An Open Letter to My Fellow American Christians
Dear Fellow American Christians,
STOP WHINING! For Jesus’s sake (and I mean that literally), stop claiming that you are being “persecuted” for your faith! PLEASE! Knock. It. Off.
If you live in the U.S. and truly believe you’re being persecuted for being a Christian, one of three things is true. One, you do not understand the true meaning of the word “persecution.” Two, you have no basis for comparison between your experience and the experience of people who really are persecuted. Or three, you are an entitled, thin-skinned crybaby.
We can start with the first problem. “Persecution” is defined as punishment or harassment meant to inflict injury, grief, or suffering. Never in all my 41 years as a Christian has another person of any nationality, religion, or political persuasion ever hurt me physically or emotionally because of my personal faith. Not once. Have people annoyed me? Sure. (Usually my fellow Christians, though.) Teased me? Not that I can remember, but maybe. Certainly not enough to make a lasting impression, though, so I don’t see how it could qualify as “persecution.”
Alright, so the second issue stems from a lack of awareness. Perhaps many of you are just ignorant of what actual persecution looks like. Maybe you should reread your Bible. Jesus was persecuted. It was ugly, violent, nightmarish. He was beaten, spit on, nailed to a cross, stabbed. Paul was imprisoned and beheaded. Many early Christians were tortured and executed. Real persecution was common for early followers of Jesus.
In modern times, true persecution is still ugly, violent, and nightmarish. You think that you’re persecuted as a Christian in the United States? Try being a Christian in Indonesia or Egypt. Try being a girl in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Try being gay in a rural or African-American community. Try being black in South Africa.
I’ve had the good fortune to work with an Indonesian man who is finishing graduate degree in social work. He is Muslim, but he is a liberal with many friends of different stripes. He told me about his Christian friends in Jakarta who have had to rebuild their tiny church three times in five years because the conservative Muslim majority keeps burning it down. I also was lucky to work with a young Coptic Christian whose family had to flee Egypt last year. Her father, an active member of the Christian church in her town, began receiving death threats after the Arab Spring. That is what Christians in other countries know as persecution.
You think you’re being persecuted? By whom? Jason Collins and the gays? Obama and the liberals? Jon Stewart and the Jews? Did ESPN hurt your feelings because they gave Jason Collins a couple days of attention when he came out as the first gay NBA player? After poor Tim Tebow got no press at all? Oh, wait. He did get press. Tebow got negative press? Well, not really. I’d say he got annoyed press. Tebow wasn’t the first Christian athlete, folks. In fact, there’s an entire Fellowship of Christian Athletes. And remember Kurt Warner? How about Joe Gibbs? Mariano Rivera? Derek Fisher? Or all the hundreds of athletes who thank God for their good fortune after a win? If Tebow did get negative press, it was because he acted like he was special, like he deserved attention for praying, like he was the only Christian on the field. And maybe also because he’s just not built for the NFL.
Jason Collins is the first guy to come out as homosexual in any major American team sport. And all the negative, mean-spirited comments I’ve seen about him have come from “Christians.” And while the press has been pretty kind in a politically correct way, I’d wager that fans, teammates, and NBA administrators will be less so. We’ll see. But if good, loving Christians can’t be supportive of Jason Collins, my guess is that he’s in for a rough time.
Hopefully, he won’t be beaten and left for dead like Matthew Shepard who was truly persecuted for his sexuality. Likewise, I hope poor Tim Tebow will never have acid thrown in his face for being a Christian as girls in Arab countries often do when they dare to go to school. I also pray no American Christians will have their businesses ransacked or burned as blacks in South Africa or Jews in Eastern Europe have often experienced.
See, THAT is what persecution looks like, my fellow Christians. It looks bloody. Burned. Broken. Anguished. Dead.
Which brings me to that third point. Y’all need to stop whining and grow up. Nobody promised you that, as a Christian, you’d never get your feelings hurt. Jesus certainly never promised that because he knew that would be a lie. You are lucky to live in the United States. You need to remember that. The next time you want to cry “Persecution!” because somebody teased you, questioned you, or criticized your faith, stop. Remember, we’re still the majority in this country if we don’t alienate all the potential converts with our entitled whining.
Shut up. Turn the other cheek. Remember what real persecution looks like.
It looks like a cross.