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