Yesterday, V. P. Pence at Liberty University, told the graduates to be ready to be shunned and ridiculed. This is exactly what many of these graduates want to hear. Ever since the 2nd Great Awakening many evangelicals have been, in there eyes, persecuted for their faith. Today’s evangelicals look at the world the same way. I’ve always wondered why?
When looked from the outside it is very difficult to see any persecution, especially in this country. My first clue came over 50 years ago when I read “Lest Darkness Fall” by L. Space de Camp. In the story a character complains that he was being denied religious freedom because the King had passed a edict of toleration. The character was no longer allowed to persecute people who were not ‘orthodox’. While I know that this is from a work of fiction, it still got me started thinking. As I studied more history and politics it has become clearer to me that people like seeing themselves as persecuted when they can’t get what they want. So what does this have to do with persecuted evangelicals? Well, just hang-on it is going to get complicated.
Since the 2nd Great Awakening American evangelicals have desired to demonstrate how great their faith is. They also have held up as models of great faith the early Christian martyrs. Who hasn’t heard the stories of the Christians being throw to the lions. Just a few problems, first, few if any Christians were thrown to the lions (see link). Next, and even a greater problem, is that in this country with it’s 1st Amendment on religious freedom, they are finding it very hard to find ways to be persecuted, much less martyred. I mean how easy is it to be martyred when you can’t even get people to throw stones, or rotten fruit, or even mud at you.
So you have to settle for calling out being ‘shunned’ even though you are always talking about your religion, how great your faith is, or how bad those ‘other’ people are. It never seems to cross their minds that people just don’t want to be around a person who seems always so judgmental. That every time they even seem to disagree they are countered with heated, sometimes loud, responses. Or, finally, where everything is seen in a religious light, that nothing is really secular. So what is a martyrdom seeking person to do? How do you demonstrate the strength of you faith when Cesar insists on, not only toleration, but actual religious freedom?
There are many ways but I will just mention two here. First, and the one, sadly, most common cry out that everything that is done to you that does not follow you faith is persecution. You can insist that in spite the evidence to the contrary you are persecuted and unjustly treated. Or you can take a much harder path, you can live your life quietly following the teaching of your faith. You can act like former President Jimmy Carter. I know it is much harder and much more complex way of demonstrating faith than simple martyrdom but it has one great thing recommending it. It does not need anyone but you to do anything.
Thank on it.