Persecution and American Christians
Recently in Sunday School class, the question “Why aren’t Christians in America persecuted?” was asked. Several answers such as “We live in a free country”, or “We can’t be persecuted for our religious beliefs”, or “Such things like that don’t happen here”, were given. All of those are true, but are they honest reflections of our Christian conduct in today’s America?
I have been reading Clarence Jordan, and I find him provoking, which means, to a degree, dangerous. In his essays on The Sermon on the Mount, (The Beatitudes: Stairway to the Spiritual Life) he writes: “If you don’t gather, you scatter; if you aren’t for, you’re against; if you don’t love, you hate; if you aren’t good, you’re evil; if you aren’t alive, you’re dead. It’s [the Bible] a book of radical extremities.” He goes on concerning another beatitude to ask, “One wonders why Christians today get off so easily. Is it because unchristian Americas are that much better than unchristian Romans, or is our light so dim that the tormentor can’t see it? What are the things we do that are worth persecuting?….” These words were written by a man who lived a life that did not conform to the world, but to God. He is the man who writes his answer to his own question, “Nor will they (true, modern Christians) hesitate to dethrone race prejudice, militarism, egotism, or any other of the jealous, demonic gods who demand respect and obedience from the children of humanity.” As he wrote these words he lived in southwest Georgia during the 1940’s and 50’s where he did what he preached. And he paid the price.
Jordan’s list of evils is, I find, too brief. Perhaps he meant for it to be only representative of humanity’s evils over fifty years ago. Sadly, we continue to suffer from the three evils he names and also: indifference for the marginalized, gender inequality, religious intolerance, irrational fear of the homosexual, Saul-like leaders, too many NONES, and so forth. Feel free to add to the list.
My Sunday School class and Church is made up of good people. However, I question that if we were doing as commanded by Matthew 5-7, we would be persecuted by “the children of humanity.” Our Church is a welcoming one, but do we go out and find people who need its message? Would we truly welcome the gay couple or the young person with sleeves on both arms and piercings to the face? In our work spaces do we stand for the marginalized worker or the black one or the female one? If, at lunch with co-workers, do we ask why the United States cannot have better choices than in the last national election? Do we ask fellow Christians how they justify supporting the present administration in light of the Gospels? Do we, as Christians, speak out against a President who had sex with an intern? Do we? Do we? Do we?
Clarence Jordan knew and battled the evils from “the children of humanity,” and he was persecuted for his work. However, we can safely say that we are not persecuted today because, well because we do not challenge the wrongs of our country. We may identify as Christian, but we are, in reality, a NONE.