Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Persecution Myth

Internetmonk has a great post debunking the oft repeated cry among evangelicals that Christians are persecuted in America.

Are American Christians justified in saying they are persecuted? It seems like a difficult case to make when we compare the experience of American evangelicals with the experiences of those in Africa and India who are genuinely persecuted. American Christians may experience persecution from time to time in unusual situations, but the vast majority of American Christians will never know anything of the real experience of imprisonment, violence or hostility that genuinely threatens their well-being.

American Christians may know a bit about harassment, ridicule or even prejudicial bias and intimidation. These aren’t to be discounted. And within some cultural subgroups- such as zealous political atheists or strict Muslims living in America- actual persecution of a Christian convert might occur. I don’t want to ignore those genuine episodes of violence and persecution that do occur.

These episodes, however, are extremely rare. Even if we are to give some credence to the likelihood that western culture is moving toward more frequent and acceptable persecution of Christians (and other religions), we are still faced with how American Christians use the statement in 2 Timothy 3.

I would suggest that the culture war mentality of American evangelicals proceeds on an exaggerated sense of persecution based on Christian mythology. The nature of American history and society makes a certain tension with a pronounced sense of specific religious entitlement inevitable. When Christians seem to expect that they be given a privileged place they also give themselves an excuse for claiming “persecution” when that is hardly the case.

A visitor from Sudan or India would find most of our discussions of persecution to be rather odd when compared to their own.

Sadly, I don't expect any amount of logic or reason to make this falsehood go away. Far too many evangelicals don't have time for such foolishness as "thinking."

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