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American Christians, We are NOT Persecuted Because of Our Faith


This piece originally appeared at Rev. Eric Atcheson’s blog, The Theophilus Project.

Earlier this week, Duke University (a United Methodist school) had announced plans to, beginning this Friday, allow its Muslim Students Association to use the chapel’s tower to broadcast a weekly call to prayer on Fridays, the Muslim sabbath.

Today, after a prejudiced son of a famous evangelist got his pantaloons all in a twist about it, Duke are showing true Christian cowardice by canceling the call to prayer.

What I find particularly rich is the quote from a Duke official in that second link saying, “It was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”

How either disingenuous or naive.  Anyone familiar with Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) could tell you that he is not in the business of being unifying, he just plain doesn’t give a shit about that.  The guy throws verbal grenades for a living and claims he is doing it in the name of God:

He has called Islam a religion that “cannot be practiced in this country.”

He has also called Islam a “religion of hatred.”

He thinks Vladimir Putin is a swell guy and protector of children for opposing marriage equality…even though a good rule for life is that if you and Vladimir Putin agree on something, you are most likely wrong.

And the cherry on top of this total shit sundae is that his virulent Islamophobia didn’t keep him from defending in print the genocidal military dictator of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir (whose ethnic cleansing was of mostly Christian populations).

To wit, Franklin Graham is a bigoted jerk.  I don’t throw that term “bigot” around lightly, but I mean it in every sense.  There are people I disagree with profoundly on a variety of things who I’d still like to have coffee or a beer with.  Franklin Graham is not one of them.  He is nothing more than a bullying blowhard with a famous last name that he did not earn.

But he is also a symbol of a far greater plague within our faith.

There is this massive persecution complex that blights Christianity–whether it is in reaction to gay and lesbian men and women demanding (and receiving) equal rights, or non-Judeo-Christian faiths demanding (and receiving) equal air time and attention, there is this notion that we Jesus freaks are somehow being persecuted as a result, as thought rights are zero-sum and we cannot let others have more, lest we have fewer.

But stories like Duke University stripping down to its underwear, bending over, and telling Franklin Graham “Thank you, sir, may I have another” utterly disprove this misguided and hasty race towards victimhood we seem to be locked in.

Remember when, last year, the Christian charity World Vision announced they would allow the hiring of employees in same-sex marriages?

And remember how, two days later, they did a complete 180-degree reversal of that policy as the direct result of protests from Christians threatening to withdraw their sponsorships of impoverished children over this new policy?

That’s not being persecuted, that’s being privileged, privileged enough to have weight to throw around at a charity that was just trying to do right by its workers.

Remember when Obamacare’s contraception mandate meant that Hobby Lobby had to provide contraception it objected to on religious grounds (to the extent that a corporation can believe in a religion) to its employees?

And remember how the United States Supreme Court agreed with them?

That’s not being persecuted, that’s being privileged, privileged enough to have your case be one of a bare handful heard before the highest court in the land.

So let’s quit it with thinking that trying to elevate others to the same pedestal we have enjoyed in this country since 1776 really is about us being persecuted.  We are exceedingly fortunate to be able to be Christians in the United States as opposed to being Christians in, say, North Korea (or Sudan, for that matter, ahem, Franklin).

Today, evidence of that reality was on full display.  A major Christian university reversed course on a three-minute, once-a-week prayer for a non-Christian faith because Christians used their freedom of expression to protest it without any risk of recrimination.

That’s not being persecuted, that’s being privileged enough to persecute others and not have the cojones to call what you are doing for what it is–persecution.

It’s being privileged enough to be openly hypocritical, as hypocritical as the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus denounces at great length in the Gospels.  And those chaps were nothing if not privileged in the fiercely hierarchical world of first-century Israel.

So be grateful, Christians, that you continue to occupy a place in American society where you can bully Muslims out of openly broadcasting their prayers.  Personally, I’m more ashamed than grateful, but hey, they say gratitude is an attitude, so I’ll get to work on fixing that straight away.

And while I’m busy doing that, Franklin Graham can go hit himself over the head with a hardcover Bible until it knocks him out, if only to prevent himself from hitting others over the head with it.

 Yours in Christ,
Rev. Eric Atcheson is the pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ0 in Longview, Washington, and a longtime contributor to Shared Media projects.  He blogs regularly at revericatcheson.blogspot.com

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