Overcoming Anti-Christian Bias and Persecution (Matthew 19:26)
When Richard approached me for counseling, he was dealing with a faith-related problem at work. But the conversation quickly broadened into a discussion of anti-Christian bias when he asked, “Why do they hate us?” Richard went on to relate how he and several other members of his church had been attacked recently when they held a silent prayer vigil outside of an abortion clinic. They carried no signs or banners and shouted no anti-abortion slogans. They simply kneeled across the street from the clinic and prayed for the mothers and their unborn children.
As they prayed, a group of pro-choice advocates materialized and began yelling profane epithets at them. When this generated no response, the pro-choice group began throwing rocks at the praying Christians. Several of Richard’s church members sustained superficial injuries, but what concerned Richard even more was what happened when the abortion advocates got themselves whipped up into a frenzy that soon got out of control. They went from yelling and throwing rocks to kicking, hitting, and spitting. The faces of the abortion advocates were filled with rage and the words they shouted expressed hatred. Richard felt like his group was being attacked by a pack of snarling wolves.
What Richard and his fellow church members experienced was just one act in a melodrama that is being played out across the country as opponents of Christianity become more vocal, vitriolic, and aggressive in their attacks on people of faith. People whose values differ from these unbelievers are no longer viewed as opponents; they are the enemy. What makes this turn of events especially disconcerting is you don’t debate with your enemy, you destroy him. Those who oppose Christianity believe eliminating Christian values from the public square is a just cause. Consequently, they also believe the ends justify the means—even if those means include intimidation, persecution, and violence.
The attack on Richard and his church members was unfortunate, but what it represented in the broader sense is even more so. For those who reject the Word of God—moral relativists, humanists, and atheists—there is no bigger threat to their worldviews than Christianity. Simply stated, if Christianity is right, they are wrong. Not surprisingly, they do not want to be wrong nor do they intend to be told they are wrong. Consequently, increasingly they have shifted tactics from debating with Christians to attacking them, verbally most of the time but occasionally, as was the case with Richard and his friends, physically. Incidents of intimidation, persecution, and violence against Christians are on the rise in America.
Examples of this phenomenon abound. Protestors marching in front of a photography studio that refused to participate in a gay marriage ceremony carried signs that read “Burn it down.” The business owner had to call the police to save his business from arson. Special interest groups lobby Congress continually to abolish religious holidays, and communities nationwide have stopped displaying crèches at Christmas because they cannot afford the lawsuits they know will result. Even using the term “Merry Christmas” has become taboo. Fearing an anti-Christian backlash, some businesses have taken to substituting the term “happy holidays.” This is ironic since Christ is still the reason for the holiday.
A Christian professor was denied the opportunity to teach a Humanities Religion course at his college because his department chair feared he would be biased toward Christianity. As a result, the course was taught by an atheist professor who was biased against Christianity. The percentage of college professors who claim to be Christians versus those who hold worldviews opposed to Christianity is heavily weighted in favor of unbelievers. It’s more than 80 percent, yet institutions of higher education claim to be dedicated to exposing students to a broad range of views.
Businesses have required employees to remove bibles from their desks and framed bible verses from the walls of their offices. One employee was told he could not drive his car to work because the license plate on it said “Choose Life.” A public-school teacher was disciplined for using what his principal called “hate speech” when he said “God bless you” to a colleague.
These are just a few examples of a disturbing but growing phenomenon: anger, vitriol, and rancor against Christians in the public square. Clearly those who oppose Christianity are turning up the volume of their rhetoric and increasing the aggressiveness of their tactics. As a result, many Christians want to fight back, and that is exactly what we should do. But how we go about fighting back is crucial.
Christ used the parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27) to make the point we are to be good stewards of the world He left in our care until His return. Good stewards of what belongs to God do not sit back and cede the world those who hate Him. On the other hand, Christians must avoid falling into the trap of responding in kind to the anger and vitriol aimed at them.
America has been a divided nation before, and in my lifetime. For example, in the 1960's we were divided by the Vietnam War. The issue that divides us today can be summarized in a simple question: Whose values are to prevail in America—God’s or man's? Does this question have to be resolved with the kind rancor and destruction seen in the 1960's or the kind being seen in several of our large cities today? No, it doesn’t.
There is a better way, and it’s not the politics of division we currently see in America. Politicians cannot heal the wounds that divide our nation. The central concern of any politician is power, and gaining or maintaining power depends on attracting a majority of voters. To ensure the largest possible turnout of followers, politicians often say and do things that divide Americans on the basis of religion, race, gender, and other factors. The concept is known as “divide and conquer.”
This is how it has always been with politicians and, in all likelihood, how it will always be. This is why politicians cannot heal our divided nation. But what politicians can’t do God can, and you can be His instrument. Working through individual Christians like you and me, God can heal the wounds that divide our nation and bring us together in a community that transcends politics: the community of God.
The anti-dote for anti-Christian hatred is Christian love. As you stand your ground for Christ in a time when a growing number of Americans seem to hate Him, remember the message in Matthew 19:26: With God on your side, all things are possible. Here are some things you can do to overcome anti-Christian bias and persecution:
Rather than condemn those who attack Christianity, lead them with your Christ-like example.
Win the hearts and minds of those who attack Christianity one individual at a time.
Gain influence with those who attack Christianity by investing in building relationships with them.
Think of the world around you as a mission field and yourself as a missionary.
Engage in the political process at all levels of government, but don’t rely on it.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.