The question is not whether America will travel the well-trodden path of protection (from evangelism) to prevention (of evangelism) to persecution (for evangelism). Unless the Lord and His Church intervene, the process of removing Christianity from America’s heritage and culture will continue unabated. The temptation to believe human nature is inherently good, obviating the need for forgiveness by denying the existence of sin, has proven irresistible to countless nations and gained a secure foothold among America’s next generation (Z). However, faith in mankind never ends with “innocent” naivete but aggressive suppression.
What’s not yet clear is what will win the tug of war for power once Christianity is out of the mainstream. Humanistic and progressive ideals have America heading either down one of two roads, both of which result in persecution of Christians – toward China or Saudi Arabia, Russia or Afghanistan, North Korea or Nigeria – autocracy or theocracy. Since Christianity is correct that humanity is evil by nature, elimination of the only effective behavioral constraint and motive for goodness – the love of Jesus – inevitably leads to the pursuit of unimpeded control. The question is whether the leaders who conceal their ambitions under the guise of ending “oppression” or those who claim authority in the name of “god” will emerge victorious. In either case, Christianity becomes enemy #1 because it offers a Savior who demands loyalty, competing with lesser dictatorial or religious “saviors”.
For those writing off this argument as hyperbole in Americas’ case, consider the “democracies” teetering on that same precipice – at risk of falling into political or religious totalitarianism – as evangelical Christianity declines. The scenario is not unlike Rome in the New Testament where autocrats were in power but theocrats were angling for supremacy when Jesus came to establish His Kingdom. The Bible states plainly that all Christians will be persecuted in every nation before Jesus returns – and America is no exception. In fact, the process of protection, prevention, and persecution (that culminates in criminalizing evangelism) has already begun here. Selfism, the fastest growing religion in America, now “protects” non-believers from judgmental Christians who dare to accuse (of sin) or impose (beliefs) – and “prevention” is underway as well.
Selfism appears to lack the authority to “persecute” until we examine its implications more closely (in the next section). However, the greater threat to Christians is what comes after Selfism runs its natural course. Cracks are already appearing in its foundation with unprecedented levels of depression and addiction from the futility of making “self” the ultimate authority. Persecution in America will look more like what we see among the 360 million marginalized Christians worldwide when a more autocratic or theocratic regime steps in to rescue us from the divisive, crime-ridden, and medicated society we have become by relegating Christianity to the sidelines.
Persecution of Christians…in America?
Media conditions us to think of persecution in its worst forms occurring in far-away lands. Yes, Christianity is the most persecuted faith and thousands of believers are murdered, beaten, imprisoned, and kidnapped every year in nations where extremist groups target anyone who follows Christ. Radicals do burn hundreds of churches to the ground and disown family members in countries Americans consider far less “civilized”. However, it’s also true that some governments officially sanction violent, vengeful acts against Christians or condone law enforcement turning a blind eye.
Persecution also takes place in more subtle (but no less systemic, discriminatory, or intimidating) forms not only in those countries but in others not appearing on any global “watch lists”:
- Mocking and denouncing Christians on social media, TV and radio to stir up hatred (in direct opposition to the progressive narrative decrying public “shaming”)
- Disinformation, “cancellation” campaigns labeling any reference to biblical perspectives hate-speak (if they run counter to cultural, “acceptable” norms)
- Encouraging consumers not to shop at stores of small business owners who subscribe to Christian views on marriage, gender, or preborn viability
- Forcing companies to provide benefits or services that defy their Christian values
- Smearing, vilifying Christians for the crime of voting for a particular candidate
- Refusing to hire (or firing) those who do not disavow politically incorrect positions on hot-button issues (since they’re not commercially expedient)
- Stigmatizing high school or college students bold enough to profess belief in Jesus
- Removing Christian objects, symbols, and tributes from public venues
- Ostracizing or treating Christians as second‐class citizens in communities where they live and socialize
Are any of those (or all of them) happening in America today? Economic persecution is one of the most demeaning and harmful means of discriminating against Christians across the globe – and it’s widespread and even applauded in the U.S. today. The inability to get a job, keep one, or stay in business if you espouse biblical values has the same effect as subjecting Christians to indentured servitude or not educating Christian children – both common in “watch list” countries. And though it may not rise to the level of persecution, its precursor – “prevention” (of evangelism) – has been alive and well on our shores for years. The name of Jesus is somehow exempt from our “free speech” lexicon in government and public school settings, coaches are fired for praying after football games, parents are dubbed terrorists if they speak out about curriculum critical of Christianity, and pastors are censured for simply repeating countercultural passages from Scripture.
How Should Churches and Christians Respond?
The first step to stop the progression from protection to prevention to persecution is prayer. We need the Lord’s guidance to understand the motives behind the crusade to eliminate Christianity from our culture. To what extent are Christians to blame and need to repent for not living much like Jesus, hesitating to share the “cure for cancer” with the terminally ill, watering down the truth of God’s Word, abdicating our role in discipleship, or politicizing our faith to gain advantage? And where are we not at fault for professing a Gospel that Jesus said would offend, holding contrarian views of human nature, pledging loyalty to a competing Kingdom, and standing up for truth in a Postmodern world.
Is this Age of Decadence too late to reverse America’s course toward greater levels and severity of persecution? Is our fate sealed by the indoctrination of Gen Z, dependence on (big) government, rise of the Nones and Dones (with church), and higher birth rates among followers of religions not warm toward Christianity? Rather than sitting idly by, reminiscing about how things used to be, awaiting the inevitable, Christ-followers can take action now for the sake of their children and grandchildren otherwise destined to suffer for their faith:
- Imitate the New Testament churches who regularly prayed and took up collections for their persecuted brothers and sisters at home and abroad who’ve lost jobs, freedom, health, homes, livelihoods, and education as a cost of conversion
- Persevere when persecution comes, standing out from the crowd, rather than wilting under the pressure
- Proliferate and decentralize, expanding our faith’s footprint, foiling efforts to eradicate it
- End consumerism, cultural Christianity, and centering churches around a place and pastors by equipping and deploying disciples
- Rather than hiding in fear, reclaim the Church’s rightful place on the front ilnes of compassion and justice, demonstrating the love of Christ boldly and visibly
- Show tolerance to the intolerant, not surprised or judgmental when they reject the Gospel, but speak truth with grace
Ironically, times of persecution like Christians are starting to endure here in America can be opportunities for purification and multiplication. It could awaken a Church long declining in growth, impact, influence, and perception. Persecution makes it nearly impossible to continue several hallmarks of contemporary, ineffective church growth models – like conspicuous, underutilized buildings and top-down leadership hierarchies. Lukewarm Christians quickly disappear, leaving only committed disciples, like the few who followed Jesus faithfully and changed the course of history. As seen in China, an unintended consequence of persecution, which compels Christians to scatter and resume personal responsibility for the Great Commission within their circles of influence, is explosive growth in the body of Christ. Suffering persecution also makes Christians more attune to the plight of those they’d previously ignored, creating unity when we appear divided.
It’s Your Turn…
Are the self-inflicted wounds of compromise and division within the Church making Christians more susceptible to mounting pressures (and persecution) to renounce their faith or beliefs?