Persecuted persecutors?

Progressive Christian writer and missiologists Benjamin L. Corey wrote a very interesting post on the recent reactions of some Conservative Christians in America, to which I responded.

 

So Listen– It’s Not Religious Discrimination Just Because You Can’t Discriminate.

Earlier this week, the President signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. In a supposed civilized society with a separation of church and state, such a measure should be welcomed by all because anti-discrimination policies protect the rights of everyone.

For me, anti-discrimination laws transcend theology and personal opinion. I acknowledge that while I am a Christian, I am also a Christian who lives and who does commerce in a culture that is diverse– making certain rules for playing necessary. For starters, I don’t want a potential employer to be able to fire me simply because I am a Christian. Being a Christian is completely irrelevant to my ability to do a specific job and to be disqualified from employment on that basis, would be completely unfair. Anti-discrimination laws protect my right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” by ensuring my religious orientation cannot be used as a way to shut me out from competing in the public sector.

Regardless of my theology on human sexuality, I see anti-discrimination policies for the LGBT community the same way I see them for myself– they too have a right to compete in the public sector and have the right to hold jobs they are qualified for without an aspect of their identity disqualify them from working. It’s a little something we call…. fair.

You can’t fire me because I’m an Anabaptist, and I can’t fire you because of the gender you’re attracted to.

Really simple stuff that we should all say “this is fair and good for society” regardless of our particular theology on any given subject.

However, the new anti-discrimination policy for government contractors isn’t exactly being celebrated in our Christian community. Instead, many are crying that the sky is falling, that our religious liberties are under attack– you know, more “help, help, I’m being oppressed!” Monty Python type stuff.

 Here’s what Michael Brown called the move by the White House:

“This was an outrageous act of discrimination against religion in the name of anti-discrimination—an act of bullying people of faith in the name of the prevention of bullying.”

So yeah, apparently we’re being “bullied” because in exchange for accepting government funds we have to agree not to fire people for being gay.

Poor us.

So listen– I think we as Christians need to set something straight before we go any further:

It’s not discrimination when we are prevented from doing the discriminating. It’s not persecution when we are prevented from doing the persecuting. It’s not bullying when we’re told that we can’t bully others.

It’s not any of those things.

In fact, we should actually be embarrassed that we even have to be told that it’s wrong to fire someone for these reasons. Your place of business is NOT the same thing as your church– if you want to accept government funds, you’ll have to play by a set of rules that keeps it fair for everyone. Both for you, and everyone else.

I’ve discussed the issue of the persecution complex here in the West, and nearly every time, some folks write to me and tell me how wrong I am– that yes, Christians are under attack and being persecuted. Whenever that happens and I ask for specific examples, I am almost always listed out examples of how we’re not allowed to persecute others.

But this isn’t persecution– it’s not even close.

I can’t help but think how self centered we’re going to look when we get to heaven and go through the awkward introductions in the persecuted section:

“Hi, my name is Peter. They crucified me on a cross upside down.”

“Hi, my name is Stephen. They smashed my head in with rocks.”

“Hi, my name is Polycarp. They tried to burn me at the stake but I didn’t catch on fire so they stabbed me to death”.

“Hi, my name is William Tyndale. They chocked me to death at the stake and then burned by body.”

“Hi, my name is Michael Brown. They told me that if I wanted my business to be able to accept government funds that I couldn’t fire people simply because of their sexual orientation.”

You see? It doesn’t actually line up with the experiences of the Christians who have come before us– Christians who actually were bullied and persecuted.

Let’s be honest: I think we’re going to look a little silly in eternity if we keep up this persecution and “I’m being bullied” stuff. For those of us poised to lead the next generation of Jesus followers into a better cultural expression of Christianity, one of the first things we need to do is to stop pretending we’re victims. It’s not attractive. It’s not helping. It’s not even true.

One doesn’t become the victim of bullying when they’re told that they can’t make others the victim of bullying. That doesn’t even make sense.

Instead, let us embrace the fact that we actually do live in a country where we are both free to practice our religion but also where there are certain rules in the public sector that keep things fair for everyone, and that these foundational rules are actually good and right.

Here was my answer.

 

This was really a great post Ben!

On my blog I’ve dealt a lot with the topic of homosexuality, arguing it is not sinful, illustrating that its rejection is utterly groundless and calling up Conservative Christians to apply the Golden Rule towards Gay people. .

You’re entirely right it’s utterly wrong and disgusting to feel discriminated because you no longer have the right to socially or economically discriminate people on grounds of their sexual orientation. Actually I think that all Continental European Conservatives who oppose Gay marriage wholeheartedly agree with that very principle (and most of them are not particularly religious).

BUT I think that the liberal (or political correct) lobby runs off the rails when it starts using propaganda and political pressure for changing the mind of people concerning homosexuality.

This is what the French government attempted to do and instead of increasing the acceptance of Gays and Lesbians, it raised resentment against them.

Some of my Conservative readers called my attention to the fact that people are being fired JUST because they are morally opposed to homosexuality, and I find that extremely misguided, wrong and egregious for many reasons I have outlined here.

People who fell victims of such punishment are likely to develop a real HATRED towards homosexuals which wasn’t there as they still had their livelihood.

When looking at the American culture war, I realize I am very often much closer to Liberal than to Conservative positions, but I can’t completely side with the formers because they often act in an unjust and unproductive manner.
I think the situation would be much better if BOTH liberals and conservatives were to let go of their deep-seated moral indignation and realize their opponents might be neither crazy, ignorant nor evil.

 

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8 thoughts on “Persecuted persecutors?

  1. I loved this post. Denying someone a livelihood because of certain views is just as wrong as denying someone a livelihood because of sexual orientation. America is a crazy place right now. All states should include sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws. There are still too many states where it is legal to fire a person based on orientation.

    • All states should include sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws.

      I actually would preferably get rid of anti-discrimination laws entirely, but let’s get past that. Do you think it’s okay for a college to ban homosexual men from rooming and showering with straight men? Why or why not?

  2. Hmm, semantically I’m fairly wary of discrimination debates. I prefer the term “unfair discrimination”.

    Not that long ago, having discriminating tastes was a good thing and referred to someone who could make good choices about things, but then the word seemed to change its meaning and became bad, so anyone “discriminating” was doing a bad thing. I.e. making choices and acting on them unfairly. Everyone discriminates a lot of the time. It just means choosing between things and deciding what may be good, or bad. The state discriminates by locking up “criminals” or refusing certain people the rights that others have, E.g, persons with “mental illness” should not purchase fire-arms.

    Ultimately we’ve created a whole new way of thinking around this word, which tries to do a good thing, such as stopping people making unfair decisions about people, usually on irrelevant basis, but this is totally confused with “equality”, often seen as the opposite of “discrimination”.

    We have a deep rooted sense of discrimination based around “good people and decisions” and “bad people and decisions”. So the whole debate and legislature seems to run around in circles saying that we need to discriminate, I.e, stop people doing what we think is bad, but must not admit it is discriminating to do it. The result being that we need to discriminate against those “discriminating”.

    Personally I think there is a major issue in the current definitions of the word discriminate and what “to discriminate” means and is. If the goal is “equality” (another poorly defined term) then maybe the whole paradigm needs to be looked at and redefined.

    It would seem to me that “anti-discrimination” is a decidedly deep rooted and “Christian” idea and action. But whilst so many “Christians”, particularly in the US, are caught up in bizarre witch-hunts and demonising groups that appear contrary to themselves, I’m not sure that this Christian principle is going to gain much practice amongst some sorts of “Christians”.

    It might be due to the fact that no matter how many of them espouse the inerrancy of scripture, they appear not to have heard what it says.

  3. “I think the situation would be much better if BOTH liberals and conservatives were to let go of their deep-seated moral indignation and realize their opponents might be neither crazy, ignorant nor evil.”

    Wise words.

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