecution is still persecution.
Here in the States (and in some other countries) we have what I call ‘persecution by a thousand cuts’. Rather than the in-your-face form of persecution, which I outlined above, the persecution Christians here face is more insidious in that it takes the form of laws, rules, and regulations which slam up against the First Amendment of our Constitution and the Free Exercise of Religion Clause therein. And that’s where the sandpaper hits the wood: enshrined in one of our nation’s founding documents is the protection against a nationally-recognized religion, as well as the protected freedom to act upon your religious beliefs both in private and in public, and altogether too often those secured rights are dispensed with, manipulated, or simply re-written by not-so-highly-creative jurisprudence.
It would take up far too much bandwidth (and time) if I were to type out every incident of Christian persecution, even if I was to restrict myself to the past year; a few examples must suffice. We have schoolchildren being told they cannot write about God as their idol; students are disallowed from speaking of God or Jesus in commencement addresses; students are taken to mosques and temples but not to churches or synagogues and being told ‘we don’t have the money to pay for trips to all of them’; students are told not to display crosses or Bibles, and are often not allowed to even read from the Bible during free time; college-level organizations with Christian backgrounds are told they cannot ‘discriminate’ against non-believers, particularly in leadership positions, and many which have enjoyed university and college sanction and funding are finding both drying up rapidly; Easter and Christmas breaks are now called ‘Spring’ and ‘Holiday’ breaks.
In the non-academic world, we find Christian-owned businesses told they will provide employer-paid medical insurance for things which their religious beliefs find intolerable; employees are told they cannot wear religious jewelry or clothing while on the job; employees and management are finding themselves reprimanded for Christian ideas posted on personal Facebook and other social media; employees are told not to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Easter’ to customers; Christian business owners are harassed, some to the point of being driven out of business, because of their firmly-held beliefs; public displays of Christmas-themed decorations are outlawed, particularly on public property; Ten Commandment displays – long a staple of many government front lawns and buildings – are now forbidden.
Our military has repeatedly denounced and forbade Christian symbolism in paintings, in classes, at academies; Bibles long-embossed with the shields and symbols of the armed forces are now anathema; outspoken Christians in the military, whether they are chaplains or not, now often face disciplinary procedures for freely exercising their First Amendment Free Exercise rights.
And yet, according to Ian Harber, we Christians in here America are nothing more than a bunch of whiners, wishing we were as persecuted as our brothers and sisters in the Middle East; that we Christians here in America are to blame for our own persecution; that we Christians here in America aren’t really being persecuted.
The evidence speaks to the contrary; though we may not be suffering as badly as our brothers and sisters elsewhere on the globe, if we discontinue our battle against these ‘thousand cuts’, it won’t be long before we see burning churches and Christians jailed – or worse – for their beliefs.
I will agree, to an extent, with Mr. Harber in that the church has dropped the ball on being the conscience of society; I will also agree that the church needs to reclaim its ‘salt’ and ‘light’ heritage. To do so, the church – and individual Christians – will have to fight, and fight hard, to reclaim the rights God gave us and our Founders ensured in the First Amendment.