Are they picking on us?
In a couple of weeks my wife will head off to Europe to attend a conference on ministry to women. Christian women from a number of countries will gather to talk about issues women face around the world and how they can be ministered to. I suspect that most of us have no clue how simply being a woman creates hardship for so many.
As she plans to go her thinking is largely logistic. What does she need to take? Is her travel itinerary all set? What does she need to do/bring to prepare to participate? I suspect many of you, going to meetings of any type, go through similar planning.
But other women coming to this conference are different. For them the key questions look like this – How can I avoid jail or abuse and safely get to this conference? How can I be sure that my participation will not lead to my family being persecuted or my ministry being snuffed out? Will going to a Christian conference cost me my life or my freedom?
I applaud my wife and other western women for their interest in ministering to women facing hardship. And I am thankful to God that she lives in a country where those latter questions are essentially meaningless. But I also hear the word “persecution” being tossed about by Christians in the U.S. in ways that make me very uneasy. Do we American Christians have any right to use the word to describe our situation? I doubt it. Here is a quote from British theologian Rowan Williams that really speaks to me.
“When you have any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word persecuted very chastely. Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. I am always very uneasy when people sometimes in this country or the United States talk about persecution of Christians. I think we are made to feel uncomfortable at times. We’re made to feel as if we’re idiots – perish the thought! But that kind of level of not being taken very seriously or being made fun of; I mean for goodness sake, grow up.
“You have to earn respect if you want to be taken seriously in society. But don’t confuse it with the systematic brutality and often murderous hostility which means that every morning you get up wondering if you and your children are going to make it through the day. That is different, it’s real. It’s not quite what we’re facing in Western society.”
The over-riding issue that makes many American Christians uneasy is that we are losing a favored status in society; we are being told, often quite harshly, that our views and values don’t automatically carry the day in society. So what is the solution? For starters, it is probably a good idea to stop calling this persecution. Just because you don’t like me doesn’t mean you are persecuting me. Beyond that it seems to me that we simply need to make a better case for those views and values, not cry because other people don’t share them.