The Atlantic recently ran an article on the idea of Christian persecution in America. Citing a recent report, Emma Green notes that nearly 8 out of 10 white evangelical Protestants “believe they are subject to religious discrimination in the United States.”
While this isn’t surprising or new (the persecution narrative is an old line in evangelicalism) it still warrants some discussion. The fact that we (white Christians) believe ourselves to be suffering from persecution points to the great deceit that has befallen the white church. The tenants of our Christian faith are plastered all over our monuments, laws, and politicians— a large majority of which are (literally and figuratively) white. This says nothing of the fact that claiming persecution spits in the face of those who face true religious persecution across the globe. And it should be pointed out that, ironically, those who are fleeing actual religious persecution are some of the refugees to whom we, as a country, have historically closed our borders.
I am not the first one to suggest that to those for whom the privilege is the norm, equality feels like oppression. Nor do I absolve myself from this critique. As long as I value my welfare and my freedom over the rights and well-being of the other, I will never truly be free. Instead, I enslave myself to the fallacy that my values, my security, and my beliefs are what matter. Encountering contradicting conversation (let alone legislation) feels threatening when I hold my comfort as absolute and sacred. It’s a shame that I often do this while also claiming to be an advocate of Christ’s love, all the while Christ is to be found well beyond the gates of my privilege.
I’m a white American Christian; this article is about my demographic, my posture and my tendencies. And it makes me sad. It’s a testimony to why so many in my generation would rather be spiritual than Christian. The hypocrisy is too much to bear. My hypocrisy is too much to bear. It’s so much easier for me to yell “persecution!” than to see the shifting tides of culture as an opportunity to reflect and reexamine. I am not saying I shouldn’t take a stand for what I believe in. But our dogma is cheap if its chief concern and expression is our personal well-being.
We must fix this. If we are going to claim any allegiance to Christ’s love, then we need to make the banner under which we fly not one of “hear us!” but “hear THEM!” When we use our voice to advocate only for ourselves, we lose the voice of Christ, whose voice was always for the other.
If we’re going to bemoan the loss of something, let’s bemoan the loss of our ability to speak with Christ’s voice, not the so-called loss of our freedom.