Let’s Be Clear About What Real Christian Persecution Looks Like

What it really means to have your faith "under attack."

“When we start to take on the language of violence—“culture war,” “attacks on values,” “faith under siege”—to describe ideological differences that are actually relatively peaceful in practice, we not only overstate reality. We risk losing perspective on what real persecution looks like.”

 

It’s been an eventful few months in America’s so-called culture wars.

In Kentucky, citing her own religious convictions and personal opposition to same-sex marriage, a county clerk named Kim Davis has drawn international attention for the legal drama that ensued after she refused to issue marriage licenses.

Some Christian politicians in Oklahoma have vowed to fight a decision by the state’s Supreme Court to remove a large monument of the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds. The move came after the Satanic Temple said it intended to donate a massive statue of a goat-headed demonic deity to the state capitol if officials allowed the Ten Commandments to stay. (The Satanic Temple relented, though it now may be eyeing the Arkansas capitol for a new home.)

Ideological opposition, even heated disagreements, are inevitable in a free society. But public resistance to an idea isn’t the same as “persecution.”

Schools disallowing religious displays, towns praying at public meetings, the retail “war on Christmas,” controversial TV shows and other intersections of faith and public life have been at the center of the the so-called culture “war on faith in America”.

Christianity—which just so happens to be the nation’s most overwhelmingly widespread religion—has always had an interesting place in American culture. Though religious freedom is a core American value, the separation of church and state is also a guiding legislative principle.

The role faith should play in public life is always going to be the subject of debate—especially in a culture that embraces religious and philosophical diversity. Ideological opposition, even heated disagreements, are inevitable in a free society. But public resistance to an idea isn’t the same as “persecution.”

When we start to take on the language of violence—“culture war,” “attacks on values,” “faith under siege”—to describe ideological differences that are actually relatively peaceful in practice, we not only overstate reality. We risk losing perspective on what real persecution looks like.

Real Persecution

An “offensive” sitcom or the dissenting views of a celebrity do not constitute persecution, an “attack” on someone’s faith or a war on religion. They’re actually signs that we are privileged enough to live in a society where people are allowed to disagree without being subjected to actual violence and oppression.

Right now, Christians and religious minorities in parts of the Middle East and around the world are literally facing death, simply for maintaining their faith.

In Northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has waged a years-long campaign of violence, mass abductions, rapes and village raids against local communities. In many cases, they’ve targeted Christians, as well as more moderate Muslims. Schoolgirls who have been captured have been forced to convert to Islam before being made to become child brides and even suicide bombers.

In parts of the Middle East, where Christianity was first born, faith communities are being eradicated by ISIS and their radical brand of Islam. Even countless peaceful Muslims who do not maintain the same radical ideology of ISIS militants have come under attack.