Blessed are those with a persecution complex?

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when … Continued

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5: 10-12)

These, we are told, were the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and persecution has been a hot topic for Christians ever since. True, they have dished out more than their fair share of the stuff to non-Christians (or ‘wrong’ Christians) over the centuries and have at times rivaled the most sadistic of Roman emperors in their dedication to inflicting agony on their hapless victims; true, too, that recent scholarship has cast doubt on the ferocity of the persecution faced by early Christians; but all the same, there is no doubt that persecution has been a horrible reality for some Christians throughout the last 2000 years.

Brandon Thibodeaux

GETTY IMAGES

A cross necklace hangs in front of Lucy West’s American flag t-shirt as she participates in the opening worship ceremony during the non-denominational prayer and fasting event, entitled “The Response” at Reliant Stadium August 6, 2011 in Houston, Texas.

Indeed, it still is. There are many parts of the world where to be a Christian is to take your life in your hands. Many Islamic nations, in particular, are not known for their tolerance towards other faiths. From Afghanistan to Yemen, Christians have been attacked, forcibly converted, banned from positions of power, or even murdered for their beliefs. And Islam is not the only culprit: Christians in India have experienced violence at the hands of Hindu extremists, while in Communist China imprisonment awaits Christians attending non-approved churches.

Since I don’t believe in a heaven where suffering will be rewarded, I see no silver lining in such atrocities. There is only this life, and if it is blighted by persecution on any grounds, religious or otherwise, that is a bad thing and should be opposed.

Still, Christians are taught that persecution is part of the package, practically a badge of honor. And that’s not easy to achieve in modern, democratic western societies which fully accept the universal human right of freedom of religion. In most such societies there is still widespread respect for religion, even if it is not widely believed in: some of the most strident opponents of ‘new atheism,’ for instance, are not Christians but what Dan Dennett calls ‘believers in belief.’ Difficult, in such circumstances, for a Christian to find herself facing anything deserving of the term ‘persecution.’

This does not, however, stop them trying.

There have been several high-profile cases in the UK recently. The Christian registrar who thinks she’s the victim of religious discrimination because she is required to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples – even though doing so is part of her job description. The Christian relationship counselor (employed by a secular organization) who thinks his faith means he should be allowed to refuse to help those who, in his eyes, have the ‘wrong’ sexual orientation. The Christian nurse who thinks her faith should mean she’s allowed to display a cross round her neck, even though her employer’s uniform policy bans necklaces; and the British Airways employee who also thinks her employer’s policy of “no additions to the uniform” should not apply to anyone with a Christian faith.

In both the latter cases, the employers offered a compromise: if the employee felt so strongly that she had to have a cross about her person, she could wear one beneath her uniform, out of sight, pinned to the underside of her lapel, for instance. Both women refused: for them, wearing the cross was not an act of private devotion but a public declaration. Indeed, in the BA employee’s own words, “It is important to wear it to express my faith so that other people will know that Jesus loves them.”

This is where we get to the real crux of the matter. You have every right to be a Christian and, despite the orchestrated hysteria, no one is trying to take that right away from you. And you have every right to share your faith – on your own time. But your right to practice your religion no more entitles you to try to save souls in your employer’s time than your right to a family life (equally guaranteed by Human Rights legislation) entitles you to take long phone calls from your spouse during working hours. Your conviction that Jesus wants you to be fishers of men is just that: your conviction. There is no reason why employers who do not share your belief should be expected to act as though they did.

I am sorry to dash anyone’s hopes, but being required to honor a contract you have voluntarily entered into is not persecution. Being required to abide by your employer’s dress code and other rules is not persecution. Being required to carry out the job you are paid to do is not persecution. Not being exempted from laws that apply to everyone else too is not persecution. Not even if you are religious, and no matter how much you had set your heart on the promised heavenly reward.

These cases are the very opposite of persecution: they are self-serving, self-aggrandizing demands for special treatment. More seriously, they are an insult to Christians around the world for whom the word ‘persecution’ means something altogether more deadly.

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  • jerobam

    “,,, self-serving, self-aggrandizing demands for special treatment.”

    These words articulate a behavior pattern that is all too prevalent among bulllies in general. Who hasn’t seen the bully pull back in feigned shock when called out, metaphorically fingering his cross in defense of his behavior…

    Thanks Paula….well said.

  • cricket44

    This Christian says THANK YOU. Your last paragraph nails it.

  • MNSnowball

    A big thumbs-up on the content of this opinion piece. Thank you, let’s keep our country secular, not “sect-ular”.

  • BornAgainDemocrat-dotcom

    I’d like to think that Christopher Hitchens would have been in violent agreement. I certainly am!

  • Mrs-Weasley

    The persecution complex of some christians would be laughable if it were not so prevalent. A colleague who is so afflicted can make the workplace toxic to everyone. They believe that, somehow, their personal belief system is so important that everyone and everything must toe their line always regardless of any hardships that may place on anyone else. They become the office outcasts thereby solidifying their persecution complex.

    A job comes with certain specific requirements – any job from the table busboy to a CEO – and those requirements must be fulfilled. A public service worker – such as a registrar cannot expect their personal religious beliefs to be more important that fulfilling their job requirements. A dress code must be followed – wearing a religious symbol is not a right – it is a personal choice – you can wear it inside your suit or in some other hidden place. You can pray in private away from clients, co-workers, and others – no one cares if you choose to do so on your own time – you are not,however, allowed to force your personal beliefs in any way that would disrupt the natural flow of work or to the discomfit of your co-workers.

    To those of you who would say our disagreement with your proselytizing is because we cannot face our own “guilt, or sin” I say that is you, again, forcing a particular belief on someone else who does not share it.

    Keep your religion private, your beliefs to yourself, and do not sign a contract or take a job you feel you cannot do.

  • wb11

    I agree with the above post only if the other office workers keep their vulgar, off colour jokes to themselves; don’t afflict others with their coarse language, or tales of their sordid affairs. Show respect without sexual exploitation to all of their fellow workers and don’t slander, gossip or lie about their fellow employees. In other words, don’t sign a contract or take a job if you feel you cannot do any of the above.

  • wb11

    “Let’s keep our country secular?” The last time I looked at the constitution it is still a free country and freedom of religious expression is still legal. The atheist seem to be expressing themselves pretty freely.

  • SODDI

    How come it’s the Christian Republicans who always tell the filthiest, most racist jokes?

  • Thewordman1

    It’s easy for an atheist to say that Christians or others religions persecute while trying to appear that atheists never do harm to anyone. But it has been the atheists like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot who racked up bit of their own persecution and murder (Hitler was a believer in the cult of the master race that worshiped man not a deity so he could almost easily be added.) if BA banned the Muslim woman with the hijab or the Jewish man of a yamulka would we be having this argument. In the other cases, the people should allow themselves to be fired because as a Christian carrying the cross isn’t any easy thing–it wasn’t for Christ and it won’t be for the Christian.

  • Sara121

    The Constitution IS secular. That is not synonymous with atheist. There are lots of secular people who are religious, because they actually know what the word means. It means government neutrality with regard to religion. The Constitution has always been that way, as those were the values of Jefferson and Madison. We are trying to the bring that back.

  • Sara121

    The government is currently NOT neutral with regard to religion. There is pro-religious bias in our laws at the local, state, and federal levels that everyone, religious and non-religious, and especially children. Those are the kinds of things that true secularism would change.

  • Sara121

    Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot most likely did not believe in any supernatural gods. But what they were were authoritarian and totalitarian, not unlike many religions. They sought to bring down religious hierarchies because they saw them as competing power structures to the personality cults they wanted to build up around themselves, personality cults which are also not unlike many religions. The main problem, as Christopher Hitchens put it, is with totalitarianism and authoritarianism and most religions, particularly the Abrahamic ones, are not dissimilar.

    If you catch any of the video clips from the rally today, you’ll see atheists, humanists, and all kinds of other descriptors people use, making calls for the secularism, the values of Jefferson and Madison, equality under the law, democracy, and our responsibilities to each other as human beings. The people who were out on the Mall today were NOT Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or Hitler (who has yet to be excommunicated by the Catholic Church).

  • barbaranecker

    Prosletyzing should be done on your time, not company time — and you shouldn’t make a pest of yourself. If your victim doesn’t want to talk about it, politely hand her your card & say “if you change your mind feel free to give me a call”.

  • Kingofkings1

    The christians who feel persecuted have an excellent option: they can immigrate to the Vatican

  • Livelongandprosper

    Great article, Paula.

    I would add as another example that being restricted if you are a teacher in a public school from teaching creationism or intelligent design to a captive audience of students who have no choice but to listen to the teacher is not persecution.

    A problem you no doubt have heard of in the military service is superiors who are Christians criticizing subordinates for not being Christian or following a particular Christian belief. When confronted about their behavior, they consider themselves victims for being restricted from “sharing their faith.”

    An organization called the Alliance Defense Fund often tries to paint these restrictions on Christians harassing others as restrictions on the freedom of belief.

  • Livelongandprosper

    You also hear the same victim rhetoric when Christians speak out against hate crime laws or laws banning discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. They drape their homophobia in religion to justify it, and argue that these laws when restrict them from preaching against alternative lifestyles.

  • ClearThinker4

    Most of you seem perfect at ease with restricting what people are allowed to say. “Curse those Christians who dare say something I disagree with. Keep their damn opinions to themselves!”

    Is it only on the subject of religion and God that opinions are not allowed. Do you really want to live and work in a society that forbids ALL expressions of opinion – because “GOD FORBID” you might hear something you don’t like?

    By all means then, no shirts with logo’s on them, no baseball caps (I might not like your team), no key chains which have a car logo, no jeans with a brand name listed.

    I know that Paula lives now in Scotland but this is appearing in the Washington Post and our founders decided long ago that Religion would be protected FIRST – before speech, or press, or assembly, or petitioning the government. All of the examples which Paula gave took place in England which does not have our first amendment.

    For those of you who say things like “It’s part of her job to give civil unions – just do it and shut up!” think carefully about cheering government edicts like this. Will you also say the same thing when the government issues rules that you find abhorrent? If Sharia law is ever instituted will you be telling the doctor, “If you don’t want to cut off someone’s hand for stealing, you shouldn’t have taken the job!”

    Freedom of conscience is the highest freedom. Without it, you really have no other freedoms.

  • fraudbust2011

    How about forcing private insurers to pay for abortifacient drugs, like the new HHS mandate does? What, does nothing count until they start pulling out fingernails?

  • Buddy999

    The registrar works for the government so I don’t think babbling about edicts makes much sense.

    I suggest a name change, mebbe something snazzier like Wile E Coyote, Super Genius

  • Catken1

    How about forcing the rest of us to pay extra so that more expensive plans without contraception can be pushed on the employees and students of Catholic-run institutions?

    How about forcing private insurers to pay for more children than they deem religiously acceptable per insured couple? Is that OK with you?

  • Catken1

    When you take a job working for the government, you agree to abide by its rules. In the unlikely event that our government passes a law punishing theft by the surgical removal of a hand, a doctor working for the government as an executioner would be required to do this, yes. And doctors who currently work as executioners for the government are not entitled to get their pay without doing their job because they disapprove of the death penalty on religious grounds.

    I don’t approve of the death penalty, myself, in most cases. But if I take a position as an executioner with the federal government, I will understand that the job entails executing people, perhaps even people I don’t believe to be deserving of execution. I might refuse, in that case, but I will expect to lose my job as a natural consequence of that refusal.

    And a registrar may not refuse to perform a legal civil marriage because she personally does not approve of the couple’s choice of each other as spouse. Do you think registrars ought to be able to refuse to perform interracial marriages, marriages of couples who do not share the registrar’s faith, marriages that do not adhere to the registrar’s preferred sex role pattern, marriages of people whose genes the registrar believes should not be handed down?

  • Catken1

    Well, wb11, most offices I’ve worked in came down hard on people who used coarse language or talked about off-color topics at work, or who sexually harassed, slandered, or lied to or about their co-workers. So you get your wish, mostly.

  • Shofar2

    First off, the writer of the above article is FAR from being unbiased towards Christians, specifically, or any other religion in general. Though it even seemed to be somewhat of an “intelligent” assessment of the case, at first glance, it quickly showed itself to be more of the same sarcastic and patronizing ant-Christian trollop. The homosexual AGENDA has been FORCED down the throats of society more and more over the last four decades, at an increasingly alarming rate. It’s almost as if it’s trying to out pace the rate of aborted babies through the regions of each country.

    This is not about a Christian choosing to stand by his or her convictions of faith; which should have been allowed WITHOUT the media hype and attention. This is about those that are constantly trying to fan the flames of the homosexual agenda more and more and using Christians as very easy targets to attack because they DARE to express their view against an already proven CHOSEN lifestyle.

    It was a MORAL and RELIGIOUS decision. A decision that does not meet the LACK of morals litmus test for the homosexual community, and thereby they are “offended”.

    Additionally, for those who like to liberally throw around the word “homophobic”….PUH-LEASE! The very word is an oxymora! NOBODY has ever utter the word “fear” when discussing their disapproval and/or dislike (for whatever their reasons may be) of the homosexual. Homophobic; according to the ENTIRE homosexual community, basically means “a fear of homosexuals; to include female homosexuals that prefer to be called “lesbians”, “confused homosexuals” (“BI-sexual) who have sex with men AND women, “transgendered” individuals who are homosexuals (men/women) who “live like the opposite sex” while not always, but usually, having sex with the same sex, and TRAN-sexuals who go so far as to have operations and other “hormonal therapy” in order to be what they were NOT born as.

    The argument that a persons’ sexuality resides in their mind and should not be reflec

  • nkri401

    “separate islands…” may sound like a slam dunk argument but is a non-sequitur. Many species go extinct for various reasons.

    More interesting question is why anyone born from hetro parents is a homosexual?

    Moreover, “high morals” and “Christians” do not seem to have much correlation from historical perspective. – sorry for a broad brush.

    Furthermore, “high morals” does not give one a special privilege to be above the law of the land.

    BTW, why are you obsessing about other’s sexuality?

    I wish you live free so that I may live free…

    Peace.

  • Jus_Sayin

    This thread is about religious persecution and secularism. But I guess you must have spotted the homosexual agenda somewhere between the lines.

    It’s al part of the gay conspiracy, am I right?

    Lunatic.

  • Jus_Sayin

    If I have a deep-seated hatred of black people (perhaps inherited from my parents) then do I have the right to refuse to speak to black people if I work in a public-facing role for the Government? What about if it says in my job description that I will have to tolerate all races?

    I mean, it would be easy for me to simply wordlessly direct anyone who wasn’t wholly white to a colleague, wouldn’t it? Why should my genuinely-held belief be infringed upon?

    What about if my racist hatred was inspired by a religious text and/or magical religious teacher from 500BC? Would it be ok then?

    There is a secular sphere that is outside of the religious sphere. Indeed, Jesus himself (purportedly) instructed humans to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…” which was itself a VERY controversial thing to say.

    The article rightly points out that often people make these kinds of ‘stands’ because of a hunger for persecution- a persecution which actually does not really exist in Western society

  • Jus_Sayin

    Yeah I seem to remember Bernard Law was enduring a great deal of horrific persecution for his role in covering up the serious abuse of children…

    Luckily his ordeal was short-lived, and he’s now escaped this vicious persecution at the hands of ‘police’ and ‘judges’ by hiding in the Pope’s magical palace which operates outside of such paltry, temporal things like ‘justice’ and ‘accountability’!

    Three cheers all round!

  • Jus_Sayin

    Carrying a metal cross is not one of the Christian sacraments.

    It is a subjective thing, and so does not fall under the same category as the hijab, the Sikh turban, and so on.

    Oh, and if you’re going to rant and rave about Stalin, Pot etc. then why bother to leave out Hitler? It’s not as though your point would make sense up until you mentioned him anyway.

    Well done on proving the ‘persecution complex’ bit with your last point by the way.

  • SODDI

    You know, if you use up ALL your caps in ONE GO, you won’t have any for LATER.

  • Catken1

    Since when is morality linked to reproductive ability?

    And you can whine, whine, whine about homosexuality being “forced down your throat” when someone forces you to be gay. Plenty of people find your religion immoral – are you “forcing it down their throats” by demanding the equal right to practice your faith, without being disadvantaged relative to other religions?

    Also, comparing gay people to people who actually do hurt other people and take away their freedom is disingenuous. The one who ought to be compared to the thief is you, for stealing gay people’s rights to choose their own spouse and demanding that they pay more for the same legal protections you deserve, when they can get them at all. Likewise, it is you who are analogous to the murderer, for contributing to the bullying cruelty that leads so many gay teens to commit suicide, and to the anti-gay attitudes that lead to the deaths of those like Matthew Shepherd; to the tyrant, for deciding that you know better than your neighbors how their private lives ought to be conducted and what spouses they may be permitted to have, and to the pedophile, for seeking to pressure others into sexual and marital relationships that make them unhappy and do damage to themselves, their spouses, and their children. Of course, you believe in your heart that you have a right to be as you are, and that it is NATURAL to be a nosy busybody who cruelly seeks to intervene in others’ lives and hurt their families. But it isn’t.

    You chose this lifestyle, and now you are demanding the special right to impose your beliefs on other people’s private lives and personal choices. But you do not have the right to demand that other people sit down, shut up, and refrain from speaking against your efforts to coerce government to push your unhealthy, unkind lifestyle on everyone.

  • rentianxiang

    Where to start? I have homosexual friends and the assertion that is “proven” to be a “CHOSEN” lifestyle is absurd. Both anecdotally and scientifically this statement is blatantly false. In fact, homosexuality occurs across many species and is simple part of nature. To compare this with the natural instincts of thieves or murderers is preposterous since two consenting same-sex adults engaging in a relationship does not harm anyone else. The so-called homosexual agenda is simply people who are tired of being marginalized and treated differently because of something about them that other people, like this poster, don’t like. The agenda is with the religious groups who are trying to force others to live according to what they have decided is “moral.” Besides the fact that the argument about the mistreatment of homosexuals is somewhat tangential to the story, the above posting is useful insofar as it reflects the intolerance and self-righteous nature of the religious sects who try to foist their morality on everyone else. The article is about people doing their jobs and following the rules put in place to perform those jobs, which they knew about when they accepted them. Not too dissimilar from the Muslim worker in a supertarget that refused to scan pork products. Ridiculous.

  • rentianxiang

    To answer the question, if a doctor takes a job to cut off people’s limbs, then he should. Of course, no doctor should ever agree to participate in such a barbaric practice in the first place. No one should ever take such a job if it goes against their beliefs. For myself, if my country were ever to adopt such barbaric laws such as many found in shariah, I would leave.

  • itsthedax

    So, are you in favor of having a government that splits citizens into minorities, then selectively removes rights from some of those minorities? Or are you in favor of civil servants selecting which laws they intend to abide by, or enforce, according to their personal views or moods?

  • itsthedax

    So, you claim to have higher morality, because of an outside force that tells you what is right or wrong. In your mind, you are moral because you are blindly obeying a religious authority.

    How can you claim to be morally superior, when your actions are dictated only by self interest – fear of punishment, and hope for a reward?

    Don’t you have a moral compass of your own? Don’t you have an innate sense of what is right or wrong? Atheists do, you know.

    How can you claim to be morally superior, when your actions are dictated only by self interest – fear of punishment, and hope for a reward?

  • itsthedax

    Dear Christians:

    I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you are not being persecuted. In fact, you are a majority in this country, with unfair tax advantages.

    Your religion is not mandatory. When I tell you this, you are not being discriminated against, you are just being treated like everybody else. This means that you are not entitled to the use of taxpayer funded property to promote your religion. Nor are you entitled to the use of public servants, such as teachers, to promote your religion.

    The bible is your religious text, not a science book. This means that it does not belong in public school science classses. When I tell you this, I am not persecuting you, just rreating you like every other religion. When you claim that the book of genesis must be taught in science class as an exercise in your religious freedom, you are actually attempting to deny religious freedome to everybody else by forcing bible study on their children.

    This is not a christian country. It has no established religion. You are free to have any religious belief that you want, but you may not impose them on anyone else. Again, this is not persecution, Cope with it.

  • leibowde84

    “It is important to wear it to express my faith so that other people will know that Jesus loves them.” … cute, but laughable.

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