Christian Persecution is Real and Why Bashing the “Persecution Complex” Doesn’t Help

on March 29, 2018

Last week on Twitter, I shared a Crux article relating a Nigerian Christian woman’s torturous suffering at the hands of Boko Haram while a captive for two years. The facts of Rebecca Bitrus’s story are uncomfortable. I encourage you to read every word.

For those of you who do read Rebecca’s story, you might feel grief. Perhaps others will stop what they’re doing and pray for Rebecca and the Persecuted Church. But for some frustrating reason, others will take the opportunity to point out that American Christians’ “persecution complex” is a disgrace. But in an attempt to backhand American Christianity, this response only serves to neglect the Persecuted Church’s suffering all the more.

This happened within minutes after I re-tweeted the Crux article, adding my comment “Christian Persecution is real.” An individual responded, “Sure. Just not in the way that most American Christians constantly carry on about.” Now, I realize this is Twitter, and we will go crazy by taking every critic to heart. But this response perfectly illustrates what we see from the Christian Left all the time here at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. (Note, I’ve no idea if this individual is a left-leaning Christian or not.)

By the way, the article contains excruciating details of a Boko Haram fighter who threw Rebecca’s three-year-old son into a river. “You’re not ready to convert to Islam, so I’m going to teach you a lesson,” the fighter carelessly told her. Then Rebecca watched as her baby boy drowned.

So, you can see why my blood was boiling after the Twitter user responded the way he did. Boko Haram killed her baby boy, but yes let’s take this opportunity to talk about the failures of American Christianity.

How can one understand the gravity and urgency of Christian persecution—atrocious human rights violations–happening overseas every day if other Christians consistently take the opportunity to constantly point out America Christianity’s failures instead?

“Sadly, such experiences aren’t all that uncommon in Nigeria, where Boko Haram has killed tens of thousands and displaced an estimated 2.6 million people since its founding in 2002, the Crux article goes on to explain. “Partly as a result of the violence, some 3.8 million people in the region are malnourished, and tens of thousands of children have died of hunger.”

Rebecca’s story is not an isolated occurrence. And yet, I read popular Christian Left bloggers’ countless articles bashing the American Christian persecution complex. True, American Christians are in no way experiencing the persecution happening abroad. I agree. (Although, we would likely differ on our understanding of religious freedom infringements taking place on Christian florists, bakers, and civil servants.) These same Christian Left bloggers write virtually zero articles decrying the abusers torturing, raping, beating, enslaving, imprisoning, and killing Christians abroad.

Culture applauds when Christian figures restate their disdain for the American persecution complex. It’s the easy narrative that stirs much of the Religious Left’s politically-associated base. So they’re prone to retell the same “Being told ’Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’ isn’t persecution,” line every year without telling the world what is Christian Persecution and where it does happen.

What message does their silence send the rest of the secular outside world? I sense it encourages the world to continue ignoring the plight of Christians overseas. If Christians don’t care about Christians, then why should they?

During the In Defense of Christians press conference on October 27, 2017, Institute on Religion and Democracy President Mark Tooley delivered remarks appropriately titled, “Why Christians Don’t Care about Christians.” Tooley identifies four major reasons for the silence on persecution abroad, explaining:

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.

On May 10, 2018, IRD will host a one-day summit that aims to address this moral failure on the part of many American Christian on both the left and right and also inject care for persecuted Christians overseas into the very DNA of American churches. I invite you to join us. To learn more and register for our free summit, please visit

  1. Comment by Eric LeFevre on March 30, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Will the conference be live streamed, or uploaded to Youtube? I can’t attend from the sticks of Missouri.

  2. Comment by Donald on March 31, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for continuing to draw attention to the genuine persecution of Christians throughout the world. Thanks too for calling out the Religious Left / Progressives who fail to transmute their fist-raising demands for ‘justice’ into demands that persecution of Christians cease in Muslim and other repressive countries. North Korea, China, Indonesia and Burma all come quickly to mind. I haven’t seen the Sojourners crowd chaining themselves to any of these embassies to protest the persecution of Christians in their nations.

    Regarding persecution of American Christians, it is true that what we suffer here pales in comparison to other nations…for the present. But if left unchallenged here, these very meager indignities can grow into much more serious affronts. Persecution is persecution, a tautology. Playing the ‘ours is more serious than yours’ only plays ultimately into the Adversary’s hand.

  3. Comment by Michael on April 2, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Thank you for the article Chelsen. I have been praying for these overseas and for the growing hostilities here in America. As the previous post from Donald said, “But if left unchallenged here, these very meager indignities can grow into much more serious affronts. Persecution is persecution, a tautology. Playing the ‘ours is more serious than yours’ only plays ultimately into the Adversary’s hand.” This is so true. If we give an inch they will take a mile. The point being, that there may not be the shedding of blood and torture that is happening in the ME and Africa, here in America but hostilities often add to hostilities. I see no problem in recognizing the foundations for worse persecution being laid.

    May God’s grace be the impetus to move all of us to pray more and do our part in helping our brothers and sisters in Christ who are under fire, bother here and abroad.

  4. Comment by Jonathan Carlsen on April 4, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Jesus said it well: These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Mt. 23:23 ESV). Imperfections in America is no excuse for silence about evil overseas.

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