For the first time ever, the United States has been added to an annual list of the world’s persecutors of Christians and countries that are regressing in religious freedom.
We respect their opinions and can see why they would be concerned. But we’re also very concerned about what harm this messaging brings.
The United States, Mexico and Russia have been listed as “new and noteworthy” nations in the 2016 “Hall of Shame Report” published by the Washington, D.C., based human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC), the operators of the website Persecution.org.
The “worst of the worst” countries for Christian persecution – the “most egregious state persecutors” – included Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and North Korea.
Others listed as “core countries” – or nations that are less egregious in their persecution but are “perennial abusers of religious freedom” – were Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and India.
While ICC notes “there is no comparison between the life of a Christian in the U.S. with persecuted believers overseas,” the group noted a number of “worrying trends as an alarming indication of a decline in religious liberty in the United States.
ICC President Jeff King explained:
“We felt it was very important this year that we highlight three countries where religious discrimination and persecution are deemed unusual but have reached a certain threshold of concern. These are Mexico, Russia, and sadly, the United States.
While conditions in the U.S. are in no way comparable to other countries on the list, a certain segment of the culture and the courts seem to be intent on driving faith out of the public square. There have been too many court cases with bad decisions to miss the clear trend line.
I personally think this is absolute nonsense, and the Church is now being named the fool as a result. One group has latched onto this concept, and are “making hay while the sun shines” – left-wing nutjobs , like the ones at RightWingWatch.org.
This narrative has become an important rallying cry for a movement that has found itself on the losing side of many of the so-called “culture wars.” By reframing political losses as religious oppression, the Right has attempted to build a justification for turning back advances in gay rights, reproductive rights and religious liberty for minority faiths.
See, this is why I hate special interest groups. I don’t care whether they’re on the right wing or on the left wing side of life, both sides usually prepackage or repackage or even manufacture news to begin with, to justify their position or belief. And ironically, the left is using this as a rallying cry for THEIR twisted, sick purposes as well.
It was completely unhelpful of Persecution.org to say that the United States is now a persecutor of Christians in the same league as Russia! That was just stupid. Have Christians lost some of their rights, some of their freedom of speech, some of their right to assemble, and freedom of worship? Perhaps, but as a comparative with RUSSIA? How idiotic.
And any backpedalling of freedoms in society is partly the American Church’s own doing. If the American church is losing rights, it’s because it doesn’t speak up and fight back.
Televangelist financial scandals, and massive money-making corporations run under the guise of charitable works, for example, has brought shame and reproach to the body of Christ – and it’s wrong.
Some pastors and evangelists run nonprofit societies, yet they live in million-dollar mansions due to the sale of their books and CDs – which they hawk through said non-profit ministries. That’s wrong, and may even be considered tax evasion.
For example, in March 2012, London’s Daily Mail newspaper reported that two former employees of the world’s largest Christian television channel, Trinity Broadcasting Network, founded by Televangelists Paul and Jan Crouch, accused the non-profit of spending millions of dollars of its funding on extravagant personal expenses. Among purchases were a $50 million jet, 13 mansions and a $100,000-mobile home for Mrs Crouch’s dogs. Their accuser? Their granddaughter, Brittany Koper, 26, recently filed her allegations in court after a brief appointment as the network’s chief finance director in July. Pretty hard to ‘blame the Devil’ or excuse this in any possible way.
I recently even read in America some pastors stating that if they lose their tax-exempt status as a church or as a charitable entity, they will withdraw their services from society and let the city or province or state or whatever see just how much that service has given to that state or province free of charge. What a travesty – we were called to reach out to society whether they acknowledge it or not, financially or otherwise.
This is what we have become? A money-making whore that demands society look the other way while we generate revenues in exactly the same way as secular society does, but tax-free? Is a tax-free status a Christian right? Hardly. Jesus said, concerning taxes: “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and give unto God that which is God’s” (Mark 12:17) Is it a good witness to disobey or even break laws around charitable institutions? NO.
If the American Church lost its charitable non-tax status across the board, it would be a gift in disguise. How many churches suffer financially while televangelists bring in $50+ million per year? Are any of those evangelists truly necessary to the body of Christ? Sure, a few – Billy Graham, James Robson, Reinhard Bonnke, Greg Laurie and a few others are changing the world.
Governments’ response to some Christian ministries’ tax-robbing ways is not persecution. We are also taxpayers, which means that everytime a ministry steals from society like this, we all pay for it anyway. Misusing the label ‘persecution’ is the most ridiculous thing of all, and mocks the real suffering of believers worldwide.
According to a September 20, 2015 report2 in the Daily Express newspaper, a Christian is martyred every 5 minutes by Islamic State terrorists alone. Believers are often singled out, tortured and faced with the brutal choice of converting to Islam or being slaughtered, according to Christian Freedom International. Those who refuse to comply have reportedly had their limbs cut off or have been crucified.
Research by CFI found that more than 200 million Christians are facing persecution in 105 countries, making Christianity the most at-risk faith group in the world. More Christians have been martyred in the 20th and 21st centuries than during the previous 19 combined, the organisation has claimed.
Not everyone agrees with this American Church persecution assessment either. For over 60 years, Open Doors has been a respected international organisation with a mission of advocacy for persecuted Christians in 60 countries around the world. I note that in their 2016 list of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith, America was not found.
North Korea has ranked #1 for 13 years because it is illegal to be a Christian in North Korea, and Christians are often sent to labour camps or are killed if they are discovered. I was, therefore, both shocked and inspired to see that regardless of this verdict, North Korea has over 300,000 Christian believers. God, keep your hand on all of them, wherever they may be.
Are these the only countries where Christians are persecuted? Sadly no. Open Doors says that there are more than 65 countries where Christians are persecuted. If the American Church focused on their plight instead of its myopic own, they could change that dynamic for many of them.