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Help! I’m Being Persecuted . . . Aren’t I?


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It’s surprising how often Christians in the West talk about their rights being denied. In fact, some media outlets stir up viewership by perpetuating this mythology.

“You can’t take my First Amendment rights!”

Freedom of speech is one of America’s greatest attributes. I’m surprised, however, how few really understand it or how it works.

Freedom of speech in a nutshell

It’s pretty simple. You can say anything you want without fear of being tried by the American government for sedition. Throughout the years, courts have struggled with extending free speech laws to areas like obscenity and libel.

And although freedom of speech in America isn’t absolute, you can always criticize the government or advocate unpopular ideas.

What the First Amendment isn’t

When Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson was suspended by A&E after making his infamous comments about homosexuality and race relations to GQ, people lost their minds.

I couldn’t get away from people claiming that Robertson was being denied his freedom of speech. But that’s not how the First Amendment works.

The fact that you can’t be tried for most kinds of speech does not mean that your speech has no consequences. No one has to associate with someone whose opinion they find distasteful. And any business has the right to disassociate themselves from those whose words might damage their brand.

Your words may create detractors or even cost you opportunities, but this does not mean your rights have been infringed upon. The fact that you can say them without going to jail is the amendment at work.

“Help, I’m being persecuted!”

Some Western Christians throw the word (or even the idea) of persecution around pretty liberally. Truth is, they’re seldom being persecuted.

You’re being persecuted if:

  • You’re denied the right to worship as you choose.
  • You’re refused your right to make a living based on your religious beliefs.
  • Your life or safety is being threatened due to your convictions.
  • You’re driven away from your family or community because of your faith.

You’re not suffering religious persecution if:

  • Someone doesn’t want you proselytizing them.
  • Someone calls you out when your comments make them uncomfortable.
  • Someone accuses you of discrimination.
  • Someone wishes you happy holidays.

Legitimate persecution

In many areas of the world religious persecution’s occurring at unheard of levels. Throughout Africa, South and Central Asia, the Near East and North Africa, as well as the Pacific, followers of many faiths are suffering discrimination and oppression.

We need to be praying and advocating for those who suffer under genuine tyranny—and not just Christians. Being able to worship according to the dictates of your conscience is the right of every human being.

For more information, you can check out Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, and the International Coalition for Religious Freedom.

Jesus promised persecution for those who followed him. So even if we legitimately suffered in the West, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. But, by and large, we don’t. And instead of insisting that we do, maybe we should be using our freedom to raise our voices on behalf of those who do.

Image by cforsythe

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bold Believer #

    Phil was right though. Christians SHOULD make sinners uncomfortable with what they say and believe. That’s called conviction. It comes from the Holy Spirit inside the Believer illuminating the words they speak to the unrepentant hearts of godless people. Jesus called us salt. Salt’s a preservative. It’s also an abrasive.
    Any Christian unwilling to stand up for what’s right shouldn’t bear the title Christian.

    February 6, 2014
    • That really is not the point at all. I am sorry you missed it.

      I just realized this was you, Ed. Nice to see you Trojan horsing the blog.

      February 6, 2014
    • Ex-Pat #

      And Bold Believers like you are the reason I no longer go to church. Because you like feeling abrasive and superior and being a jerk more than showing God’s love.

      February 7, 2014
  2. evidence2hope #

    I absolutely agree with what you’ve put but the below has set off a little alarm bell:

    You’re being persecuted if:
    You’re refused your right to make a living based on your religious beliefs.

    Do you think the bakery who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple comes under that? Or the nurse who refused to help perform an abortion?

    February 7, 2014
    • Brilliant question. After thinking on it a bit, I believe the answer is that:

      There are people in the world who, because of their religious affiliations, have their storefronts firebombed or their merchandise regularly destroyed. That’s outside of their control.

      If a baker says, “You know what, I don’t agree with your lifestyle so I’m not going to bake a a $30 cake.” That’s a personal choice based on conviction. Now where it gets sticky is when the the neighborhood refuses to shop there because of the baker’s stance. Is that persecution?

      I am inclined to think it’s not. The response of the people is based on what they feel is discrimination. The baker can continue to do his work and may actually build up a clientele of other like-minded individuals.

      If the neighborhood starts throwing Molotov cocktails through his window, that’s persecution.

      We all have to make ethical decisions based on our beliefs. Those decisions may or may not have consequences. Those consequences aren’t necessarily persecution.

      What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

      February 7, 2014
      • ^ This.

        It’s not appropriate to file simple free-market adjustment under persecution.

        February 7, 2014
      • Bold Believer #

        How about when the aforementioned individuals, while knowing that there are other persons in the business who would have gladly baked them a cake without a problem, go to the CHRISTIAN baker and demand a wedding cake knowing full well that their lifestyle offends his/her conscience and that they will be refused on that basis? Then furthermore, after they get the rejection they expect, then go to the sympathetic godless government who backs their heathen lifestyle and files a lawsuit? That’s not persecution? Bull cookies! It’s a thinly disguised attempt to drive Christian businesses who have the testicular fortitude to stand up to them and those like them out of business. You obviously think we’re stupid Mr. Bradley.

        Persecution takes many forms. Remember Daniel? Those who wanted Daniel out of the way for their own agenda used his faith and devotion to God against him in a similar manner. They got the government to make a law forbidding what was right and permitting what was wrong. And Daniel, godly man that he was, defied that law and of course paid the price for it. Had God not intervened supernaturally, Daniel would’ve been lion food.

        Persecution isn’t always a brick through the window or a bomb in your mailbox, or even a midnight knock. Sometimes, it’s just having the godless government on your side to allow you to do whatever you can to those who stand up for God.

        February 7, 2014
        • “You obviously think we’re stupid Mr. Bradley.”

          I don’t think you’re stupid, Ed. Insufferable maybe, but not stupid.

          There’s a lot at play here. Could what you’re talking about be persecution? Definitely. Sometimes that persecution comes not on behalf of the gospel, but because of the hyper-piousness of those who subscribe to gospel ideals.

          But let’s say it is exactly as you say, if that is persecution then what is the Christian response? Is the kind of anti-culture animosity that you’re always demonstrating in your comments? I don’t think so. I’m glad you used Daniel as an example. He was never disrespectful or at war with the government (despite the fact that they were egregiously godless). You’re right; had God not intervened he would have been Purina lion chow. But there is nothing attributed to him that was anything but kind and accepting of the consequences of his rebellion.

          We’re supposed to face persecution, so it should never create surprise and rancor. Yet the slightest provocation for many American Christians results in aggressive ragebot responses.

          February 7, 2014
          • Bold Believer #

            Well Jayson, the first mistake you’ve made is to attribute Daniel’s actions to “rebellion”. It was NOT rebellion. It was standing up to unrighteousness. That is NEVER rebellion. Is it not written: “It is better to obey God than man.” In Daniel’s case, it was not the King himself who was the problem, but those godless men beneath the King.

            The second mistake you’ve made is that you appear to believe that Christians should never have any effect on their culture. That’s the whole reason we’re down here man. The gates of hell are not supposed to be prevailing against us, we’re supposed to be kicking them down! The problem lies in the LACK of an aggressive posture on the part of many Christians in our society. We don’t seem to want to stand up for jack anymore. A large part of the Church has this: “Well, Jesus is coming, so everything is supposed to go to crap” mentality; another part thinks politics is evil and we shouldn’t be involved. (Of course politics is evil, when no Christians of INTEGRITY get into it.) Yet another part thinks all we’re here to do is ‘save souls’ and nothing else, which technically is true pietism. Only a small part of Christianity is actually actively involved in trying to effect real change toward righteous behavior, and when they speak, people like yourself come along and upbraid them for it. Getting shot at by both sides is no fun at all.

            February 7, 2014
            • This is why it’s so difficult to interact with you. You are too busy trying to be understood than trying to understand.

              When I mentioned Daniel’s rebellion, I simply meant his rebellion against Babylonian laws. Like many of your comments, your opening paragraph is in response to an ideological boogeymen that doesn’t exist.

              Secondly, you’re entirely wrong about my feelings regarding our effect on the culture. I think we would both agree that Christianity’s relationship with the culture is supposed to have much more of an impact. Where we differ is that you would seem to prefer to do it with a sneer and a sledgehammer.

              February 7, 2014
  3. Thank you for this, Jayson.
    You’ve illustrated the point beautifully and tactfully.
    Bless you for not throwing gas on the fire. I wish more of us, including me, were better at being intentional and poignant rather than rash and rampant merely for “hits”.
    I’ve been wrestling with the sentiments you highlighted in this post for a couple of months and you articulated them superbly.
    May we all strive to be better for the right reasons.

    February 7, 2014
  4. All solid points, though I imagine for some religious people, they might argue that proselytizing to others is part of their beliefs (they usually cite “Go and make disciples of all nations, etc.”).

    Also, thank you for hitting that last point. That’s always irked me about the whole argument. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22)

    February 7, 2014
    • This has nothing to do with proselytizing being right or wrong. Just don’t think you’re being persecuted when someone doesn’t want their personal life interrupted by you at their door with a gospel tracts and a message to share.

      February 7, 2014
  5. I agree completely. Thank you for explaining it so well.

    February 7, 2014
  6. I like this a lot. It’s good to point out where our rights end and responsibility begins.

    February 7, 2014

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