Despite what some may claim, Christians are being persecuted in America.
That might be hard to hear, but it’s true. Even though the United States is, arguably, the freest nation on the planet, and offers the First Amendment protection, Christians still face already-and-increasing persecution here between our shining seas.
We need to recognize this and prepare for it to get worse.
When making such a factual statement as “Christians are persecuted in America,” you will inevitably be met by a chorus of “actually, no.” This Internet-active crowd apparently refuses to call anything “persecution” until heads are rolling, stakes are burning, and the lions are digesting the remains of the faithful.
What the “actually, no they aren’t” crowd gets wrong
But this ahistorical position has (at least) two problems. First, that’s not what the word persecution means. The definition of persecution includes “hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs.” So no, we aren’t being fed to the lions just yet. But there is no conceivable doubt that Christians are facing “hostility and ill-treatment” for their faith in America. So, definitionally, the persecution deniers are missing the point.
Even worse, they are wrong from a biblical understanding of the word. Jesus clearly taught that persecution can, and will, take on many forms that don’t result in death. In Matthew 5:11-12 Jesus reminds His followers, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus is referring here to varying degrees of persecution that His followers will face, just as the prophets of old faced varying degrees of persecution. We see in the New Testament that some believers were killed, like Stephen, and some were shunned or suffered in other ways.
The author of Hebrews reminded those early Christians of the various trials they faced for publicly associating with Jesus Christ, the crucified carpenter — now resurrected King — from Nazareth. In Hebrews 10:32-34, we read that the author wanted them to:
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.”
Bear in mind that the only way you can reflect on how you endured a trial, by God’s grace, and therefore draw the strength needed for continued perseverance is if you are still alive. The dead don’t remember.
A small selection of abundant examples
What counts as persecution then? Any number of different things. It could be being slandered and mocked for your faith. Or being passed over for a promotion at your consulting firm because you refused to fly the Pride flag from your cupholder during June. It’s anything and everything from suffering social ostracization to getting put on trains and taken to death camps. Christians would do well to recover a robust understanding of this, and prepare for it, rather than sticking their heads in the sands of the cultural pablum about how the real threat is a “rising theocracy” or “Christo-fascism.”
Consider that churches were forced to close, with no solid scientific evidence supporting that decision at the time (nor provided since) for months in 2020 and into 2021, even as casinos and strip clubs were allowed to stay open.
For years, private Christian business owners have been dragged to court, targeted for destruction by the LGBTQ+ movement.
The IRS has been caught targeting Christian non-profits.
Don’t forget about how, under the Obama Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relentlessly prosecuted the Christian charity Little Sisters of the Poor over their religious beliefs against paying to provide for abortifacient contraceptives. It took almost a decade for the Little Sisters to finally prevail at the Supreme Court.
Let’s keep listing examples:
- Jack Phillips, the baker, has been harassed for over a decade, bombarded with requests to make the most profane cakes, and dragged in and out of court simply for trying to run his business as a Christian (persecution that continues despite his having prevailed at the Supreme Court).
- Barronelle Stutzman, a florist, was eventually forced into retirement because she also refused to compromise on her traditional Christian faith commitments and participate in the celebration of sin.
- Coach Joe Kennedy was fired for exercising his First Amendment rights to pray to God in public. It took him almost seven years to fight to undo this unjust persecution, prevailing only when the Supreme Court ruled that “a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment…the Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”
Legally we might call this “discrimination,” but make no mistake, it is also persecution: persecution against Christians because of their faith in Jesus Christ as King and their refusal to compromise on the basic teachings of the Bible.
I’ve heard from Christians who know they are unlikely to ever get promoted past a certain point at major corporations and consulting firms for holding to their sexual ethics.
What do you call it when a Christian is fired for believing that, according to God’s Word, God made men as men and women as women and only those two genders? Or for refusing to tell lies by using she/her or they/them to describe he/him?
I would also use that word to describe the recent slew of attacks on churches across the country, including, most recently, in Maryland. The Catholic Courier reports that “A Catholic church in the Washington suburb of Bethesda was one of three houses of worship along the same road to be victimized by vandalism the weekend of July 9-10.” One of those buildings was set on fire.
Even crisis pregnancy centers, many of them run by Christians, are under attack because they promote life, rather than death. Since early May, when the Dobbs decision was leaked suggesting that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, they have been threatened, vandalized, and firebombed. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, another one of the more outspoken progressive politicians in our country, is angrily encouraging even more of such violence.
I could go on.
Don’t let progressives gaslight you: It’s not Christians who are the problem
The point is clear: The only way to maintain that Christians are not facing persecution in America is either through ignorance or in service of an agenda.
Despite what loud, deconstructed “ex-vangelicals” (aka apostates) might say, it’s not Christians who are making it hard for other Christians in America. Such was the line from Danté Stewart, former author at The Gospel Coalition who now defends abortion as “reproductive rights.” He tried to claim, just this past Sunday, that “If anybody is making it hard to be a Christian in America, it is other Christians.”
Whichever America Stewart thinks he’s describing, it isn’t the one that we are all living in.
No, what’s making life hard for Christians in America is the secular progressives. It’s the liberals leading the revolution — sexual, woke, what have you — who are committed to their own religious system, and who brook no dissent to their orthodoxy and tolerate no disrespect to their idols.
It is no longer enough that Christians be asked to just “tolerate” their increasingly degenerate displays of “freedom” in the name of the “liberal” order. No, now we must celebrate it too, or we will suffer. The scales are tipping closer to “Say Caesar is God” than most people realize.
It’s time for Christians to wake up to this reality and join the effort to fight back. You might not be fed to a lion today, but that doesn’t mean your child won’t get 20 years at a federal penitentiary for refusing to say that a man can be a woman. So what do we do?
How Christians can begin to respond to persecution in America
Here are nine, brief ways that Christians can resist the present persecution in America:
1. Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have in the culture wars. If we have any hope of a future where we can live free lives standing on our own two feet, we must fight for it on our knees before God. We should pray that God would convert our persecutors. And we should believe that He can and will. Ever heard of Saul?
2. Love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 10:16). This has many implications, but one of the ways we can love our neighbors is by seeking to have and wield political power in America. When Christians have a say in government, we can work to prevent persecution where possible and create good policies that contribute to the freedom and blessing of all humanity (Romans 13:1).
3. Be shrewd (Matt. 10:16). This character trait for Christians is often overlooked. There is no command in Scripture to be winsome, but there is a command to be wise. That means we must use discernment, read the times we live in, and respond accordingly. Don’t be fooled by voices who say, “Everything’s okay.” Know when it’s not — and when it’s time to speak up.
4. Pray for our leaders to do what’s right before God. Remember, no one in authority would be there unless God so allowed it. They are accountable to Him, and they should remember who they serve and allow us, the worshippers of the One True God, to live fully and to serve Him freely with no pressure to compromise (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
5. Use the courts to fight for our rights (Acts 25:10–11). Paul demonstrates how to do this when he exercises his rights as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar.
6. Recover within your churches the understanding that Christ is head of the Church, not Caesar. It’s time for pastors to take the pulpits back from the princes of this world. Moving forward, all pastors and lay members should be ready to resist the government when they are acting in violation of God’s law. It begins with something as basic as this: Knowing that just because you are told to close the doors of your church, doesn’t mean you should (Col. 1:18).
7. Christians and Christian organizations should work to inoculate themselves and future generations with robust resistance to cultural norms. Celebrate dissent. Think for yourself, but as a Christian. Refuse to be conformed to this world (Rom 12:2).
8. Never, ever live by lies, to paraphrase the great Christian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Don’t call a man a woman. Don’t use false pronouns. Don’t ever say that 2+2 can equal 5. Speak truthfully and trust God with the outcome (Prov 23:23).
9. Finally, be confident and trust God. He is in control. We do not need to fear man, ever (Psalm 118:6). No matter what may come, be it trials, sickness, persecutions — even unto death — we cling to our hope of a resurrected Savior who has ransomed us from the power of Satan, sin, and this dark world. Christ is King, and He laughs at the nations who resist His rule. He has put the worldly powers on notice and on the run. If we are in Christ, we have already conquered. The world may kill the body, but it cannot destroy our souls.
More could be said about the historical nature of the persecution the Church has faced through the centuries. One good place to start is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which tells the stories of brave saints who were willing to die before betraying their Lord.
For now, it’s important to simply recognize that you don’t have to be lunchmeat for a hungry lion or lit up as a torch in Nero’s palace before it’s fair to say that you are facing persecution as a Christian.
As we face increasingly fierce cultural headwinds, let me recommend you find a strong and safe refuge from the storm that you can retreat to for spiritual renewal each and every week in a local church. Find a Gospel-preaching and Gospel-practicing local church and join it. We are in a war — you need a band of brothers (and sisters) to help you fight.
And never quit. Never, ever quit. Because it’s only when we quit that they win.
Originally published at the Standing for Freedom Center.
William Wolfe served as a senior official in the Trump administration, both as a deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon and a director of legislative affairs at the State Department. Prior to his service in the administration, Wolfe worked for Heritage Action for America, and as a congressional staffer for three different members of Congress, including the former Rep. Dave Brat. He has a B.A. in history from Covenant College, and is finishing his Masters of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Follow William on Twitter at @William_E_Wolfe