Saturday, March 07, 2015

Yes, This Can Be Persecution

We hear it regularly on the conservative news and religious shows. Christians in the US are being persecuted. Things like the War on Christmas prove it. I have often said that we are cheapening the real suffering of Christians who are being persecuted around the world when we liken what is often called persecution here with what they are going through. Freedom of religion is not persecution, it is allowing each religion to stand on its own.

Well, I came across an article the other day that puts it from the liberal Christian perspective, arguing that the persecution is really against the liberal or progressive Christian viewpoint. (Link.) Here is what I call the "money quote" explaining the situation.

there are two different types of Christianity. One is a movement of people who want to live and be like Jesus. The other (and far more common, far more powerful) is a civil and political religion that is simply named Christianity.
I don't know whether persecution is the word for what he is describing, but it sure is a reflection on reality. The idea of a "civil religion" is not new. Theologian and historian Martin Marty has been describing this for years. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called at least part of it "cheap grace" during World War II.We might call it the "marriage of church and state" or "Imperial Christianity."

Whatever it is, it boils down to the reduction of Christian discipleship to being a "Good and Patriotic Citizen." It happens when we equate any human nation with God's Kingdom. (Even Israel! Don't forget that the prophets could be as critical of their nation as anyone!) Civil religion is not comfortable with dissent although democracy allows for it. Civil religion often demonizes the opposition since only demonic forces would dare to dissent from God's way, (i.e. "my" way!)

I believe as firmly today as I did 40 years ago (probably more so) that the People of God will never be comfortable to any human state. We will often if not always challenge the nation to be more faithful knowing that the nation-state is not God. We will always be calling ourselves, our fellow Christians, our country and all people to be followers of the Prince of Peace.

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