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Persecution 101

July 8, 2013

Pie Chart

There was a story on the news this weekend about “religious persecution” taking place in St Louis at the baseball stadium.  It seems that for some time now the grounds crew has been etching a small cross into the dirt of the pitcher’s mound.  When someone complained about the religious symbol not being appropriate the club ordered the practice to stop.  This has set off something of a firestorm among those who scour the news for signs of religious persecution against Christians in our country.

Having lived and travelled overseas for many years, including in lands where it actually is dangerous to be a Christian, I am very sensitive to persecution.  It breaks my heart to see places, like Egypt today, where persecution of Christians is on the rise.  But it is this sensitivity to actual persecution that makes me wince every time I hear talk of persecution in cases like the St Louis pitcher’s mound.

My dictionary defines persecute as “oppress or harass with ill-treatment based on race, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.”  I am all for being very public with my faith but somehow not being allowed to etch a cross into the dirt at a baseball field falls short of the definition.  I am irked even more when I suspect that the same folks who are crying persecution would be outraged were an Islamic crescent to be etched in the dirt there.  It is true that Christianity is slowly losing its status as a favored religion in this increasingly pluralistic country.  But not having favored status is way different than persecution. 

The idea that we are being persecuted for our faith tends to peak every year around Christmas when some people search high and low for evidence of a “war on Christmas.”  Fox News carries this as a continuing feature every year.  This always strikes me as odd because when I look around at that season the world seems saturated with celebration of the season.  If you are not a Christian you can’t help but seeing them everywhere and, on Christmas day, you live in a culture that essentially stops to celebrate a holiday you don’t share.

So here are my suggestions for Persecution 101. 

  1.  If you are not being killed, assaulted, jailed or threatened for simply holding a religious belief, you are probably not being persecuted.
  2. If a government agency refuses to single out your religion for favored status they are not persecuting you.
  3. If you are not allowed to place symbols of your religion in a publicly owned place you are not being persecuted.
  4. If you think you are being persecuted for some restriction on the public display of your faith, particularly if it is something that would outrage you if another faith would do it (i.e. the cross vs. the crescent on the pitcher’s mound), you probably don’t understand what persecution is.

 

 

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