At Garissa University College in Kenya, 150 or so people suspected of being Christian are slaughtered. In Syria, 21 Christians are ritually beheaded. These are outrages that should evoke disgust and a cry for justice from all of us -- Christian or otherwise. There are unquestionably places in the world where Christian persecution exists, where claiming to follow Jesus can cost you your life.
According to Franklin Graham, America is one of them. Well, that’s not entirely right; America is on the fast track to becoming one of those places where Christians are potentially in danger. Christian persecution in America is definitely a thing, though.
Turns out that being beheaded and not being allowed to set up your own segregated wedding cake lunch counter are pretty much the same thing. (Well, if they’re not the same thing, then the latter is clearly an inevitable first step down the slippery slope to the former.)
I guess it’s a good thing that Easter is a celebration of resurrection, because Franklin Graham’s pretty sure -- at least according to his Easter sermon -- that American Christians are currently under imminent threat of being frog-marched to their own crosses: “Even in America there has recently grown an ugly, anti-Christian bias and intolerance that is changing our nation from the inside out, opening doors for all kinds of discrimination and loss of religious freedom that we hear about daily in the news.”
But this concern about state sanctioned antipathy toward Christianity is nothing new for Franklin Graham. He’s been saying for a while that Christians are going be persecuted:
I believe we’re going to see persecution in this country. We’ve already seen many laws that have been passed that restrict our freedom as Christians. I believe it’s going to get worse, and we see no question gaining influence in Washington by those that represent the Islamic faith. We do have a problem in this country and we are losing our religious freedom and we’re losing it a little bit day by day.
Graham goes on to suggest:
We have a problem in Washington, and we have become so greedy, we have become so bitter, and we fight with one another. But we need Christian Democrats and Christian Republicans running for office. And we need to get God back in Washington.
Unfortunately, there must be some kind of conspiracy in which, right here in America, those who would defend Christianity against its potential persecutors are themselves “being attacked by the LGBT community, liberal politicians, and liberal media who don’t want Christians’ freedoms to be protected.”
“We need to get God back in Washington,” says Franklin Graham. God, apparently, has not been paying sufficient attention to America. And if we don’t step up quickly, the Muslims, the Gays, and the liberals are going to chase God completely out of (what we’re pretty sure at some point was a Christian) America.
Interesting that when a straight white majority doesn’t get its way they call it tyranny and oppression. But when a true minority claims tyranny and oppression, someone from the majority will invariably say either that it’s untrue or that it’s democracy at work -- because, rule of the majority. Which claim by those in the majority is exactly the problem with democracy that the Constitution is supposed to protect against.
It strikes me that it must be nice simultaneously to be a religious and cultural force and to avow that you are suffering under the jack-booted heel of oppression. How big is the blind spot that allows you to occupy seats of such cultural privilege, but nevertheless to run around sniveling about how it’s not actual minorities who are oppressed, but you -- sitting astride your cultural warhorses -- who are truly imperiled?
It sounds like Franklin Graham has gotten a hold of Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan, and taken exactly the wrong lesson from it. Franklin Graham’s religio-political position seems to be that Jesus was actually valorizing the priest and the Levite for having the good sense and the moral courage to cross over to the other side of the street to avoid contact with anyone who might defile their precious purity.
But here’s the bad news for Franklin Graham and for the folks convinced that American Christians are oppressed: Jesus wasn’t sympathizing with the priest and the Levite, calling attention to the religious persecution they clearly faced by by being forced to trod the same thoroughfares as the man who (let’s face it) merely reaped the consequences of his choice to take the Jericho road -- populated as it is with lowlife foreigners like that reprobate Samaritan. (I mean, what did he expect?)
In fact, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus seems to be suggesting that -- distasteful as it may be to those anxious to be known for their piety -- those who follow him will have to risk loving the kinds of people the religious types in the seats of privilege wouldn’t be caught dead with.
But here’s the thing: Having to live as neighbors with people you don’t approve of isn’t a form of persecution against Christians. According to Jesus, it’s the very focus of Christian life.