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Christians Are Persecuted!

This post was written by Elysia
on December 17, 2010 | Comments (5)

Perhaps you’ve already seen the infamous headline today: “Pope calls Christians the most persecuted.” My knee-jerk reaction is something like this: “Seriously, Christians? You’re persecuted? You, who practice the dominant religion in North and South America, Australia and Europe? You seriously believe your basic freedom to worship is being restricted? The most?”

I hate it when Pagans bash Christians for no other reason than their own baggage and dissatisfaction with the religion’s message or adherents. Yes, back during the Inquisition the Church was the boogeyman and the sworn foe of heretics, including Pagans. Yes, during worldwide colonization countless atrocities were committed to wipe out indigenous faiths and supplant them with the Middle Eastern sky god. But I still feel we can’t blame all of our woes on the Church, nor always have an embattled relationship with Christianity. We’re all of different faiths, trying to practice equally and follow our own paths, while respecting those of others.

So it helps to judge the headline in the context of the article. To be fair, the Pope is talking about regions in the world that are intolerant of Christianity – such as Saudi Arabia, where Christians are forbidden to worship. But to phrase that in such a broad, sweeping statement as “At present, Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution,” as he does, is irresponsible. It will feed the political fires of America’s “culture wars” even more. We already have Christians who complain that their liberties are being curtailed whenever someone suggests they should be inclusive of other faiths, or leave religion outside of the public schools. This kind of statement from the Pope will just inspire them to work even harder to make America a theocracy, especially since in his proclamation he says that secularism is just as bad for society as blind fundamentalism. This kind of language will spur on the culture warriors who see it as their own personal mission to make sure there is a Ten Commandments statue in every city hall or public space and that Creationsim is taught in every school, because if that can’t be done, then the insidious “secularism” will eventually void the public of all religious sentiment.

It is also painfully ironic that the Pope has said, “It is painful to think that in some areas of the world it is impossible to profess one’s religion freely except at the risk of life and personal liberty.” Well, that’s kind of been your game for centuries, hasn’t it? If the Church has turned a new leaf and will no longer tolerate religious authoritarianism, then perhaps they can act with more compassion towards those cultures which still haven’t made that stride forward. (After all, Church, it is also painful to think that in some areas of the world it is impossible to profess one’s non-mainstream sexual orientation except at the risk of life and personal liberty. And some of that is definitely your doing.)

If you have time to read it, the full document issued by the Pope is filled with great quotes, which I encourage you to use the next time a Christian is barring you from practicing your own faith. Just tell them, “The Pope said…”

  • “I implore all men and women of good will to renew their commitment to building a world where all are free to profess their religion or faith, and to express their love of God with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their mind.”
  • “The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person, whose transcendent nature must not be ignored or overlooked.”
  • “Religious freedom is, in this sense, also an achievement of a sound political and juridical culture. It is an essential good: each person must be able freely to exercise the right to profess and manifest, individually or in community, his or her own religion or faith, in public and in private, in teaching, in practice, in publications, in worship and in ritual observances. There should be no obstacles should he or she eventually wish to belong to another religion or profess none at all.” (Emphasis added.)
  • “The exploitation of religious freedom to disguise hidden interests, such as the subversion of the established order, the hoarding of resources or the grip on power of a single group, can cause enormous harm to societies. Fanaticism, fundamentalism and practices contrary to human dignity can never be justified, even less so in the name of religion.”
  • “Religious freedom is not the exclusive patrimony of believers, but of the whole family of the earth’s peoples.”

Amen to that!

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Carrie B
on December 18th, 2010 @ 7:07 am

While I think the quotes you gave are actually very poignant food for thought, I think your statement, “This kind of statement from the Pope will just inspire them to work even harder to make America a theocracy,” is reactionary and off-base, because the majority of Christian Americans are non-Catholic and therefore do not specifically “listen” or “obey” the Pope’s edicts.

Playing devil’s, er, Pope’s advocate momentarily… Personally I find it refreshing that a Pope is being, dare I say it, more liberal in his teachings these days. If you compare the last two Popes to the previous 263, they have actually been the most tolerant and progressive, relatively. They aren’t going to change their stances on age-old edicts or their faith values, but they have brought the church somewhat out of the first handful of centuries by working with other religious and world leaders to dialog.

That said, waging a war of words with Christians of, “Yeah? Well your Pope said, ‘[insert quote]‘” is, to me, not an example of religious tolerance on the part of Pagans, either. I think concentrating on your own spiritual development and the development of any spiritual groups/communities you belong to, is probably more life affirming and also politically powerful than getting into verbal pissing contests over mores.

You [any reader] can run the gamut from a head nod to vehement disagreement and I’m fine with that. You have your .02, I have mine. But I know that the path I mentioned above, not to mention constant forgiveness and grace for people with opposing views, has helped me lead a more productive, less hateful, hurtful, and more spiritual life.

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#2 
Written By Rae
on December 20th, 2010 @ 9:52 am

You are aware that Christians are being slaughtered because of their faith in Egypt, and are fleeing Iraq for the same reason? And, other countries are deporting Christians who have come to escape religious persecution. The Red Cross in the UK has banned Christmas celebrations for fear of offending nonChristians. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve stripped Christmas and Christian symbols from a bank. This was reversed due to the public outcry. Your article seems to imply all of this is okay because Christians are reaping what they sowed. There isn’t just restriction on freedom to worship taking place – innocent people are being murdered because of their faith, just like they have been for thousands of years. Yes, maybe the Christians should just be more compassionate and the killing and persecution will stop. I’d like to know – where’s the pagan compassion? Blessed be.

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#3 
Written By Elysia
on December 20th, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

To Carrie B – thanks for playing Pope’s advocate! And I am fully aware that many of the most rabid cultural warriors are, in fact, not Catholic, and therefore pay no heed to the edicts and proclamations of the Vatican. However, if you look at it in terms of the general political dialogue around faith in America, a little sound bite like this can have a huge ripple effect in firing up even non-Catholic fundamentalists. Even if that wasn’t his intent.

I’m also not trying to instigate any kind of “pissing contest,” thank you very much. I’m just saying that every day there are plenty of Pagans who are told by self-righteous Christians (and others) that they are going to hell, or need to be saved, or need to be exorcised, or otherwise denied their right to worship and think as they like. (More on that below.) Just check out some of the reader comments on my previous blog about the problems of being a small-town Pagan: http://www.llewellyn.com/blog/2010/03/top-10-small-town-problems/

I think a lot of those folks would not mind one bit to be able to quote a respected and powerful Christian man, such as the Pope, clearly saying that religious freedom means religious freedom for EVERYONE, including atheists. That’s not something you hear every day, and yes, it signifies that the Church is becoming much more liberal than it was in the past.

To Rae: yes, I am aware of the atrocities committed against Christians, although to be fair, stripping Christian symbols from a bank is not an atrocity in my view. Are you aware that “witches” are continually being persecuted and killed in horrific ways in Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, and many other places around the globe? Are you aware that Wiccan and Pagan soldiers were denied having the basic emblem of their faith on military grave markers until 2007, and were only granted this basic right after 10 years of fruitless applications because the VA was ultimately sued over it? Were you aware that judges can and do still rule in divorce or custody cases that a child’s parent may not expose their own kids to their own religion, in their own home, and particularly when one or both parent is Pagan? Were you aware that Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation “to oppose the spread of religious intimidation in a military increasingly dominated by evangelical Christians” receives death threats every week, and has had dead animals deposited at his doorstep and his tires slashed?

So yes, we can all give laundry lists as to how and why one group or the other is being persecuted. I never said it was OK for Christians to be persecuted just because they were the persecutors in the past – I am actually very glad that the Pope is reaching toward interfaith dialogue and merely meant to point out that, since the Church has a similar history of intolerance, perhaps they could look at those regions, systems, governments or organizations that are now persecuting them around the world, and figure out a better way to approach them, without resorting to a superiority complex about how they’re so super tolerant, and therefore the intolerant people must be the bad guys. I just don’t know how much of his speech was simply cloaked anti-Muslim sentiment as opposed to a truly pro-tolerance, cooperative attitude.

In the end, tolerance is a two-edged sword – if Christians wish to be tolerated in lands where they are not welcome, then I’d like to see them be more tolerant of other faiths in lands where they are dominant, like in the American legal, military and educational system, for example.

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#4 
Written By Shane
on February 18th, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

We must learn from those who employ various social skills like guile and deceit. These devices are used to expose non-believers for what we really are, but where did they learn this? Could it be that we are not up to something?
For example, there are no WMD’s discovered in our invasion of Iraq, but clearly, there was something going on between Former President Bush’s ears that none of us could understand.
Those who purpose that intelligence is veiled by suspicion and well calculated mental-maneuvers would also believe that loud noises or angry gestures speak of subdued ferocity. These are the people who are scary.
In the last words of their own undaunted hero, “They know not what they do.” I just hope they never find a good reason to look beyond my stupidity. I forgave myself, and sometimes I hear this sad, sad song. But it plays for me, and I know what it means.

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#5 
Written By Serenity
on March 25th, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

If you check the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics the #1 most persecuted group in America is Muslims; #2 is Jews; #3 is Athiests. (I supppose the only reason pagans rank so low is because we have learned to hid better.) Christians were ranked dead last, making them the least persecuted group in America.

Politics and Religion prey on peoples fears; and when people have nothing to fear they make up boogie men and monsters in the closet to keep the sheep scared and coming to church or out to the polls.

I am less disapointed in the Pope or our Civil Servants than I am in the people who choose to put them in power.

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