Is persecution coming to America? Yes. I’m sad to say I believe it is. At this point it doesn’t seem like a question of if, but rather of when. So what will we do when Christians are persecuted in America, and how will we know what is the good and wise response?
The day is not far off, if indeed it’s still in the future. For quick proof of this, imagine a Christian husband and wife being hauled into court and paraded before the national media for not baking a cake for a lesbian wedding twenty or even just ten years ago. If you suggested back then that’s what the future held for the gay pride movement or “marriage equality” debate, you were most certainly mocked and ridiculed and dismissed out of hand as an irrational alarmist out of touch with reality. Yet what seemed far-fetched a decade or two ago in fact happened a relatively short time ago in the state of Oregon.
Now the national debate on sexual immorality has shifted away from homosexuality to transgenderism and whether boys and girls in public schools should share bathrooms and showers. Or are we even debating that still? I blinked and may have missed it. Last I looked President Obama was trying to unilaterally declare all girls’ bathrooms open to boys and vice versa just a few months ago. I suppose he’s probably succeeded by now and moved onto the next brave step in his fundamental transformation of America – perhaps neutering the job descriptions for the United States Marine Corps, or allowing openly transgender persons to serve in the military.
Will nothing stop this incessant march of “Progress” in our country?
Yes, we Christians may stop it. Or we might at least try. Maybe. Concerned for the safety and character of our sons and daughters, we may speak out against the opening up of public school bathrooms to anyone and everyone. We may file petitions and deliver speeches at school board meetings. We may write op-eds for our local newspapers and do interviews with TV news stations. We may ask prayer for the soul of our nation in our Bible studies. Then again we may not. And even if we do any or all of these things, will we be willing to draw a line in the sand and pull the plug once and for all on sending our children to be reared by the public education system if all our petitions and speeches and op-eds fall on deaf ears?
A couple of bakers in Oregon were slapped with a gag order and a fine of over $100,000 for “emotional damages” to the lesbian couple they refused to bake a cake for, and who saw that coming? It won’t be long now before Christian parents are treated the same way for objections to their daughters’ exposure to hormonal teenage boys in bathrooms. Prepare to see moms and dads from coast to coast escorted out of PTA meetings in handcuffs for the hate-speech of daring to disagree with the LGBT movement. It’s not that big of a leap from where we’re at already.
And yet even where we’re at in the deterioration of our society we suffer a seemingly endless supply and variety of insanity. Why? Where did all this craziness come from anyhow? The answer might surprise you for its simplicity given the sudden enormity and complexity of the challenges facing people of conscience in the United States.
Quite simply, speaking the truth is in and of itself considered hateful now. This means anyone who speaks the truth is seen as inherently unloving, a hater and phobic. This in turn has placed Christians in a tricky position. Confronted with a false choice between love and truth, but no longer feeling able to embrace both simultaneously – this is why Christians only may speak up about things like transgender bathrooms in public schools, and why they very well may choose instead not to.
Yet don’t misunderstand me for calling it a false choice. The dilemma facing American Christians is real. After all, the Jesus in whom we believe who told us to love one another and our enemies also declared himself to be “the way, the truth, and the life,” and promised:
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This same Jesus also gave the command:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Yet the new Progressive definition of words like “love” and “respect” and “tolerance” render a straight-forward interpretation of these and many of the Bible’s other assertions and directives rather difficult. It’s now widely considered unloving to tell someone they have sin in their life, much-less to get specific about what is and is not sin according to Holy God above.
It’s now disrespectful to tell someone the truth when they don’t like it or agree with it.
It’s now intolerant to make any mention of repentance generally, much-less what sort of things we ought to repent of.
In short, Progressive re-definitions of timeless concepts essential to authentic Christ-following are causing American Christianity to self-destruct by implosion. The church is eating itself from the inside out in a vain attempt to avoid angering those who are not only godless, but increasingly open in their hostility toward the things and people of God. We surely wouldn’t want to turn people off to the Lord, would we?
Yet we are in danger of doing something arguably worse than scaring the lost away from Christianity. We’re in danger of inviting them to believe in a false gospel by our silent sins of omission.
Jesus is the way, truth, and life? Maybe. But how do you know? The elite powers-that-be in America have effectively neutralized this pivotal and exclusive truth claim of the Christian faith by pumping copious amounts of relativism into our unwary subconsciouses through the incessant propaganda of mass media and our national education system. The end result is that the minds produced by this propaganda time and again conclude that Jesus cannot be the ONLY way, truth, and life – surely not. The Pontius Pilate who gave Jesus up to be crucified would feel right at home in today’s America, a nation that can stare the truth right in the face and nevertheless ask cynically and vapidly, “What is truth?”
There is no longer any tolerance for absolutes. Instead, everything is fashion and opinion and lifestyle and personal preference and feelings. What’s true for you may be true for you, but I have my own truth based on my life experiences. You don’t know what I’ve been through, man. You haven’t walked a mile in my shoes, therefore you can’t disagree with me in any meaningful way that I’m going to listen to. Go away and stop bothering me.
Everything needs to feel good, one way or another – if not always physically, at least psychologically and emotionally. If something done or said causes emotional distress – sadness, anger, self-doubt, a loss of confidence – no further evidence is needed in the court of public opinion to convict a Christian of being a harsh, self-righteous, unloving bully. Feeling good is the new truth, or else the confirmer and denier of all truths. Not only has the Wiccan mantra of Aleister Crowley been realized – that “If it feels good, do it” – the philosophy is now “If it doesn’t feel good, don’t believe it.”
The spirit of this age is the large-scale realization of American economist Thomas Sowell’s quote:
“The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.”
We’re all Johnny now.
Where Rene Descartes so famously said “I think; therefore I am,” the spirit of today’s America could be more aptly described as “I feel; therefore I am.”
So if Bruce Jenner says he feels like a woman trapped in a man’s body, we’re told it’s our duty to respect his feelings and refer to him as a ‘she’ regardless his anatomy.
If two lesbians feel like getting married, we’re told it’s a couple of Christian bakers’ obligation to “love” them by doing and giving them whatever they want.
If the teenage boys feel like showering with the girls at your local public school, we’re told that’s what has to happen or else federal funding will be pulled from your state and major corporations and celebrities will boycott your elected officials. Never mind the self-evident truth of what naked teenage boys and girls can be consistently relied on to do when mixed in with one another.
To speak up or act contrary to the new norms and standards of goodness and justice in today’s America is to mark yourself as a hateful bigot, perhaps even a false Christian. Watch as self-proclaimed “real” Christians finally find something to animate themselves from their spiritual apathy when you decide to speak up. See them come out of the woodwork in droves to passionately respond in unison to any assertion by you of an eternal standard of right conduct or wisdom with the reminder that Jesus said “Judge not.”
Conveniently, in this age where everyone has to be regarded as whatever they self-identify as regardless of evidence to the contrary, nobody who claims to be a Christian has to actually resemble a Christian in doctrine, attitude, mindset, speech, or behavior. You just have to take anyone’s word for it that they are in fact Christians, and don’t you dare question them as if it has to mean something other than what they want it to. Don’t you dare question them unless they start talking and acting like Jesus, that is.
Never-you-mind the rest of what Jesus said besides “Judge not.” Never mind the fact Jesus said he “came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” Never mind that this same Jesus was and is and will forever be in complete unity with – indeed is himself the very God who gave to His nation, the ancient children of Israel their laws and commands against fornication, adultery, cross-dressing, homosexuality, blasphemy, idolatry, and dishonesty, just to name a few of modern America’s favorite sins. Forget all that because it doesn’t feel good to be reminded of it. Just be a good little Christian and run along now. Mind your own business, and turn the other cheek as your faith is slandered and pilloried and run through the mud.
What’s more, in addition to homophobic, bigoted, and hateful, you’ve outed yourself as judgmental, argumentative, and “legalistic” to boot if you as a Christian remind other self-proclaimed Christians of the truths of God’s Word in our day and age. It doesn’t matter how politely, calmly, patiently, and carefully you explain or plead; it won’t change the fact that you’re taking it upon yourself to define Christianity as something real and fixed outside our wishful thinking, active imagination, and ability to hybridize our attraction to Jesus’ power and grace with our resolute fondness for our own sinful self-indulgence. After all, who do you think you are anyway? How dare you so arrogantly presume that you yourself could know the truth, much-less tell it to other people as if it should have any bearing on their lives? What hubris!
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I believe Christians will soon be persecuted both publicly and proudly in America, if it cannot be said we are being persecuted now.
Consider the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Curious that Paul would speak of Christ’s return to judge the living and the dead before telling Timothy to preach and teach, and that Paul would then say that a time will come when the truth won’t be tolerated. Curious that Paul would then speak of enduring suffering and fulfilling his call to ministry. One need not employ much imagination at all to see that the order of Paul’s paragraph to Timothy here matches a clear pattern seen repeatedly in the ministries of Jesus, his apostles, disciples, and prophets in every part of the Bible – a pattern repeated time and again by the saints all over the world throughout the history of the church even up to the present.
And the pattern is this: the truth is told, it leads some to believe and many others to get angry, then those who are angered by the truth seek to silence and destroy the one who told them the truth to begin with, and oftentimes they succeed in slandering and destroying God’s servants, for a time anyway.
This is what Jesus is talking about when he promises his disciples that persecution will come.
“Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
And so we should encourage one another, just as Jesus encouraged his disciples and still encourages us through the Scriptures we’ve learned of him through: “Beware!” That means “Watch out!” Be prepared to be persecuted. Don’t let it come as a surprise when you’re hated for loving and trusting and following Jesus in this life.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
And yet, despite the clear promise of Jesus that we will be hated and slandered and persecuted for trusting and following him, I’ve encountered a disturbing trend among many of my fellow American Christians. Because we have not known overt, widespread persecution in our own nation, we naively suppose we never will.
We suffer from acute cognitive dissonance, believing two contradictory notions at the same time:
- First, we scoff at the claim that America is or ever was a Christian nation.
- Second, we’re certain that genuine Christianity should never make waves in America or upset its popular culture and society at large.
But how can that be? Neutral ground in the ongoing spiritual battle that has engulfed the world for thousands of years is a myth and mirage; it’s not real.
Again, consider the words of Jesus.
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Yet there is an alarming tendency I’ve observed, especially among friends and family, to say that a Christian’s testimony is harmed if the world is upset by them.
If a non-Christian is angry at something a Christian has said or done in the America where feelings are the yardstick of truth and falsehood, an angry sinner is proof that the saints have strayed from the true faith. But how can that be when even Jesus caused sinners and self-righteous people to get so angry they wanted to kill him, so disgusted and offended that they spread rumors he was casting out demons with the power of Satan?
This friendly fire is why I say I believe Christians will be persecuted in America in the near future. We’ve bought Satan’s lies and now ardently plead with one another to live by them.
What would John the Baptist say of us if he were here? The cousin of Jesus cared so little for the good opinion of others that he lived in the desert wearing camel skins and eating locusts. John had his head separated from his shoulders by order of the king for having publicly called for that king to repent of taking his brother’s wife. So much for not mixing faith and politics!
Yet perhaps the more pressing question is what we would say of John the Baptist if he were an American and behaving in America the way he behaved in Israel, calling for repentance and preaching of God’s coming judgment on sin. Would we tweet about him ruining his testimony and giving Christians a bad name? Would we rant in long Facebook statuses about how judgmental and unloving he was being, and how this is why we’d sworn off going to church and reading our Bibles? If so, it would expose our shame and faithlessness, not his.
After all, remember what Jesus said of his cousin John:
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”
The time is now for each of us to take a good long look in the mirror and ask whether we are prepared to follow Christ in the America of today and tomorrow. Or will we instead re-imagine the good news of Jesus Christ in a way that flatters our egos and tickles the ears of our godless friends and leaves unchallenged all our sins and follies and self-indulgences?
Paul wrote young Timothy to warn him that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching.” Well that time has arrived in modern America, and so we must “be sober-minded; be watchful. [Our] adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
The true test of our faithfulness is not whether the world loves us and gets along well with us. It isn’t whether the godless speak well of our exploits and public statements, cheering us on when we denounce our brothers and sisters publicly. It isn’t whether we can deliver long and emotional tributes to a vague God whose Word we stubbornly reject as true and authoritative in our lives, and whose glory we value a distant second to our own reputation for fashion and agreeableness.
No, the ultimate test of our Christian fidelity and authenticity is whether we obey God even when it means incurring the wrath of Satan and “the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” which Paul referred to in his letter to the Ephesian Christians. The real test of whether we are real Christians or frauds will be when we are confronted with the option to save our own necks and indulge ourselves at the expense of trusting and obeying God.
What will we do when Christians are persecuted in America?
We are faced with a dilemma, and the quagmire will only deepen as time goes on. Will we play Judas, slandering and distancing ourselves from our brothers and sisters in Christ and handing them over to the godless to be silenced and suppressed so we can get our thirty pieces of silver? Or will we remain steadfast and “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together”?
Consider the words of Brennan Manning:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
Prepare for persecution, brothers and sisters. And make no mistake, it’s coming. The question is not whether we can avoid it or not, because we most certainly can. Yet will we pervert and betray the truth in order to try?
Jesus drew a very stark line in the sand when he said “whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Perhaps we would do well to remember that as we weigh our options here.