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It has been often pointed out that the alleged persecution of the American Christian Right is, to be polite about it, baloney.  But Dr. James F. McGrath, the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, a man who knows history as well as theology, has something more to say to American Christians who cry persecution when things don't quite go their way.  

And he invites those who really want to know persecution, to consider what it would mean to "stand against injustice and for righteousness."

I find it both sad and laughable at the same time that both Protestants and Catholics are claiming that they are being persecuted when their views are no longer taken for granted by others, or they are not given access to a particular platform to promote their views.
McGrath observes that there has been plenty of persecution of Christians in history, notably when Nero blamed Christians for starting the big fire in Rome, and then began killing Christians, "some, horrifically."  But he insists that:
American Christians have no idea what they are talking about when they cry persecution. And as someone married to a Romanian, and thus who experienced something which, if still not like Nero's time, was far more truly persecution than what most Americans have ever experienced, I do not find it merely inaccurate. I find it offensive. It is cheapening the term and thereby minimizing the plight of those who really do face persecution.
This bring us to his invitation to ask what "you could do to actually stand against injustice and for righteousness."
Maybe if you stood in the way of big corporations and wealthy power brokers trampling on the powerless, you would find out what persecution means. Maybe if you stood with the oppressed instead of trying to get in bed with the powers that be to share in their worldly power in order to oppress others, you would realize that there are those who do face persecution, bullying, enslavement, and many other horrors in the world – and that you may have at least contributed to the climate that allows that to continue.

Maybe then, you'll have taken up your cross and begun to follow the crucified Messiah.

I think part of the significance of McGrath's excellent post, is that as the Religious Right continues to play an outsized role in American public life, we cannot lose the definition of a simple word like persecution, and need be prepared to engage on the point when it comes up. Many Religious Right leaders think, for example, that various provisions of the Affordable Care Act constitute religious persecution.  But McGrath is spot on that such hyperbole cheapens the term, and minimizes the plight of those who really do face persecution, now and throughout history.

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 08:30 PM PST.

Also republished by Pro Choice and Street Prophets .

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