Persecution? Maybe not so much.

(This post might offend some people. That is not my intent.)

Maybe I’m bringing this on myself.

 

I read a lot of reporting on the Religious Right and the conservative side of American politics in general, so my view on this issue may be skewed. But there is, it seems. a perception among conservative Christians that they are facing religious persecution here in the United States.

 

Yes, you read that correctly. Persecution.

 

In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think that means what you think it means.”

 

Let’s look at that claim, shall we?

 

Websters defines “persecution” as: a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs. We can reasonably infer from this definition that real persecution is an active opposition to the actions and beliefs of a particular group of people based upon their beliefs, and that it is led by either the government or a large majority of citizens of a country against a despised minority.

 

So, can American Christians claim persecution? Let’s ask a few clarifying questions:

  • When you attend worship services, are you surveilled by government agents?
  • On your way to or from worship services, are you harassed by government officials such as police or military officers?
  • Are you asked about your religious practices during interviews for employment or while requesting government services?
  • Have you experienced threats of violence against you or your family as a result of your religious beliefs?
  • Can you document real financial losses as a result of your religious beliefs?
  • Have leaders of your religious organizations been arrested, imprisoned, or tortured (in this country) solely on the basis of their religious affiliation?
  • When you gather with other members of your religious group, are you afraid that you will be raided by government officials, imprisoned, or face violence to which government will turn a blind eye?
  • Have you been disenfranchised as a result of your religious affiliation?
  • Are you being denied basic civil rights as a result of your religious affiliation?
  • Have you been denied permission to start a religious worship program in your community because your religion is prohibited?
  • Has your ability to practice your religion in private ever been denied by a government official?
  • Is there an official, or even a de facto,  prohibition against practicing your religion?

 

The answer to all of these questions, for American Christians at least, is “No.”

You are not being persecuted. At all. You are, in fact, the majority of Americans. It’s pretty hard, really, to persecute a majority of the population.

 

Dear friends, you have never been prohibited from practicing your faith. While there ARE people who may disagree with you on tenets of your religion, and who may exercise their rights to express that disagreement and attempt to sway others to their side, that does NOT equate to persecution or limitation of your religious freedom.

 

Government requirements for public companies to abide by non-discrimination laws do NOT limit your religious freedom- if you hang out a shingle to do business with the public, you’re obligated to do business with ALL of the public, NO MATTER WHAT THEY, OR YOU, BELIEVE. Making a cake for a gay couple for their wedding does not mean you support their marriage; it means YOU ARE A BAKER OF WEDDING CAKES, and nothing more.

 

You can still go to church on Sunday without fear of being harassed by police or mobs of rowdy thugs on the way in or out. You can freely wear religious symbols and expect admission to restaurants, theaters, and retail establishments. You can gather with others who share your faith openly without fear of reprisal or violence. You are not being persecuted; you are getting pushback, and while it might be uncomfortable, IT DOES NOT COUNT AS PERSECUTION.

 

Pundits will say there’s a “war on Christianity.” They’re wrong. What you are feeling is not the pain of persecution, it’s the sting of rejection. Society is changing, and your worldview is moving from the majority to the minority. What you’re seeing is not persecution: it’s change. I understand that you don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean that you’re being persecuted or discriminated against. You can push back against the change, accept the change, or pretend it’s something other than change, but only 2 of those 3 options will get you anywhere. (And here’s a hint: Option 3 isn’t one of the 2 that will get you anywhere!)

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