Persecution or Inconvenience?

Last semester, I had three classes on Tuesdays. On one particular Tuesday, we ended up talking about Christians and persecution in two of those classes. In both cases, I felt like the token dissenter, playing Devil's Advocate just for the sake of stirring the pot. I took the side that I cannot stand by the claim that American Christians are, as a whole, being persecuted in our society today.

Except when I made that statement, I wasn't just trying to stir the pot. I was being completely sincere. 

In my first class, we were discussing how Christians were persecuted in the book of Acts. If you've read any of this book, you know that Christians were seriously persecuted then. They were driven out of their hometowns, thrown in jail, and even killed because of their beliefs. That's serious persecution. As a friend pointed out later, there are definitely Christians in America who are persecuted. This friend used the example of Rachel Scott, the teenage girl who was killed in the Columbine High School shooting almost 12 years ago, potentially because of her outspoken Christian faith. That is persecution.

But Rachel Scott is an outlier. As my friend Kerri put it, "[American] Christians might be inconvenienced, but not persecuted." In both of my classes, part of the discussion focused on the current state of Christmas in America. On how retailers are reluctant to say "Merry Christmas," and opt for an inclusive "Happy Holidays" instead. How nativity scenes are being taken down from in front of government buildings. I can understand how Christians might feel inconvenienced by this: a holiday that is central to your belief system is not being recognized, you don't know who you can say "Merry Christmas" to, and the list goes on. But persecuted? I don't buy it.

If anything, Christians are in a place of privilege in this country. When the media portrays the "perfect American family," they almost always go to church on Sunday, say grace around the table, and display some other sort of religiosity. There are variations in the statistics, but anywhere from 76-82% of Americans claim to be Christians. If you've been to church lately, you may have noticed that far less than 76% of your community is seated beside you. This might be a bold statement, but I would posit that most Americans just default to Christianity when asked for religious affiliation. They wouldn't do that if American Christians were so persecuted.

I want to be careful to give each person the respect they deserve. If someone feels persecuted, I don't get to determine whether or not they actually feel that way. But I would encourage that person to seriously consider those who are persecuted in harsh and unjust ways. Those who are tortured and killed for professing their beliefs. Those who are served with criminal charges for having a Bible in their home. While encountering strife among family and friends or not having a sales clerk wish you a merry Christmas might feel inconvenient, is it really persecution? By claiming that American Christians are persecuted, might it devalue the pain that Christians around the world (and non-Christians in America, for that matter) are experiencing?

As another friend, Adam, so eloquently stated, "There are some days I'm hungry, but I ain't starving!" And I think that's a good perspective to keep in mind.