The Persecution Complex

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.  If you are reviled  for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of god rests upon you (1 Peter 4: 12-14, NASB).

A major tenet of Christianity is that if you are living a godly life in Christ, you will be persecuted.  There are verses all over the New Testament that say essentially the same thing as the passage from 1 Peter does.  This teaching essentially insulates the religionists against any criticism they may receive for their beliefs, ideas or actions.  In fact, many preachers will go so far as to say that if you are not being persecuted you are doing something wrong. Unfortunately, this teaching is used to justify the tactics of many Christian Right activists and can make it virtually impossible to have a rational discussion with them. 

For an example of this let’s take a brief look at one of the most extreme Christian right wingers in the country, Fred Phelps.  I viewed a documentary not too long ago titled “Fall From Grace” which profiled Phelps and his church in Kansas.  In the video many of his demonstrations are shown along with those protesting against him.  Many of these anti-Phelps protesters would stand nose to nose with the members of the Phelps family and yell angrily at them about the hatred and bigotry they were espousing.  The Phelps family seemed to thrive on the criticisms and the actions of their opponents.  In fact they viewed it as conformation that they were doing God’s will.  When asked if the family felt that they might be wrong given the amount of opposition their demonstrations aroused, Fred Phelps’ son responded that the family was following in the footsteps of Noah warning the world about the impending flood.  Everyone who was opposed to them deserved God’s judgement. 

Phelps thankfully, represents an insignificant minority in American Christianity.  However, the same type of persecution thinking takes place in the minds of mainstream conservative Christians.  National figures like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jay Sekulow, and Matt Staver think this way and so do local figures like Vic Eliason and crew from Milwaukee based VCY America to local West Bend resident Ginny Maziarka.  They see opposition and criticism of what they are doing as not valid but instead a confirmation that they are doing right, blinding them to the hurt they are causing the many people their attacks are directed against. 

The Persecution Complex also has another side.  Fear and paranoia.  They believe, now more than ever, Christianity is under attack and Christians are in danger of losing their God-given rights.  You will often hear of Christians saying how our once great Christian nation is driving Christianity out of the public square and that attacks on Christianity are tolerated while attacks on other religions are not.  Is Christianity being driven out of the public square?  No it is not.  Just look at the numerous radio stations and television stations broadcasting Christian content.  Among my satellite channels are WVCY and eleven other channels devoted entirely to Christian programming.  VCY also broadcasts over the air on FM 107.7 and there at least two other radio stations broadcasting Christian content in the West Bend area.  Preachers are free to say anything they want from their pulpits.  Ginny and her followers have written letters to the editor, spoke at school board meetings, library board meetings and common council meetings.  She along with myriads of others operate their own websites along with thousands of churches and other Christian organizations. 

Yet somehow, despite their vast free speech rights, they feel the government is coming for them.  Just a day or two ago Vic Eliason was hosting his daily Crosstalk show discussing the census.  Despite the fact that the census is mandated by the Constitution, and many of the questions on this year’s forms are the same as questions on many previous censuses, they feel that this is another example of government oppression that will end with Christianity outlawed in this country. 

So watch out for the persecution complex and don’t feed into it. 

See you around.


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