Christians are Facing Persecution in America: Church Burnings and Racism

Chuck Burton / AP

Chuck Burton / AP

Since the Supreme Court decision on Friday the talk is about the coming persecution of Christians, but we act like persecution isn’t already occurring within the United States for Christians. The fact is, Christians in the US have faced persecution since its foundation; the constant threat of being beaten for prayer, for being arrested for going to church, or for even having that church burned (or bombed). Of course, we don’t often think of Christians being persecuted in America because what we mean is we’re afraid of white Christians facing persecution: The black church has faced persecution from its foundation, and continues to face that persecution.

Consider that in just five days, six traditionally black churches were burned to the ground. Not in the 1950s, but in 2015. Yet, the media has remained mostly silent on the issue. That’s simply how it’s been for a number of years. The African American community has fear when pulled over by the police, has fear in their own neighborhoods, and has fear when they go to church.

If a pro-homosexual group or atheist group were burning mostly white churches, there’d be constant news coverage, constant Facebook updates, and the whole circus would show up. As it is, however, these churches represent the African American community, and therefore no one is really talking about it or doing anything to challenge the fact that it’s happening.

An African American church faces a gunman and nine people die. Six African American churches burn to the ground. All of this happens within a week. But it’s the gays getting married I’m supposed to worry about. But what about my black brothers and sisters, who simply wish to worship the same Christ I worship, must fear for their lives in attending their houses of worship. How can we not see that persecution is already here? How can we refuse to act or do anything to help?

I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. I wish I could place some big conclusion here that wraps up everything above, but I can’t. I can’t because it seems that for all our effort to remove the Confederate Flag, we’re unwilling to remove the racism that flag represents. That racism turns into persecution and attacks the central aspect of most African American communities (especially in the South), the church. I wish I could say things will get better, but it seems that most Christians will choose to keep their eyes glued to gays getting married than to the actual persecution that continues to their black brothers and sisters. That the world and media would ignore the plight of our black brothers and sisters is bad enough, but somewhat expected. That we would is shameful and sinful, and it has to stop. Our refusal to deal with the problem of racism – a mostly one-sided problem stemming from white people – is getting people killed and perpetuates fear within the black community. It has to stop.


Great, Now We All Have to be Fabulous: On Gay Marriage and the End of the World

us_gay1Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that states can’t outlaw homosexual marriage. It’s a move that really doesn’t surprise anyone and of course will leave liberal activists saying, “It’s about time” and conservative activists decrying the decision as “tyranny from the bench.” Of course, the world has yet to end, it still turns, day turns into night, we all have jobs to go to, and life goes on.

Of course, reading mostly Christian websites, one would be left with the impression that the government has changed the entire definition of marriage and that the end of the world as we know it is upon us. We’re met with overreaction after overreaction, hyperbolic statements, and hypotheticals that will probably occur at some point in the future (decades, if not centuries, down the road), but not tomorrow. If – as Christians believe – marriage is established by God then marriage was never within the State’s domain. Technically, especially from a sacramental view of marriage, all marriage licenses have been an attempt by the government to reinterpret marriage and all have been equally invalid; under a sacramental view of marriage, only marriages within the Church (or later consecrated by the Church) are truly legitimate. What the State defines as marriage is by nature separate from what the Church defines as marriage (unless we’ve been in a theocracy all these years and I didn’t know it).

Think about it: how does this modern ruling impact the “sanctity of marriage?” The sanctity of marriage was gone long before the movement came about for homosexual marriage. When the American divorce rate is still high (especially for late Baby Boomers/Generation X’ers, and showing no signs of abating for late Generation X’ers/early Millenials), how can we say we hold marriage sacred? When the average American family will spend more time apart due to careers and daycare than they will together and such an economic system is rabidly defended by the same people who decry homosexual marriage, exactly what’s so sacred about marriage? Even on a more base level, for those who have done away with the sacraments, how can marriage be sacred? If there is no sacrament to marriage then it’s impossible for marriage to be sacred. In other words, we did away with the sanctity of marriage long ago, long before there was a movement for gay rights.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some reasons to worry. After all, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which a church is sued because they won’t officiate a homosexual wedding or refuse to rent out their property for a homosexual wedding. If a baker is sued for refusal then what arbitrary line do we place between the baker and the church; regardless of one’s personal beliefs, both engage in a commercial endeavor. Why, then, should the baker be forced to participate but not the church? This is one argument that I foresee coming to the forefront of the next part of the debate. More than likely, people will idiotically attempt to remove the tax-exempt status from churches, forgetting that they exist based on donations anyway and would qualify as tax-exempt regardless of their religious nature (and to ban their tax-exempt status simply because they have a religious affiliation would be a gross violation of the First Amendment).

Yet, even if such a world came to be – and such a world will probably come to be within a few decades to a few centuries – Christians have only themselves to blame. Unlike persecution in the Middle East, where Christians suffer merely for existing, anything that would bear the semblance of persecution within the US was brought about by the hands of Christians. Rather than through prayer, love, and spreading the Gospel, we attempted to ban homosexual unions using the tools of the State. We tried to protect that which is sacred by utilizing that which is secular, which isn’t necessarily wrong (such as using the State to protect the sacred nature of life), but when it becomes the primary tool it becomes wrong. After all, “We war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.” But for the past three decades the Religious Right has warred against everything, declaring war on people, using the government as a weapon, and such a tactic has consistently backfired.

Had Christians, early on in this debate, recognized that marriage doesn’t belong to the State to begin with and rather utilized civil unions, one must ask if today would have ever occurred. If the State dealt exclusively with civil unions and removed itself from the marriage game, then what would have changed? Rather, Christians attempted to enforce their view of marriage – a view that isn’t even solidified within the Christian community (as Orthodox, Catholics, and other sacramental elements differ on the nature of marriage than say, Baptists, Pentecostals, and so on) – upon a secular institution. They then used the natural to defend the supernatural. But as is the case, always, the natural ate up the sacred.

The world did not end today, nor will it end because of homosexual marriages. Perhaps, and one can only hope, Christians will realize they have to begin acting like Christians. Rather than ostracizing and creating political outcasts, or attempting to legislate the Gospel into existence, they will see the importance of living it. Maybe they’ll finally abandon the Religious Right, dying an undignified and very deserving death in the Republican primary (where all typical Religious Right candidates trail behind Jeb Bush and Donald Trump…welcome to America!). Then again, they probably won’t, but hey, I can dream, right?

Religious Liberty Exemptions Aren’t Necessary (According to the NYT)

The people on the New York Times editorial staff have either tipped their hand or are simply bad writers. In a recent editorial, the NYT stated that the religious exemption clauses in the new Gay Marriage law were unnecessary because of “Constitutional protection,” yet they go on to say in the next paragraph, “…we are deeply troubled by their discriminatory intent. The whole purpose of this law should be to expand civil rights without shedding other protections in the process.”

They are troubled by religious organizations and not-for-profit organizations affiliated being exempted from the process? If the Constitution protects religious liberty, then why would they bring up the “discriminatory intent” of allowing such provisions in the law? Obviously those provisions were added into the law so the issue wouldn’t be left to some court, where the court could rule that churches are obligated to marry homosexual couples. And there’s the rub – by putting the provisions into the law, no one can sue a church for refusing to marry a same-gender couple, nor can they sue a not-for-profit organization that refuses the same couple to use their buildings or for other reasons (for instance, adoption agencies and the Boy Scouts).

The idea is that if one were allowed to sue such religious organizations then there is a possibility that a court could uphold such beliefs and actions on those beliefs as discrimination. It’s not enough to have had gay marriage past, rather some feel they must force others to act and think in a certain way. Even if the religious organizations are wrong and hurtful in their stances, certainly a freedom-loving nation is willing to allow people the freedom to be wrong, at least to a certain degree.

I’m not saying anything about the gay marriage law or gay marriage in general. I’m simply saying that I support religious liberty. If a non-muslim man chose to marry a muslim woman, a mosque wouldn’t recognize the marriage or perform the ceremony until he converted. That mosque has the right to act in such a way. So long as a religious organization doesn’t explicitly call for violence against a particular group, they are within their religious rights to act as they please (and only the most ignorant or radical liberal would say that simply being against homosexual marriage is an explicit call for violence). But in our Orwellian world the law must also act against thoughts, not just actions, because we must force everyone to conform to one way of thinking. It’s the Secular Borg – resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

“Well that’s just un-American.”

It seems that in the latest battle of empty rhetoric between liberals and conservatives, the term, “That’s un-American” seems to be quite popular. Tom Hanks fired a barrage at supporters of California’s Prop 8, saying anyone who supports any form of discrimination is “Un-American” (I wonder how he feels about laws against Polygamy). The Mormons responded saying that criticizing their vote was equally “Un-American.” 

As usual, there are people using a term without actually defining what the term means and their justification in using the term. We saw this with the Iraq War II, people who supported the war said anyone who didn’t support it was Un-American and vice versa. 

What does it mean to be “Un-American” and is that necessarily a bad thing at times? I’ll be the first to admit that what it is to be an American is quite subjective and changes throughout history. At our founding, to be an American meant that you supported endowed rights by a Creator and opposed any form of tyranny that sought to neglect these rights. Though the original Americans weren’t completely libertine in their view of human rights (because they believed we were accountable to ethics via reason – classical deontology), they still believed that humans were allowed to do as they pleased so long as it was in an ethical manner. A little over one hundred year ago, to be an American meant you supported the expansion of the United States via conquest of the Native Americans. It meant that you believed in the spirit of the “free man” or the “autonomous spirit.” As time has progressed, however, this has ceased to define what it is to be an American. 

What does it mean to be an American in the modern day? If we base it off the ideals of America, set forth by the Founders, then it means to be someone that seeks to exercise one’s God-given rights while doing so in a responsible and ethical way. In this case, those who support unethical actions and say such actions should be legal would be Un-American. Alternatively, if we base our belief of what “American” is based upon the majority view of the culture, then it means to be a libertine in view of ethics, to desire a completely secular view of government that doesn’t even see the law as absolute. In this case, those that attempt to enforce absolute ethical codes as absolute laws would be “Un-American.” 

My question, however, is quite simple: What does it matter if someone is Un-American? I fully admit that I am currently un-American, by both standards provided. Certainly I love this nation and the freedom it provides, but both viewpoints are built off faulty views. Rather, I seek to be a good human being, and I seek to actualize this by being a good Christian. Being a good Christian and supporting the things I do because of my beliefs will often times make me a very Un-American person. To this, I ask, “So what?” 

If I am shown to be unfaithful to the flag of the United States, I must ask what the consequences and ramifications of this verdict should be. I am Un-American, but does this make me wrong? I am Un-American, but does this mean anything I say should be ignored? Or does it mean that I’m simply upholding an ethical standard while the rest of my Americans choose to ignore it? Would anyone care to be called Un-Roman or Un-Soviet Union? Of course not, in fact we would pride ourselves on not buying into their ideals and culture. Thus, when American society becomes corrupt and the ideals do not match with Scripture, we should equally take pride in being labeled “Un-American.”