What is it with us Christians in America? We have such freedoms to practice our religion, the whole world envies us. Yet we seem to choose to live in a bunker mentality as though we expected to be wiped out at any moment. I suppose it comes from a kind of pre-millennialism and its attendant belief that things will just get worse and worse until Jesus returns. Like some forlorn Byzantine emperor we expect that Christendom will continue to be gobbled up by barbarians and infidels until we alone are left with only a spear and spit of land and so we must go down fighting. If that is how you read the New Testament, please stay after class and beat out the erasers. Yes, persecution may come. Yes, the end may be near. But so far, the Lord is giving us amazing room to work in.
I have received so many silly emails of late warning American Christians of some looming persecution, 99% of which are wholly inaccurate if not completely false. There is enough real persecution of Christians in this world; we don’t need to manufacture it. That would be dishonoring to our brothers and sisters who are truly being persecuted for their faith. But that doesn’t stop unscrupulous, so-called Christian organizations from trying to manipulate us with their fear mongering, twisting current events and government reports and policies for their own ends.
Anyone who has read my blogs knows that I strongly believe we need to be vigilant about our freedoms as Americans. “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Make no mistake about that. But where does vigilance end and paranoia begin, and when does paranoia become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Case in point. The Office of Homeland Security recently issued two reports on right and left-wing extremist groups respectively. The report was probably mishandled and had conservative Christians locking and loading because of its wording, describing some right-wing extremist groups who are “hate-oriented,” “anti-government,” “rejecting authority,” and often “focused on one issue such as abortion or immigration.” I don’t know what country you live in, but there are such right-wing, extremist hate groups in America that are focused on one issue, and they are as much a threat to national security as their left-wing counterparts.
That does not mean in any twisted legal sense that all pro-lifers are right-wing extremists, but many took it this way, fanning the flames of fear and outrage within the Evangelical community. I can just see some preacher whipping a crowd into such a froth that we all grab our Constitutionally protected assault weapons and head for the hills of South Carolina, where we proceed to secede from the Union and shoot any Democrat on sight. Now that should cause Homeland Security some concern. Since the recent election, conservatives in their anger and bad sportsmanship have been saying all kinds of wacky, inflammatory things on the net and radio—including advocating armed rebellion and secession—one has to wonder if the OHS wouldn’t be right to be on its guard against us.
It is also ironic, is it not, that some of us would take the phrases “anti-government…hate groups… focused on one issue” and believe the OHS were talking about us. If you are a Christian and you are filled with hate, if you are anti-authority, anti-government and focused on just one issue, like abortion or the Second Amendment, then perhaps you do need to examine yourself. There can be a fine line between zeal and fanaticism. “It is good to be zealous,” as the apostle Paul states. But zeal, when not anchored to a balanced view of Scripture, can easily become fanatical.
If we are so monomaniacal that we cannot focus on more than one issue at a time, why not instead focus on spreading the gospel or helping the poor? If we get arrested for that then, as 1Peter says, we can praise God we walk in the company of prophets and apostles. But if we get arrested for being an armed band of crazy conspiracy theorists, preaching hate and intolerance, and stockpiling food and ammo for Armageddon, then we have only ourselves to blame.
Let us examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2Cor 13:5). Are we truly walking as Jesus walked? Are we seeking a kingdom that is above or an earthly theocracy riddled with bigotry and intolerance? When the Master comes will he find us doing our duty, meekly saving the lost and lifting the downtrodden? Or will he find that we’ve barricaded ourselves into some mountain compound, one with a fence high enough to keep out Rowe-v-Waders, gays, the DNC, ACLU and anyone who wants to take away our AK-47s? If the latter, would we even recognize our Lord if he knocked at the gate?
Despite its imperfections, the freedom we have in this country is truly the envy of the world. In gratitude let us use it to spread God’s kingdom by sharing the good news of Christ’s victory, healing the sick and broken, righting injustice, working for peace (not Armageddon), and yes, even raising the dead. If we do these, then we will not need to look for persecution. It will find us.