Christianity's Persecution Complex

Rachel Held Evans does a wonderful job explaining one of the saddest problems in modern American Christianity:

Now, most of the time, this phenomenon falls into the frustrating but relatively harmless category of culture war posturing, but lately, as the apocalyptic, fear-based rhetoric continues to ratchet up in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage, and as that rhetoric continues to target and demonizes LGBT people, it’s been doing some real harm. Just last week I received at least a dozen messages from friends and readers who told me the response from Christians to the Supreme Court ruling confirmed for them what they’ve known in their hearts for a while: they don’t want anything to do with Christianity anymore, not if this is what it’s all about.

So what I’d like to suggest to my fellow Christians is that perhaps taking up the cross means laying down the persecution complex. A spirit of fear and entitlement does more to obscure the gospel than elucidate it.

Christianity is deeply tied up with persecution. It's a difficult knot to untangle. The primary historical story of the Bible is that of a persecuted Hebrew people. There were a few periods of independence, even domination, for Israelites. But mostly, they were passed from empire to empire, persecuted and oppressed by each.

This persecution is a fundamental backdrop for the stories of the Bible. It's an important context for how most Christians view and live their faith. The circumstances in modern America could not be more different for a Christian than under the rule of the ancient Romans. But that unconscious assumption skews how they think about and act in their faith. Remaining persecuted in their minds brings relevance to their understanding of the Bible. Their faith falls apart without it. So they cling.

Christianity hasn't been persecuted like that in a very long time. It's been the dominant force behind western history for two thousand years. Christians need to open their eyes to this reality.

I'm reminded of the Jesus's disciples in the gospels. Jesus is constantly delivering his message via stories and parables which the disciples are, almost comically, misunderstanding. They fight over who deserves the place of glory at the right hand of Christ while he praises the humility of children.

The Pharisees are now defined not by their religious piety, but by their arrogance and failure to see the divinity of Jesus and to accept his message of love, mercy, and healing.

The pharisees were so blinded that they conspired to kill Jesus because his message was so threatening to their status quo. The disciples were so dense that they didn't see it coming.

Unfortunately, the legacy of the pharisees and foolish disciples seems to be the one that modern American Christians have proudly claimed for their own. Like the Pharisees, we're so threatened in our comfortable faith that we lash out and fail to live out Christ's message of love, mercy, and healing. And like the disciples, we're too dense to look beyond ourselves to see the immense pain and hurt we inflict on the world.