The head of a persecution watchdog has accused the American church of “whistling through the graveyard” of persecuted Christians and caring more about “college entrance scandals and ‘Game of Thrones’” than those systematically murdered for their faith.
In a blistering op-ed for USA Today, David Curry, president of Open Doors USA, warned that global persecution is worsening, yet Christians continue to “slumber” despite such atrocities.
In Nigeria, for example, 3,731 Christians were killed last year, Curry said, adding: “If such violence had occurred in Nashville, Tennessee, rather than Nigeria, it would dominate nightly news broadcasts and saturate social media feeds.”
“American churches would be launching fundraising campaigns for victims’ families and addressing it in their weekly gatherings,” he continued. “In this case, however, the American church has barely acknowledged it.”
He pointed out that in the Middle East, the “ideology of hatred and violence against Christians by the terrorist organization” is spreading, while in China, government officials are using extreme measures to “bring Chinese churches under the boot of the government.” In India, violence against Christians has escalated 400% since 2014.
But when violence occurs somewhere “over there” “instead of in our backyard, it is often dismissed as just another story,” Curry lamented.
“American churches must do better,” he wrote. “Yet the leadership of the American church, with its superpastors and megachurches, is whistling through the graveyard. The beast that we have created, which relies on upbeat music and positivity to attract donors to sustain large budgets, leaves little room for pastors to talk about the suffering of global Christians.”
The American church — like most of the culture — “is more concerned about college entrance scandals and "Game of Thrones" than persecution,” Curry asserted.
“Inoculated by entertainment and self-absorption, they are completely detached from the experience of the global church. The American church is feeding itself to death while the worldwide church is being murdered,” he warned.
Every year, Open Doors publishes a World Watch List of the top 50 countries in the world where Christians face the most extreme persecution for their faith.
This year, the group warned that 245 million Christians in the top 50 countries in the World Watch List are expected to face high levels of persecution, which is an increase from the 215 million projected last year.
Curry said he hopes Americans will do a better job at educating themselves about persecution, praying for persecuted Christians, write letters to those overseas, and advocate on behalf of their at-risk brothers and sisters.
He added that the persecuted church around the world is “giving us clues on how Christians can survive, and in some cases thrive, in the face of danger.”
“In those lessons, we can find inspiration to deepen our own faith — which might come in handy as persecution comes to the West,” he said.
During a recent Church Leaders Conference, author and pastor Francis Chan argued that the affluence and comfort Americans enjoy isn’t necessarily “our fault.”
“I mean, we live in this country and there are just a lot of comforts that come our way," he said.
Still, he pointed out that Scripture warns against “some of those riches and how they can deaden you and place your heart to where suddenly you treasure your life here ... more than the one to come.”
“There is something about our culture that can soften us. What can we do about it? Does that mean we just resolve and go, ‘Well, I live in America. We can only go so far in our walk with the Lord 'cause we're not persecuted.’ Absolutely not. But there are things we need to do just even in our own prayer lives when Scripture says to be sober-minded and self-controlled for the sake of your prayers."
While America has done much to further the Gospel, the California pastor said it’s “hard sometimes when you go [to] other countries” and “meet saints around the world that have suffered so much for the Gospel.”
“It gets us so excited to want to be like them. And not everyone has that privilege to see that and experience that and to feel their pain and see their intimacy with Christ,” he said. “And so sometimes in coming back here, I just wanted to let people know what is possible and I really believe it is possible here.”
“But our comforts and our riches really do fight against us in our quest for that.”