The healthcare mandate concerning birth control is still in the news and it has a few American Christians jumping on the hyperbole train. Now, make no mistake, I’m absolutely against forcing those with religious convictions against birth control (especially abortifacients) having to pay for said birth control (whether it’s directly or through the insurance company). Thus, I think civil disobedience is in order when it comes to this mandate (and civil disobedience is possible; if one’s money is required to enact a certain action, witholding said money is an act of civil disobedience). At the same time, the rhetoric surrounding this issue has simply gotten absurd.
Rick Warren has stated that he’s willing to go to jail for his convictions on this issue. Fr. Jonathan Morris has said he’s willing to die over this issue. Now I am not naive enough to believe that persecution will never come to the United States; simply looking at the rhetoric of those who are adamantly against conservative Christians merely confirms suspicions. At the same time, there’s absolutely no need for the rhetoric of persecution when it comes to this healthcare mandate. The reason is because it’s not persecution, it’s simply a stupid mistake by an administration that’s full of stupid mistakes.
Likewise, though some secularists in America would support the idea of throwing Christians in jail, it simply isn’t going to happen in the near future. What president would want Christians thrown in jail? All this talk of the coming persecution in the immediate future is simply fantasy. Could persecution of Christians occur at some point? Absolutely it could and in fact I honestly believe that the West is heading in that direction. But that’s decades, if not a century down the road; not a few months.
That’s not to say that religious persecution doesn’t exist in America. For instance, imagine if a city did everything it could to block you from building your church, taking your church nearly 10 years to be rebuilt. Or imagine a nation rising up in protest to you building a mosque on your private property. But even these forms of persecution pale in comparison to the actual persecution suffered by Christians around the globe. If America’s religious leaders feel so bold while sitting under the protection of the First Amendment, perhaps they should head over to Cairo and help serve the poor there while receiving death threats from Muslims, or go to Pakistan and start a church. One wonders how successful a ‘purpose driven church’ would be in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the first purpose would be, “Don’t get yourself killed.”
It’s very easy to use the talk of persecution while living in the United States, where Christians are still very free. The biggest debate we’re having is over the healthcare mandate. Yes, it does infringe upon our religious liberty, but we’re able to petition our Congress to change it as well as our president (and both are certainly working on a change). The leaders who spoke out against this mandate were not thrown in jail and will not be thrown in jail. Their daughters were not raped in an attempt to silence them. Their churches have not been shut down nor will they be shut down. They were able and are able to express their discontent without any fear of a reprisal. Essentially, these religious leaders have all the boldness of a child who makes faces at the lion through the plexiglass window at the zoo.
Thus, I offer an open invitation to these leaders – if you believe yourself so bold concerning the Gospel and your religious convictions, go to Cairo and help with Christian organizations there. Go to Iran and start a church. Go to Pakistan and hold a rally. As for myself, I am not bold. Were I to face actual persecution, I fear how I would respond. That’s why you won’t see me in Cairo, Sudan, or Gaza anytime soon. If all this rhetoric about our government were true, I’m not sure how I would deal with the persecution. I’m not foolish enough to think that highly of myself. But for those that are, they can certainly prove their mettle by heading to China or Indonesia or North Korea and spreading the Gospel there. In the mean time, let’s tone down the persecution rhetoric so that we’re not taking away from those who are actually persecuted.