Commentary

“Partners in Persecution”

Dwight A. Moody 

Around the world, people are in prison for what they write, how they worship, who they support, and into which tribe or ethnic group they were born. Sometimes Christians are the persecuted, and sometimes Christians are the persecutors. There is a long history of both.

 

In our day, the German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer is celebrated as a martyr, as are the four young girls attending Sunday School at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

As a college student I was deeply impressed by Richard Wurmbrand who served time in jail for smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. I read and reread his book Sermons in Solitary Confinement. I have a friend from those same college days who, as a missionary to parts of Africa, has taken a pseudonym into order to speak and write about the danger to Muslims who convert to Christianity. Their baptism seals their fate, he says.

 

I have just finished reading a history of Christianity in Asia, wherein the dangers of Christian faith are described, including the violent efforts to eradicate Christian witness from China during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th Century, the Boxer Rebellion in the 19th Century and the Cultural Revolution during my lifetime.

 

These are awful realities around the world, and the Untied States is right to take a stand against these things.  

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), section 18, seeks to address these injustices by articulating the freedom of religion for all people. It reads:

 

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

 

Nevertheless, persecution is real; and we as Christians should pray for minority people everywhere: for their freedom and safety; for justice and righteousness; for perseverance and courage.

 

I honor those who suffer for Christ, in accordance with the words of one of the first martyrs: “If any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name” (First Peter, 4:6).

 

But what I do not honor is the effort by some in our own country to appropriate this persecution rhetoric for their own political purposes. For decades now, some Christian people have translated their own perception of marginalized status into a martyrdom mentality.

 

“Our country has been taken over by secular elites,” they complain bitterly to one another. “They don’t believe like we do, and they don’t allow us to do what we want to do.” What they want to do, of course, is to give Christian testimonies in public schools, offer Christian prayers at various public gatherings, impose their Christian rules of right and wrong on everybody, and discriminate against anybody who does not share their Christian values. When the courts, the Congress, and other elected officials refuse to allow this sort of privilege, they wail: “We are being persecuted!”

 

For ten years they read and watched the sympathetic narrative of their own life-story played out in a series of best-selling novels called Left Behind. While the authors projected their abandonment into the immediate future, millions of readers pulled that description into their own experience. They had already become the Left Behind people.

 

It is true: what was once the Protestant-Evangelical culture that dominated American life has been slowly replaced by a more diverse, even a more secular society. And the prerogatives they once enjoyed have given way to the opportunities and rights of people who think, behave, and/or worship in very different ways. 

 

Then appeared their savior!

 

Into this slough of cultural despair stepped another who was also despised by the “cultural elites”—those who made the movies, owned the companies, reported the news, and wrote the books. His name is Donald J. Trump.  

 

“Being an outsider is fine,” he said, referencing both himself and his audience at the epicenter of Evangelical education—Liberty University. “Embrace the label [of outsider] … As long as I am your President, no one is every going to stop you from practicing your faith.”

 

Here may be the clue to the greatest cultural and religious mystery of our time: how conservative Christians with a long tradition of public rhetoric in favor of devout and disciplined leaders embraced the one person least likely to model the kind of man they claim to value.

 

It is the marriage made in heaven, the partnership born in shared persecution. While they dance in joyous celebration, the rest of us can only shake our heads and mutter, “Please!”

 

 

November 14, 2019

 

Commentary: Archives

Here is an archive of my new series of weekly columns, which began in the spring of 2018.  I welcome your feedback using the reader RESPONSE form at the bottom of every page of this web site.

Partners in Persecution 

The Write and Wrong of C. S. Lewis 

Can the Supreme Court Save the Culture?

With Billy Barr on the Sawdust Trail

Can Singing Save America?

Cancer: Living, Daying, and Praying 

The Mystery of  Mister Trump 

One Biblical Story, Two Political Visions

Blowing in the Wind 

Will You Also Unsubscribe?

What Kind of Country Do Christian Nationalists Want?

That’s A Completely Crazy Position”

“Let It Go. Give It Up. Throw It Down.”

“I No Longer Identify As A Christian”

Graham, King, and the Two Americas

I Am So Very Sad

Running as a Pro-Jesus Democrat 

Celebrating America the Beautiful 

Surviving a Screen Sabbatical 

Moving the Statue of Liberty

Jesus Loves Obamacare 

Religious Freedom or Religious Confusion?

Praying for the President

And What Do You Do?

Saving the Catholic Church

A View From the Top 

Praying on a Three-Legged Stool 

Was Jesus a Christian?

Keeping My Religion in 2020

What Has Paris To Do With Jerusalem?

Getting Religion in 2020

Religion, Politics, and the 2020 Election 

Listening to the Preacher 

Making America Great Again

David, Goliath, and Donald Trump 

Southern Baptists and United Methodists 

The Practice of Exclusion 

Praying for Revival

From the East and the West

Forgetting the Past

Remembering Angela 

Loving Our Neighbor 

Preaching Us Together 

My Theory of Preaching 

Twice A Year

Helping Dr. Mohler 

Reading Thomas Merton

Meeting Kevin Cosby

When I Read the Book

Bohemian Rhapsody: An Encounter

A Future for Baptist Seminaries?

Fear in Politics and Religion

The First Muslim Seminary

Don’t Preach This Sermon

Read.Talk.Pray.Gossip.

The Lilly Endowment 

The Christian Tsunami

Their Words Seem Like Nonsense 

The Big House in the Middle 

The Judge, the Preacher,  and the Good Samaritan 

I’ll Pass on the Bottle 

A Week of Shame and Pride 

Sabbatical Grace 

Questions for Catholics 

Religious Liberty for All

Resurrection of Kristopher Hampton 

Death of Kristopher Hampton 

All About the Children 

I Pledge my Allegiance

Let’s Move the Statue of Liberty 

Some Preachers of Promise

Southern Baptist Need Pope Francis 

Mystery of the Trump Presidency 

Two Funerals: Graham and Cone 

On the Other Side of Oddville

Here are a few of the articles and stories from my book On the Other Side of Oddville. These were collected from my first series of columns, published by Mercer Press in 2002. You can order a copy by using the response from at the bottom of this page; $20 will cover the cost of the book and mailing. (Checks to Dwight A. Moody).