On Sunday morning at Capitol City, we considered Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). I mentioned the need to be careful invoking the word persecution to describe anything that Christians in the West have faced recently or might face in the near future. Its important that we don’t cheapen the word persecution.
Ross Douthat, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times (and conservative Catholic), actually made the same point last week. He warns that there are multiple dangers in employing the word persecution to describe the realities Christians will certainly face in the coming decades. Here’s one:
And using the “persecution” label too promiscuously [carries] risks beyond intellectual inaccuracy. First…it doesn’t do enough to acknowledge the vast gulf separating the situation of Western Christians and the incredible heroism of our co-believers overseas, who face eliminative violence on an increasingly-dramatic scale.
Douthat’s full post is worth reading, even if one does not agree with every point. We do need to be mindful – and prayerfully aware – of the physical dangers that our Christian brothers and sisters face around the world simply for gathering in the name of Jesus. Describing the social marginalization of Christians in America as persecution is a disservice to their faithful commitment to Christ and his Kingdom.