Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Yes, There Is Christian Persecution in America And Here’s What it Looks Like

BI’ve often written about the American persecution complex that tends to see anti-Christian persecution under every rock, and have long been a proponent that such claims of persecution are often simply a loss of privilege or the ability to persecute others. Each time I say something along these lines, I usually get a flood of comments and messages/e-mails telling me how wrong I am and that Christianity in America is under attack. One commenter even said recently that “Jesus” is the only name you’re not allowed to speak at work without getting fired.

Secretly I’ve had some misgivings about my position and these doubts have now given way to a change in position. So, this post is a capitulation to my critics and a public admission about how wrong I’ve been. Yes, Christians are bullied for their faith in America– and it happens on a daily basis. Yes, Christians can lose their jobs simply because they believe in the teachings of Jesus. Yes, some Christians in America are hated on account of their association with Jesus. Real persecution just happens to look differently than what is often claimed as persecution. Case in point:

A few weeks ago, MidAmerica Nazarene University chaplain and Vice President of Community Formation Dr. Randy Beckum spoke at the student chapel services. Dr. Beckum gave a short sermon during the chapel service that is being billed as “controversial” and something that really upset the student and faculty population at MidAmerica Nazarene (see/read full text here). What was so controversial and offensive you ask? Well, let’s take a look.

At first, Dr. Beckum starts off by saying,

“In my life, I have struggled with some things that Jesus said, (pretty plainly), that go against the grain of what is accepted as normal, or OK or even a sign of a being a good Christian in this part of the world.”

Seems like something I’ve heard a thousand times in my life– we’re repeatedly told that just because something is widely accepted as being okay or normal, such acceptance doesn’t mean it’s okay for a Christian. And, I totally agree.

Except, and here’s where Dr. Beckum got himself into some serious problems: he wasn’t speaking about listening to rock and roll or wearing skirts that weren’t knee high– he was talking about the golden calf of American Christianity. He went on to say,

“Anyone who has made a decision to follow Jesus realizes that the goal of a being a Christian is to become Christ-like.”

Sounds good so far, but starting to get edgy with this Jesus-likeness stuff. But here’s where he went completely off the rails:

“I am extremely troubled.  I have been for a long time and I have hesitated to address this subject publicly, but I cannot keep silent about it any longer… I don’t think it is an under-statement to say that our culture is addicted to violence, guns, war, revenge and retaliation. Unfortunately, so are a lot of Christians… So, what does Jesus have to say about it.  Again, if you are not a follower of Jesus you can relax.  This doesn’t concern you. But Christians have to do something with this.  I have to do something with the words of Jesus and his actions… We have to be very careful about equating patriotism with Christianity.   We never say God and…anything.  God is above all, everything else is underneath…We have put “our way of life”/freedom on the top rung.  If you mess with it I’ll blow your head off. For a Christian what is on the top rung? Love for all.”

 

Dr. Beckum ended his sermon by reminding the students that not only did Jesus teach radical enemy love, but that we should serve them, and forgive them as well.

In many Christian circles you can talk about the Bible all you want, a you can speak as much Christianese as possible, but as Dr. Beckum has now learned, you cannot talk about what Jesus taught regarding enemy loveThat is off-limits and heresy.

The sermon on enemy love sparked an outcry at the University, with some furious that he’d have the audacity to call into question the issue of Christians using violence against enemies. The MNU president was quickly forced to issue a statement distancing himself from the teachings of Jesus, saying:

“At MidAmerica Nazarene University we encourage the exchange of ideas and individuals are free to express their individual perspective and opinions, even when those opinions may not reflect the official policy or practices of our university, our core values or our affiliations.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough– speaking out against bloodshed in American Christianity often requires bloodshed of some sort, and such was the case with Dr. Beckum. On February 3rd the President relieved him of his duties as Vice President of Community Formation, citing that Beckum had previously requested to be removed from that position, something his own daughter has publicly called a falsehood.

In my opinion it’s easy to see what happened here: a Christian leader saw our lust for violence and military conquests, and decided to speak out on it. Since quoting what Jesus said on enemy love is so offensive within American Christian culture, he had to pay a price- and lost his position.

And so here is where my critics have been right all along: there is anti-Christian persecution in America. The chief difference however, is that it’s not the secularists or atheists who are persecuting us- it’s “Christians” who are doing the persecuting.

The best way to understand the cultural scenario is to realize (as someone astutely mentioned on twitter recently) that there are two different types of Christianity. One is a movement of people who want to live and be like Jesus. The other (and far more common, far more powerful) is a civil and political religion that is simply named Christianity. The civil political religion named Christianity is addicted to both political power and violence, and thus finds the message of Jesus offensive. When they encounter the other kind of Christian- the kind that actually believes in following Jesus- they have an immediate need to persecute them in some for or another, as we see in the case of Dr. Beckum, who actually did lose his job because of speaking the name of Jesus.

So, yes, there is Christian persecution in America- and for saying there is not, I do apologize to my critics for such an error. People do get bullied for speaking about Jesus. People do lose their jobs for it. Dr. Beckum is one of them.

But as it turns out, it’s actually the critics attempting to defend the violence-loving political religion named Christianity who are persecuting the people of Jesus. 

Don’t believe me? Just try teaching “love your enemies”, and see which group of people will be the first to mock and bully you.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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  • I believe that herein lies a fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity as it relates to pacifism; even in the beatitude that promises happiness to the peacemakers it is clear that Jesus is not referring to doormats, but to people who aggressively seek to make peace. Now, what does that look like? Are we not to defend the oppressed? Does that not at times require physical force? When Jesus was asked by soldiers in Luke 3, what they should do, He told them that they shouldn’t extort money, but to be content with their pay? These, being soldiers that were subjugating His very people. Clearly, this would have been a great time for him to condemn war. The NT is a work of modeling – both a relationship with God and with other people. However, it is not a corporate work like the OT. There is little that tells us how to build a society, only how to build ourselves individually. Certainly, God did not condemn war in the NT – He only promised there would be more of it. What He does do in the context of the Bible is build a case for both just anger and just war. I believe that God intends for us to store our treasures in heaven by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and freeing the oppressed. I have served in the military and was ready to lay down my life to do so. In closing, I challenge you on this point in light of John 15:13 – Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Who loves his fellow man more; the man fighting to free those enslaved by a false theocracy that treats women and children like chattel, or the Christian man who partakes in organized demonstrations against that war? We are only free to practice pacifism, because someone died providing us the freedom to do so.

  • Persecution? give me a break. Ive seen more non christians get fired. Also, christians say that things they dont like are UnChristian, like being a non chrisgtian is a bad thing!

  • Christians are not to treat everybody ALIKE. See MAtthew 18: Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.. ;. . It’s one thing to express love for our brothers and sisters, and to face our enemies in silence without adding fuel to the fire of a conflict. However, claiming that we ought to favor and sanctify people who do harm is just plain unreasonable.

    • “27Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

      32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
      Luke 6:27-36

      You’re right, it’s unreasonable. But it’s what Jesus asks us to do.

  • Excellent piece! There’s something I’ve pondering lately and I’d love to get your take on it:

    It’s basically this question: Why aren’t all Christians who identify themselves as being “pro life” necessarily pacifists?

    The basis for being pro-life (in the realm of abortion), as I’ve heard it explained many times, is the idea of the “sanctity of human life.” This would naturally seem to mean that every single human life is *sacred* solely because it is *human*, and created in the image of God. I often hear this concept referred to as a “moral absolute.” If a particular idea is a moral absolute, by definition it’s something that applies equally in all times and situations; there’s no such thing as a circumstance in which an absolute *doesn’t* apply. So, if every human life is literally sacred, not because of anything a person has done or not done, but merely because she/she is human, and if that value is an absolute, then it has to follow that there are no circumstances under which we can treat any human life as being less than sacred and worthy of preservation, right?

    Wouldn’t that mean, then, that the taking or devaluing of any human life, under any circumstances, for any reason, is wrong? That would include abortions, sure, but it would also necessarily apply to taking life in combat situations, to capital punishment, to any circumstance in which any human life is treated as being “less than.”

    And that, then, would mean that those who call themselves “pro life” and yet only or primarily apply that value to the unborn, but make allowances in the case of things like warfare, are, by their own definition, the real moral relativists.

  • As a woman I feel persecuted by people calling themselves Christians who have passed laws against a woman’s right to control her own body. Who support a party that wants to take away healthcare, fair pay, national parks, clean air and water, etc. from the American people. Jesus called us to love our neighbor but instead Trump tells us to be spies like Stalin or Mao. We are deporting parents and leaving children without a family. At this point in time, most of the government policy as chosen by the GOP is the promotion of evil for the benefit of the extremely rich.

    • Goodness where do I start?
      You have everything completely upside down. It is not your fault it is the fault of fake news and our education system.
      It is all very simple, if you are not willing to protect the most innocent in our society, i.e. unborn babies, everything about womens rights and all the issues in between is just emotional nonsense.

      No, republicans are not taking away your healthcare, your fair pay or your clean water. In fact the opposite is true and always has been true. But when it comes to abortion, God is very clear about that. Anyone who murders an unborn baby in the womb is to be put to death. Read the Old Testanment. In God’s eyes that unborn baby is as human as a full grown adult. Which is why his law is clear – life for life.

  • Boy, did Nietzsche nail that “love your enemies” stuff perfectly in “The Genealogy of Morals”. It’s the hate-filled spite of the weak, attempted psychological jujitsu.

  • Did any of y’all sleep and pray on this, or did you jump straight from the last punctuation mark to the comment box? All of you formed an immediate opinion reading it, myself included, based on your existing opinion, belief and personal experience, myself included, and off you all went. On ALL sides.

    From MY personal experience, what he’s saying makes sense, but I’m basing that on things like the hypocrisy of Chick-fil-A who fought for the right to deny health benefits for their employees based on their personal beliefs (and without regard to the beliefs of said employees) crying “religious liberty” as their justification. A move that helped establish corporate personhood. Yet that same company allows their franchise holders to DENY their youth employees time off to attend church retreats and conferences. So apparently their brand of religious liberty and freedom from persecution only applies to the corporate personhood and not the individuals OF the corporation.

    Then there’s the far far right fundamentalist and bible literalists that routinely attack anyone who isn’t also a fundamentalist and bible literalist, but those are just MY experience flavoring MY first read.

    Which is why I plan to sleep and pray on this one. But, so far, I agree 110% with what he’s saying.

  • I have experienced lots of persecution in my walk with the Lord, including being beaten up a couple of times, having a gun in my face, and also sorts of slanderous statements, as well as hundreds of “straw horse” arguments against Christianity in general (twisting words and then attacking Christianity based on those twisted words). Others have had similar experiences; Christian persecution occurs in the USA, and all over the world.
    However, part of the issue is the context. Except for the gospel itself, you should only preach to church bodies (open ears). And as for the gospel, it should be preached only to willing listeners, whether on a one-to-one basis, or before a crowd of invited persons, who willingly came to hear the message of love and forgiveness. After all, the truly “willing listener” of the gospel is one the Holy Spirit is drawing to hear the gospel, so that concurs with this principle.
    As for “loving your enemy”, that is a personal application, for one-to-one relationships. But since Jesus praised the Roman soldier for his faith (who sometimes had to use lethal force), serving in the military or the police is OK for Christians, and also keep in mind Rome was a vicious occupier. Also, Paul said the king “does not bear the sword in vain”, suggesting the government can execute you for capital crimes, which means tacit approval of some forms of violence, if not actually also working for the police or military.

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