Wednesday, July 15, 2015

American Christians: Drop The Persecution Complex - Rachel Held Evans

A spirit of fear and entitlement does more to obscure the gospel than elucidate it.

Did you hear about the pastor who was arrested for not marrying a same-sex couple? What about the publisher that got sued for refusing to censor anti-gay verses from the Bible?

Both of these stories have been exposed as fakes of course, but that didn’t keep hundreds of thousands of conservative Christians from sharing them online this week.

When I pointed out to a friend that the story he had just shared on social media wasn’t true, he replied, “well it might as well be. Christians in this country are under attack.”

The persecution complex is not based in reality.

Not only do American Christians experience complete religious freedom in this country, we also enjoy tremendous privilege. More than seventy-percent of the population identifies as Christian, as do the majority of our representatives to congress and every single U.S. president. Our churches, whose steeples dot every cityscape and small town in the land, are exempt from paying taxes.

“[Christians] are manufacturing conflicts in order to have something to rally behind,” writes Neil Carter. “It makes them feel more in touch with the early Church’s tumultuous beginnings.  But it takes a lot of smoke in mirrors."

The persecution complex minimizes the very real suffering of others.

The persecution complex blinds many American Christians to their own privilege, which then blinds them to the challenges faced by the genuinely underprivileged in this country.

In spite of shifting views on same-sex marriage, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people continue to face incredible hostility here in the U.S. and around the world, often at the hands of American Christians.

What the persecution complex suggests is that conservative Christians only care about bullying, oppression, and discrimination when they think it happens to them. If it happens to LGBT people, or to people in other religious minority groups, it is of little concern (or is tacitly supported). American Christians guard their privilege ruthlessly, even if it comes at the expense of others.

When American Christians obsess over their own perceived oppression, it becomes incredibly difficult to engage in important conversations about religious, racial, and gender privilege that are necessary for creating a more just society.  How can we begin to recognize our own privilege and the harm it can cause when it remains unchecked if we believe ourselves to be an oppressed minority?

The persecution complex obscures the teachings of Jesus 

You know who was actually persecuted for their religious beliefs?  Jews under Roman occupation in the first century.

And you know what Jesus told those Jews to do?  Pay your taxes. Give to those who ask. Do not turn people away. Love your neighbors. Love even your enemies. 

And yet right now, some American Christians think that baking a cake for a gay couple is too much to ask. A spirit of fear and entitlement does more to obscure the gospel than elucidate it.

The full article is available here