(Here are my remarks to In Defense of Christians press conference on October 24, 2017 at National Press Club. And here’s video.)
Why don’t Christians care about Christians? Or more precisely, why do many American Christians not care about overseas persecuted Christians?
My organization was founded in 1981 in response to USA church elites who ignored or actively apologized for Marxist regimes that persecuted Christians. They did so because they thought Marxism brought liberation for the poor and because they thought detente and peace were more important than freedom and truth.
After the Cold War ended, some of those church groups expressed regret for their silence. But the attitude continues in in new contexts and in even wider circles.
Beyond mundane human apathy, what are the reasons for ongoing silence and indifference about persecuted Christians in the Mideast and around the world?
First, many American Christians equate Christianity with privilege, power, colonialism, and Western Civilization. They conceive of Christians as only the persecutors, never the persecuted. They want to apologize for the Crusades or Western imperialism. Even if they acknowledge there are persecuted Christians around the world they surmise that Christianity is historically too compromised to merit sympathy much less advocacy.
Second, many USA Christians romanticize persecution. Ostensibly it will ennoble the church and will be an effective tool for evangelism. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church they sometimes like to say, ignoring that history is full of cultures whose churches were permanently destroyed by persecution. These Christians who romanticize persecution are of course not themselves exposed to persecution but living in relative privilege and comfort.
Third, some USA Christians equate the cause of religious liberty with the American domestic political right and thereby dismiss it. They also conflate overseas persecuted Christians with domestic USA religious liberty conflicts often involving LGBTQ. They ironically equate religious freedom with prejudice and discrimination. And they prioritize lifestyle freedom and advocacy over religious freedom and advocacy.
Fourth, many USA Christians believe Christians are selfish for prioritizing other Christians. Christians should not advocate specifically for adherents of their own faith. They should only advocate generically and universally for human rights for all people of all faiths or of no faith without distinctions. That Christians are globally the most persecuted religion does not typically register. They also lack any deep theology about the obligation that attaches to membership in the Body of Christ.
What are the obligations for members of the Body of Christ? We are all part of a single spiritual family whose Head is Christ. We are obligated to love and serve each other, sharing in each other’s sacrifices. This special love Christians are to have for each other is not selfish or exclusive of non Christians. Rather the love that Christians are to have for each other is to be a model and gift to the rest of the world, exemplifying the love that Christ has for all.
Some USA Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of special love and particular attachments, whether to church, or to family and marriage, or to nation. They think love can only be abstractly universal. But abstract love is no love at all. It must begin with particulars. Christians are called to love all persons but this universal affection is only possible by starting with the particular affections and regard we are to have, starting with love for our Lord and for His Church, especially for its suffering and persecuted members.
In Defense of Christians incarnates this particular love that we all should have for persecuted members of our family in the Middle East.
Posted by In Defense of Christians on Tuesday, October 24, 2017