Rick Warren, Religious Persecution and God’s Love
There is a website called Christian Persecution in America that claims on its homepage, “Religious persecution in the U.S. does occur and it should not be tolerated just like violence and religious persecution shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere in the world.”
Yes, “Christian Persecution in America” might be a small media outlet by a fringe group, but let’s not forget the same concern is voiced in mainstream media when Fox News airs their annual reminders of America’s “War on Christmas.”
Protestants and Catholics alike voice fears about persecution in America. Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia recently said this: “Catholics need to wake up from the illusion that the America we now live in – not the America of our nostalgia or imagination or best ideals, but the real America we live in here and now – is somehow friendly to our faith. What we’re watching emerge in this country is a new kind of paganism, an atheism with air-conditioning and digital TV. And it is neither tolerant nor morally neutral.”
I understand the fears. I really do, but there is a great danger in this victim mentality. I agree that religious persecution should not be tolerated, but here’s the thing: when we use the word “persecution” to describe whatever goes on in the United States, we make a mockery of the real persecution Christians suffer throughout the world. There is a huge difference between not being able to put up a Christmas tree in a department store, or the discomfort of potentially having minority status in an increasingly secular society, and Christians being killed for their beliefs. Even more important, when we claim that we are victims, we deny our own responsibility in victimizing others throughout the world. Various reports claim that our “War on Terror” has killed more than 100,000 civilians in Iraq alone through drones and traditional warfare.
And we’re the ones being persecuted?
What I hear from fearful American Christians about our “imminent persecution” is that we must fight back! We must retaliate against the pagan secularist threat!
I smell a scapegoat.
The greatest threat to American Christianity is not the persecution that comes from a pagan or atheist other. Blaming them distracts us from the real threat we face. The real threat to American Christians is the persecution we inflict upon each another.
Which leads me to mega-church pastor Rick Warren. Tragically, last Saturday Warren’s youngest son, Matthew, committed suicide. What hell could be worse to go through for a parent? Rick Warren told us what’s worse in a recent tweet: when your fellow Christians attack you with words of hatred and persecution.
On his blog Beyond Evangelical, Frank Viola created a sampling of the online persecution levied against the grieving Rick Warren in his article “Rick Warren’s Horrific Tragedy & the Sickening Response of Some ‘Christians‘”:
Train up your children in the way, live a godly example with right priorities, care enough to home-school despite the great sacrifice involved, don’t let them date unchaperoned, have daily family devotions, turn off the 1-eyed idiot, TRULY HAVE A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE, and your children WILL NOT COMMIT SUICIDE, nor will they be involved in homosexuality, nor fornication.
He killed himself, it’s much worse than fornication or homosexuality or Onanism or eating pork. He denied himself a chance to get better. If your kids need a chaperone to date, why do you let them date? They shouldn’t be dating if they are not mature enough to control themselves.
Suicide happens soon after your [sic] stupid enough to read “The Purpose Driven Life”.
Poor Matthew denies God’s Love with suicide.
He could not save his own because Mr. Warren does not truly understand how his own heart works, how it is broken and the mechanism by which Jesus laid out the example of how to fix it. Matthew killed himself because he did not understand either. He was a victim of his own ignorance and the ignorance of his family, friends, society and Christians around him — presently!
Christians in the US don’t need anyone else to persecute us. We’re very good at persecuting ourselves, thank you very much.
I don’t feel like applying a mimetic analysis to any part of this situation. Let’s pray for the Warren family, and for all families who suffer through similar situations. There is a wisdom in silence, but if we must speak words in situations like these, I can think of no better words than what Paul wrote about God’s love in Romans 8:38-39:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul’s vision is that nothing can separate Matthew Warren from the love of God. Nothing can separate Rick Warren from the Love of God. Nothing can separate Fox News from the love of God. Nothing can separate American Christians who fear persecution from the love of God. Nothing can separate Iraqis and Afghanis from the love of God. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. And nothing, according to Paul, nothing can separate the world from the love of God.
That’s the kind of radical love God invites us to share with the world, even with a world that we think persecutes us.