When I was in high school or college, I was immature enough to believe I had experienced persecution for my christian beliefs. (caligo, etc)
But now, at 48, I look back and I’m convinced that I wasn’t undeservingly “persecuted” for christian beliefs so much as I reaped what I sowed for some judgmental jackass-ness. I return to this idea that I have discussed before (recens, congregamini) because I see a similar problem in modern American Christians. Oh, not necessarily being jackasses as I recognize in myself, but exaggerating their claimed persecution to feel holier.
Let me explain: I have a christian lawyer friend in Nepal. Ironically, his name is Buddha. Along with his normal law practice, he is constantly struggling with his government to establish simple religious freedom for christians. In Nepal, conversion to christianity is a crime, as it is in several other countries around the world. People receive government sanctioned punishments for that, there, like people do for selling drugs in the U.S. This is persecution.
I have another friend from Nigeria. He has told me stories of militant muslims dressing up as soldiers and setting up roadblocks at which they would ask the name of a driver and if they claimed a christian name, stabbing them so as to kill them without the next drivers hearing gunshots and thus leaving the line.
He works to convince the U.S. and U.K. governments to recognize Boko Haram and the Fulani Herdsmen of Nigeria as muslim terrorist groups. He has been imprisoned and tortured for speaking out against such atrocities. This is persecution.
This is the type of persecution the Christian Bible says to count as blessing. That’s not what I have ever endured.
Any mistreatment I’ve experienced has been not because I’m a christian, but because I either tried to impose my convictions on others, or because I showed that I saw others as more sinful than myself. I was wrong on both counts.
All this brings me to the recent U.S. Federal Supreme Court case, “Masterpiece Cake Shop.” What’s funny is that both “liberals” and “conservatives” are claiming this same case as a victory for their side. I think it is a victory for good sense and constitutional reasoning.
Jack Phillips is an expert baker is Colorado. Misters Craig and Mullins, a couple, came to Mr. Phillips shop looking for a wedding cake. Baker Phillips declined to create a wedding cake for them because he did not want to violate his faith based convictions by investing his art into celebrating their sin with them. They sued.
Now my problem is this: they could have found another baker or he could have baked a cake for them as he surely does for countless other sinners, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He wasn’t sued because he was a christian; he was sued because he was discriminating against their particular sin and evidently not other sins. If he refused to use his art to celebrate others’ sins, he would have to question people on issues of second marriages, grounds for first divorces, whether people cohabitated prior to marriage, etc. But then they could have easily gone to a baker who was willing to serve them. They didn’t have to insist that he bake a cake that he couldn’t stomach.
The Supreme Court did not decide the refusal was acceptable under the Constitution, by the way. The “persecution” here was not between the couple and the baker, according to the Supremes. The problem was that the Colorado Commission that heard the case at the early stage showed an undeniable hostility toward Mr. Phillips’ faith. The Government was hostile to religion. That was the reason for reversal of the Colorado Court. Bias.
Perhaps I’m rambling. The point is that Americans of every political persuasion seem to be fast approaching the “Qu’ils mengent de la brioche” attitude attributed to Marie Antionette. Whether she actually said it or not, the French Queen is credited with prompting the French Revolution by responding with “Let them eat cake,” when she learned that the peasants had no bread to eat. She was so utterly out of touch with the real and serious problems of the world around her that she thought people who couldn’t afford baguettes should simply turn to cake instead, as she did.
Likewise, we Americans are growing so out of touch with what a lack of freedom looks like, that we are taking cases about cake to the Federal Supreme Court because our rights regarding it are being violated.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are people killing and dying over their rights regarding faith out there. While some say the cake arguments are the tip of a bigger iceberg, I suggest we look at James 4:1:
4 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
One desires to have the cake he wants, and to not be looked down upon in the process.
Another desires not to be forced to endorse the sins he opts against.
Neither is without fault, in my humble opinion, and again, in my humble opinion, Americans have become the Marie Antionettes of the world.