Perhaps a better title for this entry would be “Is Christianity under attack in the Western world?” because that’s what I’m going to be addressing. I’m not talking about the Eastern nations already rife with persecution, though we’ll get to that in a bit. The main premise of this article, is those in the UK and North America who are currently complaining about the state of “religious freedom” there.
Let us not forget, these are countries with governments that were founded largely on Christian principles, at least in the beginning. I hear a lot of people responding to these sorts of complaints, saying “You’re the majority, don’t think for a minute that this is you under attack!” So when legislations are passed that reduce the influence of religion on state institutions like the education system, how do we react? How should we react? If we’re prepared to try to alter state laws to suit our personal convictions, why should we be surprised when others try to do the same?
I cringed when the Catholic church in Ireland described their country’s legalisation of same-sex marriage as “bereaving” and a “defeat for humanity”. Not just because they were overreacting – which they were – but also because I knew that remarks like that can lead to a pretty impressive backlash from just about anybody outside of the Church. When we follow a doctrine that apparently labels homosexuals as sinners who “will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9), how can we possibly expect anyone to support us? It’s no wonder the majority voted in favour of two guys or two girls being allowed to get together.
So in answer to the question: yes, I do think it is under attack, at least to some extent. The fact that religious teachings are being marginalised in schools is one example, even though it’s more of a long-term thing. But there are more questions to be asked: should it not be under attack? Is it a bad thing that it’s receiving opposition? But most importantly: why should we be surprised?
In John 15:18-19 we are told that “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated [Christ] first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” So apparently these hardships we sometimes face, are supposed to happen. In trying to adapt to the world’s conventions and not step across their line, have we created a Christian life that is too comfortable, and one where we find ourselves surprised when it turns out not to be a walk in the park?
But besides, if we think our situation is bad, what about other countries? What do we say to those nations where simply admitting to a belief in Christ can get you at best put under house arrest, and at worst violently executed in front of your children? If they could see us complaining about the state of “religious freedom” (or lack thereof) here in the First World, what might they say? And what might we say, when we look at them and realise how much easier we have things? When we realise that “religious freedom” isn’t always a given, it puts so many things into perspective.
Now, don’t get me wrong here: I don’t agree that we should be under fire completely. Nor do I feel the amount of firepower being shown in our direction is rational, particularly in the countries I just named. But it’s vital that we accept our sufferings and, if possible, even delight in them. There are many Bible passages that say as much after all…