“I need to share some hard news,” Jim, a senior vice president, begins, as the staff stares back with dread.
At a normal workplace, “hard news” from an executive at a staff meeting almost surely means layoffs. At a global ministry, the news can sometimes be much worse.
Jim’s ever-present jovial smile fades, and he tells us that multiple families were killed the night before, butchered for no other reason than their faith in Christ.
On more than one occasion, I’ve met an international co-worker who serves in a dangerous region only to be left with the sinking feeling that the new friend I just made could do 30 years in prison without a trial or have their head cut off with a machete in the public square.
My first week on the job, I met a photographer who had been held arrested for evangelizing in Cuba. The only reason he’s free today is because U.S. citizenship comes with a lot of perks, including a nation that can flex massive military and financial muscle to secure the release of a person held in a hostile country. In my line of work, persecution isn’t something we read about in a news story.
That’s why I was baffled by a new study by the Public Religion Research Institute from last month that white evangelicals in America believe they endure more discrimination than Muslims. In June 2016, the same research institute found that “almost half of Americans say discrimination against Christians is as big of a problem as discrimination against other groups, including blacks and minorities. Three-quarters of Republicans and Trump supporters said this, and so did nearly eight out of 10 white evangelical Protestants.”
I’ll show my hand here. I’m a white Republican evangelical who hunts, holds a concealed handgun permit, listens to country music and watches cage fighting. The group of Christians who believe they’re being persecuted are “my people,” ethnically, theologically, culturally.
Which is why I’m in a unique position to call out attitudes and behaviors, rooted in a false persecution complex, that damages Christianity both in the U.S. and abroad.
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