Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Christian Persecution. Not.

This whizzed by on my Facebook feed yesterday:

Apparently, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams called out whining first-world Christians to "grow up" and stop referring to themselves as a "persecuted minority":  
"When you've had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely," he said. "Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. 'For goodness sake, grow up,' I want to say."

I don't agree with everything Williams said or did as the ABC and there are a few things I think he could have done much better.  But in this he is spot on.  

Christians in the United States have it pretty darn good.  And by "pretty darn good" I mean that we are not barred from government jobs because of our religious status, we can choose where, when and with whom we'd like to worship, we can be fairly certain that our religious preferences will be noted and respected while we are in the hospital, we can more or less trust that our families will not be killed in their beds because we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  

I get the sense that for the whiners that inspired Williams' harsh but totally deserved comment, having the postal worker say "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is some sort of religious oppression.  And not allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed at the county courthouse is rather like being publicly flayed in the Roman square.  

Several years ago, I traveled to Burma/Myanmar, which, at the time, was still a military dictatorship and had a <2% Christian population.  Our goal was simply to enjoy the company of other fellow Anglican Christians there, to let them know that they were remembered and to make the world just a little smaller.  We were told not to bring Bibles or prayer books in case our luggage got searched.  We could wear crosses but be prepared to hide them in case it became a matter of personal safety.  One afternoon, the local police showed up at our hotel to make sure we were actually doing what we said we'd be doing.  They checked every passport.  It was frightening and thought provoking but ultimately, we knew we would go home, to a place where we could wear our crosses, carry our Bibles and even preach on a street corner if we wanted.  Our persecution was limited in time and in scope because we were North Americans.  

Our Karin friends there lived well below the poverty line because government jobs were closed to them so long as they remained professing Christians.  In the city, violence toward them had abated in the recent decade but suspicion had not.  They often found themselves cast out, followed and questioned, meager homes searched and tossed, friends pestered, kids taunted and bullied. The stories we heard were not horror stories, but the situation was unsafe, frightening and relentless.  The power of their faith and their ability to continue to proclaim it, on the other hand, was inspiring.  

I have no idea if I could sustain a life of faith under such circumstances, especially with children to care for.  But my experience in Burma/Myanmar has left me with little tolerance for those in our country who play victim because their cream doesn't always rise to the top.  
Dethroning the entitlement of those who believe that the world owes them something special because of their faith beliefs and practices doesn't smack of persecution to me.  Nicely done,  Rowan.               

p.s. I have no idea why this post is randomly highlighted in white.  Sorry. 


  1. Somewhere between the whiners to which the former ABC referred and those who reasonably fear midnight raids on their homes, as in Burma/Myanmar, are those who are "banished" from their churches for merely supporting their LGBT relatives:

    I, too, commend Rowan for speaking the truth in love. He might want to meditate on his own wise words and remember that he, in effect, dismissed those who were genuinely persecuted (just not life threateningly) within his own faith tradition.


  2. Totally agree, Gretchen. That's why I don't agree with a lot of what he says and I think that, through many of his previous words and actions, he has rendered himself largely ineffective.

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