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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Who Really are the Intolerant Ones?

“Many times, I have found atheists to be more tolerant than Christians.” Does this sentiment sound familiar? Chances are it does due to the fact that almost every Christian has said the statement at one time or another. I know exactly why we do too. It can be said to show solidarity with the unbeliever telling them we know we have some problems in the Church, it can come after a talk about intolerance (i.e. the Westboro Baptist Church, abortion clinic bomber) where we don’t know how else to defend our viewpoint, or we may say it because we know an atheist or agnostic who doesn’t seem so bad and we don’t want to rile him or her up. No matter the reason we state that atheists are more tolerant, it can be one of the most dangerous and damaging statements we can ever make.

The first reason we should stay away from stating the sentence in question relies on the fact that the Christians we are bashing as being intolerant are our family in Christ. Sure, as human beings we are not perfect (though made perfect through the works of God) but that is no reason to throw individuals and the body of Christ under the bus to an unbeliever or group of unbelievers. Second, the statement is a total lie. I can say that between probably 90-to-95% of Christians have not experienced the kind of intolerance from other Christians that they are purporting to have witnessed. Even for those who have, I would like to ask a question: Where is all of this atheistic tolerance? I sure have yet to ever experience the kind of tolerance in the atheist community that I have seen and witnessed within Christianity.

Sure, I have a few acquaintances and people I know who are atheist or agnostic; however, I know that they are only “tolerant” of my viewpoint because I don’t push the issue of my beliefs. It is really the act of me holding back that allows a tolerable coexistence. Any of you readers will probably realize the same thing once you think about any friend or acquaintance who is an atheist. Some might think me biased because I have had my fair share of intolerant experiences at the hands of unbelievers throughout many debates and arguments; though, if we think outside the realm of our intimate surroundings we can see the full manifestation of atheist intolerance in Western society.    

Performing research for this article, I have come upon many leftist and atheist blogs and sites mocking the very notion of Christian oppression in the West. One such article is from the Huffington Post by R. Andrew Chestnut (though, to be fair, he is Catholic) who criticizes Rand Paul’s notion of a global war on Christians in his article Is There a Global War on Christians? Chestnut points out that while small populations of Christians are being persecuted around the globe, the Western Hemisphere is almost devoid of any persecution or oppression. Other sites aren’t as kind in that they criticize the very notion of any oppression or subjugation in the West with choice words and mocking. I wholeheartedly disagree with these views.        

What a lot of the writers and bloggers reporting on this stuff fail to realize is persecution does not have to equal violence but it can involve the silencing of the Christian viewpoint in the realm of ideas or litigating against public Christian displays of belief. In my previous article, America the Collectivist, I pointed out a couple of instances of academic repression of Christian free speech. Sadly, much more than a couple examples exist. Campus Reform reports that Notre Dame sent cops to shut down a traditional marriage table which had previously been permitted. Additionally, there is the story of Audrey Jarvis who was asked by a college administrator to remove her cross necklace to avoid offending others at an orientation. I will point out that some of these did end on a high note after the legal system got involved; however, all of these actions by academics point to an overarching effort to squelch Christian free speech in the realm of education.  

Discrimination might be bad on campus but it is even worse in the governmental and the public arenas. Anti-Christian crusaders like Michael L. Weinstein, who the United States military recruited to inform on its policies of religious tolerance, are almost literally writing laws meant to ban all public signs of belief in God. This editorial in the Washington Times provides many instances of gross military intolerance of Christians in light of mainstream acceptance of all things Islam. The Washington Times reports that even a training brief published by the Army Reserve listed Catholics and Evangelicals with the KKK and al Qaeda as examples of religious extremism.

Publicly, it seems that the media has declared Christians on the wrong moral side of history in terms of non-traditional marriage, public displays, the morality of abortion, and other issues. I’ll admit that I am not a huge fan of iconography, but a dangerous precedent is being set where towns and cities are forced to remove Christian symbols from logos and buildings. In a moment of extreme wrongdoing exhibited by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) against veterans with secret waiting lists and denial of treatment, VA hospitals are forced to work hard hiding any semblance of Christian belief due to government regulation instead of take care of American veterans.  

At the same time, states are ruling that Christian bakery owners cannot refuse to bake wedding cakes for homosexual couples. Turning our attention to sports, Tim Tebow was constantly mocked directly and indirectly for his stance on Christianity while Michael Sam is praised for his homosexuality and allowed to kiss his boyfriend on television with anybody contrary being punished with fines and suspension. Keeping our sights on television and the media, we are constantly fed disparaging images and jokes about Christ and Christianity, faced with Christians constantly being the villains, and forced to endure potshots at our beliefs. Someone once told me that Muslims were more tolerant than Christians; however, Comedy Central was too afraid to depict Muhammad on South Park when the show constantly makes fun of Jesus Christ.

Why tell you all of this. It is not to dishearten you. On the contrary, it is to show that we Christians are not the intolerant ones, but the unbelievers who accuse us of being intolerant. The ultimate irony is that in the United States, the almost unanimously Christian attended Constitutional Convention in 1787 is the body which gave non-Christians the right to believe the way they want through the First Amendment. Thus, if it wasn’t for the initial tolerance of Christians, they would not have the right to be intolerant and oppressive toward the Christian world view.

The third and final reason we need to destroy this sentiment of the more tolerant atheist, is that it does the Christians who suffer violent persecution around the world no favors. Stating phrases like “Atheists are more tolerant than Christians” only perpetuates the worldview that Christians are the oppressors and never the oppressed which around the world is very far from the truth. It is estimated that between 100,000-to-150,000 of our brothers and sisters in Christ are killed every year because of persecution by the likes of the Islamist “Boko Haram” in Nigeria, Sri Lankan Buddhist monks, Hindu fundamentalists in India, and many other groups in many other countries.

In light of all this, God is still bigger than anything this world or its evil ruler can throw at us and we are called to pray for our family who is in peril. Let’s stop accusing each other and throwing our fellow Christians under the bus and start exhorting each other, praying for each other, and admonishing one another. Paul, many times in the Epistles, warns against division.

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.  -1 Corinthians 3:3-6

Carnality as caused by divisions in the Church is the opposite of spirituality which leads to life and power; therefore, a united spiritually sound Church is imperative to combat the evil spiritual forces which threaten and persecute us daily. I hope this article helps to focus your prayerful attention on those being persecuted as you read. Let’s pray that God binds up the hands of the adversary and puts His hedge of protection upon those who believe around the world.          

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. -1 Thessalonians 5:14-18