Just Keep Your Religion to Yourself

The path to persecution is well-known and well-trodden: Opposition, Disinformation, Injustice and Maltreatment. When Americans hear about Christian prisoners in Iran who are arrested, tortured and denied due process in the courts, they recognize it as persecution. When Americans hear that militant Muslims torched a church in Pakistan and killed many worshipers, they recognize it as persecution.

It is harder to imagine that persecution might happen in the USA.

Christians rightly feel that the people who founded the nation intended for people of all faiths to feel safe in this country and free to live their faith, whatever it might be. Historically, people are free in the US to follow the guidance of their own faith with little hindrance.

In the US, Christians experience cultural pushback and legal restriction that make it hard to live Christian faith in submission to God’s guidance in the Bible, a Christian’s guide for faith and life. The problems Christians experience in the US do not meet any legal definition for persecution, but they do make life very difficult for Christians.

A common complaint made about Christians is that they are always telling other people about Christ. They may do it by saying, “I would like to tell you about Jesus,” but often, they talk about Christ in other ways. Each item in the list below is an example of a way that a Christian may testify to life according to faith, and each item  has actually happened somewhere:

A Christian who is asked to work on Sunday may ask to be permitted to take some time out to attend church, and if he does, fellow workers may complain that the Christian thinks he is entitled to privilege. They may even accuse him of not keeping his faith to himself, as required by common courtesy, according to those who complain.

A Christian football coach may share his faith with his football team during personal conversation, or he may invite the whole team to pray publicly before the game. Players who choose not to pray may be asked to be respectfully quiet during the prayer. Viewers in the stands who adhere to a secular view may allege that prayer in a public school stadium is illegal, or they may accuse the coach of forcing his views on team members. At a minimum, they may complain that the Christians should simply keep their praying to themselves.

People working in a Christian food pantry may share their faith with the recipients of the food. If the food is obtained through a government agency, the government agency may require that the food be distributed without mention of Christ. The agency may even require that the charity take down any pictures or signs that mention Christ. They may even be prohibited from handing out tracts or other Christian literature during the distribution of food. The government order is fundamentally an order to keep their faith to themselves.

A photography business operated by a committed Christian couple may refuse to photograph the ceremony or any part of the celebration of a ceremony in the form of a wedding for two people of the same gender on the grounds that to photograph the ceremony is tantamount to participation in and approval of the ceremony. They refuse in order not to promote wrong-doing as taught in the Bible. The business may be fined for discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the business may be ordered not to turn down such business in the future. The business may continue to operate just as long as the owners keep their faith to themselves.

A Christian school might reject the application of a child who lived in a household headed by two men. The school could explain that this household was not consistent with the definition of family that is integral to Christian teaching. Outrage locally or online would likely be focused on the way the school pushed its Christian teaching on everybody else. Comments on the web and elsewhere might assert that they should keep that stuff to themselves.

None of these situations, every one of which has been reported at least once in recent news, is equivalent to a Supreme Court decision. Each of them is one element of a rising wave of cultural pressure against Christians to keep their faith to themselves. Some people might think that not one of the incidents is worth losing any sleep, but those who look at these situations from a global perspective see them as elements along the path to persecution.

For example:

In Morocco, Jamaa Ait Bakrim is serving time in jail today. The crime of which he was convicted was the destruction of two utility poles which were not in use and were interfering with traffic to his business. He simply burned them to get rid of them. He was convicted of destroying “the goods of others,” i.e. the publicly-owned utility poles. During the trial, the charge of “proselytizing” was introduced, because this man talks about Christ to everyone. He was arrested and brought to trial over the destruction of utility poles, but after he was brought to trial, the prosecution threw in the additional charge of proselytizing. Since Morocco is an Islamic republic, that is a very serious charge.  Bakrim was convicted of that charge as well.

He is a person who shares his Christian faith with people he meets in business and personal encounters. Everyone knows that he is a Christian, and everyone knows that he loves to share Christ. Morocco allows Christians to live in Morocco. Christians may worship in places of worship, which means places legally designated as places of worship. However, Christians are forbidden to tell anyone about their faith.  A Moroccan spokesman said of Jamaa Ait Bakrim that he “became a Christian and didn’t keep it to himself.”

Bakrim was convicted in a court of law and sentenced to fifteen years in jail, because he didn’t keep his religion to himself. Will US pressures on Christians to “keep their religion to themselves” develop to that extent?

Think about other issues Christians face in the culture. Which of those issues has the potential to become a legal issue that could lead to persecution?

Advertisements