I’ve struggled and prayed over my response to some comments on Facebook. Due to an article I shared on Saturday, some pretty hard comments have been made and while other comments have been gentle, they made assumptions about me, my faith and my attitude towards persecution of Christians that modify my actual beliefs. The question at hand is whether or not Christians are suffering from persecution in this day and time in America.
To me, the answer is yes. A journalist warning Americans to be fearful because the Vice President and his wife practice their Christian faith openly and without apology is proof that I am living in an America that has prejudice against my religion. However, when a professing Christian gets on my newsfeed and judgmentally calls out an entire sector of our society, I can certainly understand why the journalist and other Americans would have a fear of Christians.
Being a Christian in America today is not unlike being Hispanic in America, with the exception that the Hispanic person has no control over his heritage, while a Christian chooses to be identified that way. Otherwise we suffer similar problems. When someone uses the term “Hispanic” what they mean may bear no relation to what their audience perceives, because the variety of people in America who have a Mexican heritage is so widespread.
There are Hispanic people whose families have been Americans for generations. Their kids go to Harvard and they head up companies or hold government positions which make them an elite member of our society. There is also an MS-13 gang member who crept over the border last night. He too is Hispanic. Both of these categories, from the very elite to the latest MS-13 illegal alien, represent a group of people to whom we assign the same descriptive. There are some Americans who want to rid our nation of “every damn Mexican who’s crossed the Rio Grande,” completely unaware that there have been Hispanic people populating parts of this country from a time long before the Rio Grande was part of the American border.
Christians have the same problem, except their ranks aren’t even limited by a similar ethnicity. Anybody who decides they want to be identified as a Christian can adopt that title – pretty much in the same way a transgender person can select their gender and sexual preference. Let me tell you there are a whole lot of people out there, who call themselves Christians, which I find pretty scary. However, to put all of us in the same bucket and accuse me or the Vice President’s wife of having a disgusting religion or posing a threat to our nation, is the like taking the head of the elite Hispanic household and judging him to be the same sort of threat to our society as the new illegal alien gang member certainly poses.
What I believe is not disgusting, nor dangerous. I resent the implications of the article I posted, for myself, for our Second Lady and for many other Christians who believe the way I do and live their lives based on the Bible. I have seen the change in people’s perception of my faith from the time I first understood I was a Christian, until today. Today that perception, by a large segment of the population led by an unsympathetic press, is prejudiced and yes, I feel persecuted for the attitudes and behavior against Christianity. Even those who assume I must just be misguided for accepting the Bible as written. Am I “free” to practice Christianity? Well, I can tell you I am not as free to practice it as I once was.
Like many groups suffering persecution, much of the bias against Christians is fabricated out of a misunderstanding of what it means to belong to any given group. Though anyone can claim to be a Christian, one of the most despised groups are Evangelical Christians. I am an Evangelical Christian. The Vice President and his wife are Evangelical Christians. I can’t speak for everyone who claims to be a Christian, but I can tell you why my beliefs are not disgusting or threatening.
The first tenet of my faith is that God loves everyone. I mean everyone. The nice lady next door who goes to church, the murderer on death row, every race, every creed, heterosexuals, homosexuals, transgenders, liars, cheaters, politicians, missionaries, men, women, children, infants, senior citizens, Millennials, aborted fetuses, drug addicts, drug dealers, rich people, homeless people – you name a category of people, I believe God loves them. He created them. What’s more, I believe if I am a Christian, God expects me to love them, too. All of them.
So, if you are wondering whether someone is an Evangelical Christian or not, see if they can pass this test. They may be another kind of Christian, but what I’m saying doesn’t apply to them. However, if someone claims to be an Evangelical Christian, this should be foundational to who they are. Exactly what is scary or disgusting about that? Even if you don’t believe in God at all, why would it scare you if someone else does, especially if it means they believe their God has commanded them to love others as they do themselves.
The second tenet of my faith is that all have sinned and fallen short of what God expects of them. Me, Mrs. Pence, my pastor and that entire list of people I listed above and all the people I left off of it. What’s more, I believe all sin is the same. Whether I think an evil thought or whether I act on it, it is sin. In fact, I believe that anything I say, do or think that is not obedient to what God has laid out for me in the Bible is sin and I am guilty of it. No “pervert” or murderer or drug dealer has committed a worse sin than me, because we were all born in Sin. We are all equal. With God, every sin is Sin.
I can see how some people would find this threatening. If they believe in God and they believe He loves them, they like to think that because He loves them, He loves everything they do and continues to have a relationship with them in spite of it. Perhaps they are right, but that’s not what His Bible says. They may believe in God, without believing in His Bible, but Evangelical Christians do accept the Bible as Truth. We believe every word of the Bible is the inspired Word of God, which our very powerful God has been able to preserve intact over the centuries, in spite of misinterpretation, mistranslation and downright misrepresentation. We believe it is possible to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe and through prayer, study and the guiding of the Holy Spirit we can understand what God intended us to do, based on His Word.
Many people draw the line here. How dare us cling to an ancient manuscript as Truth in the Modern World! That’s OK, if you want to believe in a Bible-less God, or that much of the Bible has been lost in translation, but an Evangelical Christian, should by definition accept the Bible as Truth and since it is Truth, we believe we should apply it literally to our lives.
Now, why is that so scary? If you don’t believe in God or you don’t believe in the Bible, why does it bother you that we do? What could it hurt? Acceptance is the key today. Open-minded people embrace the Koran, the Kabala, the sayings of Buddha and the list goes on, but for some reason, if you believe the Bible you are disgusting and dangerous.
We happen to believe, based on what the Bible says that we are all equally loved, but we have also all equally sinned. We believe, based on what the Bible says that God is holy and if we are sinful, our relationship with Him has been broken. We believe, based on what the Bible says, that God so loved the whole world that He sent His Son to die on a cross, so He could reestablish relationship with us, if we accept the sacrifice of His Son.
We believe acceptance of that sacrifice is the single thing deciding whether you will spend eternity in Heaven or in Hell, because that’s what the Bible says. It’s not how good you are, or how holy you are, or how much you give to the church, or how much of the Bible you have memorized or anything else that can “save” you from spending an eternity in hell. It also means that nothing you can do or be is bad enough to keep you from being saved, if you do accept that sacrifice.
So while some choose to see Evangelical Christians as judgmental, it’s not us. You’re the one that gets to accept God or reject Him. He made the rules we follow. If you choose to reject Him, His Bible, His rules and His salvation, that’s on you. Our critics may not believe in God, they may not believe in the Bible, they may not believe in Heaven or Hell, but it seems to really tick them off that we do.
They say we judge them, but if we truly believe what we say that we do, then we also believe judgment is solely in the hands of God. When a Christian judges someone else, our Bible says that Christian has sinned against God. Our Bible tells us not to judge, lest we ourselves be judged by God and that’s a whole lot worse than any judgment we can pronounce on others.
This is the crux of many of the problems all Christians face. It is hard to be human and not judge. So some of us do so with a vengeance and others may do so unwittingly, but when we do, we are wrong. Many of the non-Evangelical Christian churches have a code of conduct, whereby one is judged. You are cut off from some portion of the traditional rituals and practices of the church, but that’s not God, those are human artifices.
There is another layer to this that is very confusing to a lot of people, inside and outside our church. While Evangelical Christians believe in Salvation through Grace, based solely on Faith in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we also believe love is the proper response to God for salvation and the Bible tells us over and over again that love for God translates directly in obedience to His Word. What’s more many of us, including myself, believe that the more obedient we are to God’s Word, the better our lives are going to be.
In some churches, that translates into Prosperity Christianity. If I’m good, then God will be good to me and they teach that when God is good to you, you don’t have any problems, you get rich, you’re never sick and so on and so on. However, that’s not at all what the Bible says. Many churches teaching Prosperity Christianity claim to be Evangelical Christians, so the fact that outsiders get confused is not surprising, but it is very inconvenient for those of us who think this heresy is as true as the theories of Climate Change and Evolution, which we reject.
For a true Evangelical Christian, we believe God when he tells us there will be trouble in this life. We know most of the apostles were killed for their beliefs. We know the persecution the early church suffered and how much Christians in other parts of the world suffer today. When I say the more obedient I am to God, the better my life gets, I’m talking about the inner spiritual life I am in now and my future in Heaven. I don’t expect a rosy Earth-bound future with high income and no problems.
To pursue that good life, I sincerely endeavor to live my life based on the principles taught in the Bible. I believe regardless of any sin I have committed or anyone else commits, by God’s grace it can be forgiven and the perpetrator can be fully restored to God. I believe if someone truly accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, they get the real gift of Heaven, regardless of whatever sin remains in their life. God knows I am not perfect.
However, I am also fully acquainted with the blessings I can have in this life, if I will radically pursue with obedience what God has laid out for me in the Bible. Knowing that, why wouldn’t I want to share the knowledge with others? If someone comes to me and asks how they can receive God’s blessings, I am going to ask them to first accept Christ as their Savior and then aggressively pursue what the Bible teaches. They can either accept what I say or blow me off, but why can’t I be left alone to believe what I believe, just as they prefer to be.
What the Bible teaches is not necessarily politically correct in these modern times, but if you don’t believe as I do, why do you care? You have your own beliefs, whatever they may be. Why do you want to tell me I’ve got it wrong when I can clearly read what the Bible says? All those things the author of the article in question described as disgusting are exactly what I believe as Truth and many others with me. My marriage should be between a man and a woman who identify with the sex God gave them at birth, but your marriage is your business. Abortion would be wrong for me, but your choice is your business. My belief in these things should not rock the foundation of our nation, any more than someone else’s belief in the power of crystals, being a vegetarian or identifying as LGBTQIA should.
The trouble arises when any group tries to enforce their belief system on others, such as when Evangelical Christians try to take their beliefs to the marketplace or the marketplace tries to force me to give up what I believe, because they find it disgusting.
I’m sorry to have gone on for over 2,800 words in addressing this question, but I don’t know of any other way to express it. There is no word or phrase that melts it down. No way to nail it down in an infographic or a meme. To call the Pence’s a danger to our nation, because they are Evangelical Christians and to call their beliefs disgusting is wrong. That is clear to me.
The real problem is politics, not religion. Religion is a straw man. Our nation is governed by a set of documents; much like an Evangelical Christian’s faith is governed by the Bible. Forces in our nation want to control the interpretation of our founding documents and one of the ways to do that is to call in question the faith of most of the people who wrote those documents. Others, like myself, believe in those Founding Documents and in the Bible, as written. The way the American public expresses their beliefs is ultimately by voting, because while we were designed as a Federal Republic, we are becoming a simple Democracy.
Those who want a simple democracy and the power they can wield with it are against me – the politicians, the media, the Hollywood stars, the sports heroes and all the rest that want modern interpretations of ancient documents. They use their power to vilify what I believe and they threaten my ability to believe what I do and to share it with like-mined people. Others, who wish would stand with me, want to force their interpretations of these ancient documents on everyone else, so they run ahead of me and create the illusion all Christians are unified and therefore threaten the American way of life.
In between are millions of kind, generous, sweet people who want to believe there is some middle ground, if we’d all just compromise a little. In truth, when two groups compromise, sometimes both win, but that is not always the case. I believe with all my heart, if I give up my literal interpretation of the Bible and my effort to be obedient to what it says, I lose for eternity. So, I am unwilling to compromise, regardless of what that means to me. That doesn’t mean I hold anyone else responsible for believing what I believe. I also would not dare to judge anyone else, for fear of the judgment I believe God would make of me.
The bottom line is that I believe God loves everyone and the hope of eternal life is possible for each of us. I believe that God calls me to love everyone, but he also calls me to obey His Word. I believe we all sin and that all sins are equally unacceptable in the eyes of a Holy God. If that makes me dangerous or threatens other people, I sincerely regret they feel that way, but I fail to see why it should, unless at some level, they actually think I might be right.
No one may ever actually read all of this, but the Bible calls me to always be ready to defend my faith, so in this post, I have.