No group of people has tested my resolve in following the ways of Jesus as does ISIS. Yesterday I was deeply grieved to see CNN news reports of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt– most of them who had been poor immigrants who had migrated to look for work- were kidnapped by ISIS, and beheaded in their most recent gruesome video.
As reported by CNN, many of them shouted “Oh God!” “Oh Jesus!” as they were pushed to their knees to face a masked executioner’s knife.
The heading on the video simply read, “People of the Cross.”
What a beautiful name for us. I love it.
But the violent persecution… it’s all just so… outrageous, horrifying, and emotionally exhausting to witness in the daily news cycle.
While I have no idea what is going to happen, I fear that this daily barrage of execution videos will not lessen anytime soon. As such, we ought try to learn as many lessons from this as possible. The chief of which is the fact that religious persecution– even Christian persecution– is alive and well in the world.
Certainly, it’s not limited to Christians, but this is a prime example of where it does happen to Christians. Elsewhere, atheists are even the targets of religious persecution, we find tit-for-tat Christian vs Muslim violence in Africa, and the list could go on. Religious fueled violence is as old as religion itself, which is precisely why Jesus told his followers to embrace a new way of living that opts out of the cycle completely.
But with all this real, legitimate persecution– imprisonments, beheadings, churches and homes being destroyed, I think we need to ask ourselves a really hard question:
Can we stop complaining about this bogus idea that American Christians are persecuted now?
I mean, really. Can we stop? The world needs us to turn from ourselves and focus on this real persecution, because it’s evil and must be exposed and stopped. However, our own self-centeredness as Americans is getting in the way of the discussion on real anti-Christian persecution in the world today. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is actually distracting, offensive, and insulting to those who face real persecution for their faith.
I mean, come on. We’ve got to move past this America. Just ask yourself what you’d say to those 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded on the beach this weekend? Too many American Christians would miss the outrage at injustice by falsely identifying with the persecution they were witnessing. I can hear the cries of “we know how you feel!” in my mind as I write this.
“We know how you feel beheaded Christians! Our bakery had to bake a cake that was used at a wedding for two women! You and I are one!”
“We know how you feel beheaded Christians! We lost our tax incentive to build a multi-million dollar replica of Noah’s ark because of discriminatory hiring practices. Don’t you feel sorry for us?”
“We know how you feel beheaded Christians! I lost my job because I handed out anti-gay literature at work.”
As we all know, many an American Christian love to play the persecution card. Often, this so-called persecution is actually just a loss of privilege or ability to persecute others, but gets painted as “the sky is falling” and is followed by calls that we should begin preparing to get publicly flogged and jailed for attending a church, or other nonsensical predictions.
I’ve often made fun of this. I’ve found it obnoxious, ironic, and sometimes humorous.
But not today. Today, my mind is seared with the image of Christians in orange jumpsuits kneeling on a beach with knives to their throats. My ears are filled with their cries of “Oh Jesus!!”
With visuals in my mind of real Christians persecution, I no longer find anything about the American persecution complex remotely funny.
In light of that blood-soaked beach in Tripoli, forever stained with the blood of the martyrs, I remember how offensive faux American claims of anti-Christian persecution actually is… and invite my fellow American Christians to please– PLEASE– stop playing the persecution card, that we might highlight and grieve the very real persecution that exists in the world today.
May we remember our Coptic brothers who were slain.
May, as did the blood of Abel, their blood cry out to God himself.
May we lift up our voices to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and petition justice on behalf of these martyrs.
May we seek Jesus, the founder of our faith who– just like our Coptic brothers– had his blood shed.
May we grieve the nightmarish persecution that Christians are experiencing around the globe.
But perhaps most of all, may we stop pretending that somehow selling cakes to gay people or losing tax incentives even remotely places us in the same category.
Because in light of that blood-soaked beach in Tripoli, it’s just not funny anymore.
Remembering the beheaded martyrs by name: