There’s a lot of doom-and-gloom talk about the loss of American religious freedom, but I for one am excited about the whole thing.
I don’t mean in a golly-gosh, let’s-be-like-first-century-Christians sort of way, and I don’t mean to diminish real life-and-death persecution happening elsewhere. But really: this is the long overdue spank we need on our angry little Western bottoms.
Eight reasons why this “persecution” is a good thing.
1) We can stop being mad about the wrong things.
When you get irritated that the free wifi at Starbucks stopped working: that’s not some civil right you deserve. Religious freedom is a privilege that many of us in the world die for. For us to be mad about “Happy Holidays” while third-world Christians are imprisoned and beheaded is ridiculously unbalanced. To stand up for Chick Fil A while there are 27 million slaves in the world is really missing the whole point. We can prioritize what’s important again and stop taking all our current freedom for granted. We can once again major in the majors.
2) We can more thoroughly discover the haters and lovers in the church.
When Christians are provoked, we find out what’s inside. Most of us react predictably in fear, blame, paranoia, and isolation — we get loud and stupid. But the loving Christians keep on loving, and they will be the remnant who will keep the light shining. We will finally highlight the “True Scotsmen.”
3) We must humbly re-assert the value of our faith.
We no longer live in a culture where Christian values are mainstream. Weddings and funerals and counseling are not happening at church anymore. We’re in a post-Christian society with plenty of anger at the church, and our churches can’t keep speaking Christianese. We are now missionaries in our homeland, and we must catch up with the times.
4) Maybe we’ll finally galvanize our unity and wake up from slumber.
If we’re really so upset about “losing our faith” to culture, then maybe we can use this provocation to energize our churches towards the right direction instead. As a place of healing, of unity, a hospital. We can re-create a church that matters, one that loves and responds with gracious reason and invites every walk of life in the doors. We can destroy isolationalist tactics and find our oneness again, both for the culture and with the church abroad.
5) We can finally separate church and state.
When the church is given too much power, that never works out well. In the 80s and 90s, major church leaders were gaining influence over politics and policy. Society largely backlashed the other way and began fighting the abuse of power (and rightfully so). The church still scrambles for legislation and dogmatic policies as if this gives them more credibility—and we’re realizing this can’t work. When we control culture instead of integrating, we become ambassadors of the self instead of endorsing the truth and love of God. Now that we’re being forced out, we can get back to our humble servant positions.
6) We can quit all this false “my-side/your-side” dichotomy.
I absolutely hate it when any preacher appeals to the church by slamming politicians, secularism, liberals, pro-choicers, and the messed-up youth. You see most of the church in agreement, shaking their heads at all those “horrible people.” Many churches will keep doing this, but some will realize they’ve alienated masses of people — and we’ll have to engage culture with a better approach. You know, like Jesus did.
7) We can completely re-ground our faith with depth and sincerity.
Jesus said we would be persecuted. I don’t think American Christians are necessarily being “persecuted” by all these gradual changes: but I do believe that when the heat is on, we become a deeper people. We can no longer choose to be lukewarm. Soon, it’s either all in or all out. And to me, that’s a good thing. Our faith has always thrived under pressure.
8) We’ve had it too easy.
Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews have had it downright terrible in this country. We can pretend this isn’t true, but they’re constantly vilified whether subconsciously or in media or in your dinner conversation. I don’t say this as a masochistic death-wish, but I do think Christians have just frolicked on way too long. We can’t relate to the persecution towards other groups of people: and we’ve partaken in bashing them too.
It’s about time we understand how Jesus lived, how he was rejected and abandoned at every corner, and finally then we can truly learn to love those who oppose us in the most desperate of times. It’s not real love if everyone already accepts us. Actual love takes sacrifice, empathy, crossing over, and stepping outside our comfort zone. Real love will cost: and the real followers of Jesus will love gladly.