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October 23, 2013

The Face of Persecution

Is persecution as pervasive, or scarce, as some say? Are Christians having a rough time of it in general? What does the face of persecution look like in the 21 century? R. Andrew Chesnut, Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and writer for the Huffington Post, would have you believe that global war on Christians is a huge fallacy. I will be responding to several glaring issues in this article that he wrote on October 21. It helps inform what our pop culture and universities want the truth to be.

What does Christianity actually refer to in these conversations?

I’m glad you asked! I would strongly define Christianity with R. Albert Mohler’s definition (not so much his definition as it is articulated well by him) as put forth in this article:

[churchpack_superquote]Normative Christianity is defined by the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the other formulas of the doctrinal consensus. These doctrines are understood by Christians to be rooted directly within the Bible and rightly affirmed by all true believers in all places and throughout all time. As one leading figure in the early church explained, the true faith is recognized and affirmed everywhere, always, and by all (Vincent of Lérins defined the orthodox tradition as those truths affirmed “ubique, semper, ab omnibus“).

The major divisions within Christian history (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism) disagree over important issues of doctrine, but all affirm the early church’s consensus concerning the nature of Christ and the Trinitarian faith.[/churchpack_superquote]

I would also go further and say that there are several denominations often placed within these categories that do not line up well with this definition (Mormon, PC-USA, Episcopal – to name a few).

Also, it should be emphasized that, inline with the above definition, those a part of Christianity are dedicated individuals who hold to the Bible as the Word of God and live their lives according to truth found therein. This emphasis throws a large percentage of Chesnut’s 2.2 billion figure for Christians. Yes, over 90% of Latin America claims to be Christian. But, no, 90% of Latin America is not Christian in reality.

Persecution has three main and distinct faces in the world today.

1. The persecution that our minds often go to is the deplorable and often ugly injustices seen around the world. Sometimes this physical violence is rather isolated like in Columbia (in comparison to the Western continents as a whole). Other times, it is a seemingly systematic slaughter, bombing, killing, and raping of Christians as seen in the East.

2. Persecution is also seen in the passive-aggresive to aggressive disownment seen in certain ethnic cultures in Japan, the Middle East, Africa, and pockets in America and elsewhere.

3. Persecution is lastly seen, yet often dismissed as such, in ideological marginalization, political/judicial decisions, and media propaganda. This is a subversive, soft but momentum-building movement. It has recently surfaced with the misuse of civil rights as an argument for homosexuality that is now being used to argue further aberrations of what the core of Christianity holds as proper before God. As a result, Christians who disagree with this faulty logic are labeled bigots, a term largely associated with prejudiced people in the civil rights movement.

All forms of persecution are oppressive in a grievous nature.

Chesnut continues with: That there is no “massive pattern of violence and oppression” directed against Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox neither in the Americas nor in Europe, which together comprise 63 percent of the world’s Christian population, reveals the “global war” as nothing but dangerous hyperbole.”

With our above definition, emphasis, and understanding of persecution, this statement becomes dangerous hyperbole itself. Chesnut adds to the marginalization of Christian beliefs as seen in the recent court decisions and sticky, ugly mess that is becoming and will become of those decisions. He continues the media’s incessant attempts to paint Christians as unloving, “My way or the high way” people. This rhetoric is exactly what he is trying to say doesn’t exist worldwide.

This is grievous because he pushes his poorly backed views upon the reality of religious conflict around the world. Christians in Japan, India, Malaysia, Kentucky, London, DC, Nicaragua, and many other places are thrown out of their homes for their Christian beliefs.

[churchpack_superquote]So, yes, a global war whether official or not is occurring. Denying it in such a way is joining the war.[/churchpack_superquote]

Christianity is under fire because it accepts absolute truth.

Christians are not called to be a people of hate (this throws Westboro out the window). We shouldn’t be homophobes, despite the unnaturalness of this sexual aberration (Rom 1:26). We should be a people who shane for the absolute truth found in God’s Word. This rubs everybody the wrong. Christians are often (at least I know that I am) at odds with the Bible and are called to lay aside our preferences and sinful desires in light of this truth. I totally understand why the anti-homosexuality, anti-lying, anti-hating, anti-fornication, and anti-idolatry nature of the Bible grates against the masses. We are excellent liars, haters, fornicators, idolaters, and sexually immoral people as a human race. But the Bible calls us to truth, love, purity, dedication, and sexually morality. That call alone isn’t so hard to get. It’s the truth of depravity that gets us; because we are also extremely self-reliant (aka – prideful). The call is accompanied with a view of ourselves as lowly, unable, and in need of Jesus as Savior from ourselves. That’s where the rubber meets the road. And that truth is under fire because no one wants to hear that about themselves.

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