Jumping the Gun?

December 18, 2007

For some reason it seems that some American Christians are bent on depicting themselves as persecuted victims, even though we have incredible freedoms and opportunities that are unheard of in many parts of the world. For instance, when several churches were burned down in Alabama last year, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the burnings were a "hate crime" against Christians. He added, "We must remember that Jesus said, 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you, and say every kind of evil against you falsely because of Me.'" We later learned, however, that the burnings were actually just a very stupid prank by some college students. This was not a case of Christian persecution but of human stupidity.

A similar case occurred last week with the shootings at a missions center and a church in Colorado. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council stated:

It is hard not to draw a line between the hostility that is being fomented in our culture from some in the secular media toward Christians and evangelicals in particular and the acts of violence that took place in Colorado yesterday. But I will say no more for now other than that our friends at New Life Church and YWAM are in our thoughts and prayers.
And Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition argued that the shootings proved "the fact that Christians and churches are the overwhelming target of violent hate crimes in America." And yet, we soon learned that the troubled shooter actually came from a Christian family and used to be part of the missions organization where the first shooting occurred. It was a tragic case, but hardly an example of Christian persecution sparked by the media. Instead, it was a case of a troubled young man who sadly acted because of instability and anger toward a Christian group he used to be a part of.

The remarks by Perkins led MSNBC's Keith Olbermann to declare Perkins the "worst person of the day" last Tuesday. Olbermann, in his usual overly-harsh style, labeled Perkins a "hypocritical holier-than-thou opportunistic fraud" and accused him of "trying to make political hay out of the victims' bodies." He argued that it was not the media to blame but religious leaders like Perkins. Although Olbermann's criticism is too harsh, he does rightly point out that the comments by Perkins were inaccurate and inappropriate. It is time for us to stop trying to play the role of persecuted Christians. Real persecution exists around the world so let us not minimize the struggles of our Christian brothers and sisters. And let us not exaggerate or overstate our situation by making claims before the facts are known.

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