The 'Persecuted' Christian
You've probably heard the phrase “Keep Christ in Christmas,” or perhaps the more inflammatory “War on Christmas.”
You may remember how Starbucks sparked the ire of many American Christians by writing "Happy Holidays" on their cups instead of "Merry Christmas."
Maybe you've been roped into a conversation that began with: “They need to put prayer back in the schools.”
These are all symptoms of a bigger problem: Many modern day American Christians believe they are being persecuted.
I would say, politely, that I disagree.
To be incredibly ginger about the topic, I would say, we are not there yet.
Yet, to be fair, it is accurate to say that Christianity is no longer the central aspect of our cultural identity.
Gone are the days of everyone going to church on Wednesday for community events. Or going to the church for plays and town halls. That is just not how things are anymore.
Christianity was never meant to be in control or in charge, that is just how it played out.
Many Christians hold fast to the belief that the Founding Fathers of the United States were Christian, but they were not Christian in the way be understand Christianity today. Many were deists, which means they believed in a supreme being or creator, but they didn't believe that divine power intervened in the world. That is not how we understand Christianity today. So when these men founded the country, did they mean for Christianity to play a role in every aspect of our lives as U.S. citizens? Probably not.
But over time, Christianity became the central religious belief system. And it has stuck with us for over 200 years. Every president has been affiliated with a Christian church except three (Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson). In addition, every Vice President has been affiliated with a Christian church except two (Jefferson, Johnson). Christianity has historically had tremendous institutional power in the United States and that legacy continues today.
But as the future unfolds before us, we are seeing growth in religious diversity, as well as sectors of people who claim to be spiritual rather than religious. That's not a bad thing! Actually, one could say that religious diversity actually makes us stronger.
Along with religious diversity comes new ideas and ways to think about God and the world in which we live. A Christian may think one way about a topic, but to hear another point of view does not take away from a Christian’s beliefs — it might even enhance them.
It's true that the world is shifting away from Christianity, and that it can feel very scary for Christians. But, it's important to remember that we're not actually losing anything — except power — by making space for other people and religions.
So, sure, our coffee cups don't say "Merry Christmas." Our children may not pray Christian prayers in public schools.
That is not the same as experiencing persecution.
That just means we are welcoming others whose beliefs are different from ours.
If incidents arise when it seems Christians are experiencing discrimination, we are to take that as seriously as we would if any other religion were to make that claim. We look at the facts and we make a decision while trying to be as faithful as possible.
Christianity in the United States is not being attacked. On the contrary, it is being made stronger. We are gaining new ways of thinking, new perspectives, and a chance to be like Jesus by serving others.
Christianity may even be looking better in the future. At the end of the day, we are not losing anything, we are gaining more opportunities to love our neighbor.