Heckle: Christian Persecution is preposterous

Michael Heckle

There are those within the ranks of the Christian right who believe Christianity in America is on the verge of facing “unprecedented persecution.” Comments made by millionaire pastor Billy Graham and Republican theocrat Mike Huckabee attempted to stir the ranks of Christian fundamentalists into fighting back against what they feel is an assault on their faith.

Yet, with more than 70 percent of Americans considering themselves Christian and the First Amendment being upheld more now than ever before, the idea of “Christian Persecution” is not only laughable but also exposes the privileged nature of the most popular religion in the United States.

Much of Christian America has been in uproar since the legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court in June 2015. Many see it as there place to fight against such a “moral injustice” by placing barriers between homosexual couples and their lawful right to wed. While most actions commited by those who despise this kind of love between two consenting adults are more minor inconveniences than road blocks — not baking cakes, refusing marriage licenses, etc. — many have been overturned by legal authority. Many fundamentalist Christians consider these legal interferences a form of persecution.

More specifically, in a speech to a crowd of fundamentalist bigots following Kim Davis’ release from jail after she had been held in contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, Mike Huckabee said, “Having Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubt of the criminalization of Christianity in America.” As laughable as this statement is, Ted Cruz followed suit with an even more ridiculous comment: “Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office.”

While it is reasonable to assume that, with the vast majority of the country being Christian, that at least some of those who “persecuted” Davis were Christian themselves, Huckabee and Cruz apparently believed that the marriage equality and the enforcement of such a law in the United States means the end of Christianity in America.

Ironically, those who cry “Christian Persecution” in America only do so when they are not allowed to persecute someone else. There is no rational argument that one can make upholding a Christian lifestyle above any other kind of lifestyle. Furthermore, it is, by definition, unconstitutional to make laws specifically because of one faith’s belief. If Christian individuals do not approve of gay marriage for whatever morally skewed reason, they do not have the right to deny it from those who disagree with them. Furthermore, the idea of Christians being persecuted because they are not being allowed to deny service to fellow human beings is not only laughable but also seems to show the moral worth of a Christian definition of “equality.”

Yet, while legal persecution of Christians is nonexistent — not to mention illogical — there are instances of violence toward Christians specifically because of their faith. However, these isolated instances pale in comparison to the violence, discrimination and persecution faced by almost every other ethnic, religious and sexual group in the United States. 

Only 1,031 of the 5,928 hate crimes committed in 2013 were based on an individual’s religion, according to the FBI hate crime statistics in 2013. Within that group, only 105 crimes were committed against Christians. Comparatively, 625 hate crimes were committed against Jews, 135 against Muslims and 117 committed against those who follow other faiths. Furthermore, 1,233 hate crimes were committed against those in the LGBT community.

The idea that Christianity is on the cusp of illegality in the United States is not only laughable but is also an insult to those who face real persecution across the world. What Christians are experiencing in the United States isn’t persecution, it’s the loss of the unconstitutional privilege the faith has enjoyed for nearly a century. Instead of spreading lies about the status of the religion in the United States and spewing hatful rhetoric against those with different lifestyles, maybe fundamentalist leaders should reserve their energy to actions that actually represent the work of Jesus Christ.