“Dear Mike Pence: The real persecution of Christians isn’t here in America”

Pence Liberty

This was just published at the Washington Post.  Thanks to Sarah Pulliam Bailey for asking me to write it today:

Vice President Pence on Saturday warned the graduating class of Liberty University to be prepared to suffer for their faith. “The truth is,” he told an audience of over 40,000 attending the commencement ceremony, “we live in a time when the freedom of religion is under assault.”

Pence said that Liberty graduates should expect to be “ridiculed” for their biblical beliefs, much in the same way that his wife, Karen Pence, was criticized for taking a job teaching art at a Christian school that opposed same-sex marriage.

Pence needs some perspective.

According to one estimate, in 2016, a Christian was killed for his or her faith every six minutes. Today, the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities is rampant, especially in the Middle East. The Islamic State has forced nearly 5 million Syrian Christians to flee for their lives.

Read the rest here.

13 thoughts on ““Dear Mike Pence: The real persecution of Christians isn’t here in America”

  1. “God gave instructions on how to treat slaves within that system, but it is never endorsed or advocated it.”

    The Old Testament, which contains a multitude of God-given laws about how to take and own slave.The New Testament contains explicit instructions to both slaves and slaveowners about how to be good slaves and slaveowners. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” If that’s not an endorsement of slavery, what do imagine “endorsement” is?

    “God never endorsed polygamy”

    There are many scriptures in which God permits the marrying of multiple wives. Exodus 21.10 is a good place to start, but not the only place. There are also zero scriptures in which God or anyone in the Bible says “one man and one woman and no more or less” (unless you count Paul’s special rule for ministers–which says that anyone who wants multiple wives can have them, as long as they don’t want to be leaders in the church).

    In supporting your view of what “traditional” marriage is, you seem ignore the plain evidence of scripture and insert your own interpretations about what God “intended” in the first place.

    “If we own ourselves, it follows that no one else can own us – the most obvious way in which slavery violates human rights. It also follows that we own our labor, which means we decide who benefits from it and under what terms.”

    That’s a interesting libertarian theory but we live and work in a nation that has laws about discriminating against people in the marketplace by denying them our goods and services. Since you picked up on the segregationist theme, it’s weird you selected a quote that plainly justifies segregation.

    “Just what is an “anti-gay sandwich”?

    In this instance, since we’re talking about inanimate objects throughout, it’s a sandwich sold by a corporation that profits from the sale of its goods, and then donates those profits to organizations that are openly hostile to the gay community. The sandwich isn’t anti-gay—the money generated by the sale of the sandwich is used to finance anti-LGBTQ+ projects.

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  2. No, the Bible does not endorse slavery, just like it does not endorse polygamy. God gave instructions on how to treat slaves within that system, but it is never endorsed or advocated it. God never endorsed polygamy and it was never God’s design. Contrarily, there is plenty of Scripture that condemns any number of sexual behaviors outside of sex within marriage between male and female. There is no other option given in Scripture for marriage.

    There is no Scriptural endorsement of segregation by race or ethnicity. There is plenty of Scriptural evidence that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman. The advocates of the alphabet soup of sexuality twist Scripture to support their argument just as much as segregationists. Pick, choose and twist to get the desired result.

    The parties involved in these cases were never known to discriminate in normal business practices. They would sell a cake or provide flowers for anybody that walked in the door. The line was drawn, however, when asked to participate in same-sex “marriage” ceremonies. No-one was denied being able to sit at the lunch counter. No one was told to sit in the back of the restaurant. They could buy a cake or purchase flowers or have their picture taken.

    Live and let live. There’s plenty of other bakers, photographers and florists out there. You seem to like the segregationist trope, so I’ll had another angle to it – Jacob Sullum has noted, “If we own ourselves, it follows that no one else can own us – the most obvious way in which slavery violates human rights. It also follows that we own our labor, which means we decide who benefits from it and under what terms, and the fruits of our labor, which means we control access to our property.”

    And I find the fuss over the Starbucks “holiday” cup designs just as ridiculous and idiotic as classifying a chicken sandwich as “anti-gay”. Just what is an “anti-gay sandwich”? Was the chicken “cis-gendered” or “mis-gendered” or something? Did it not lay enough rainbow-colored eggs before ending up in the fryer?

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  3. Hi Ed,

    You and I are BOTH cynics.

    “1) the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs”

    I think slaveowners and segregationists made the same claim. And it’s true that the Bible widely endorses slavery, which was a traditional social norm for centuries. Just because people have a religious tradition or justification for something doesn’t mean it should remain in place forever, even if it’s grounded in a legalistic reading of a central text. A government that tolerated religiously-inspired intolerance in the past shouldn’t continue to do so in the present or future. Change is often hard but that doesn’t make it always bad.

    “2) you will be asked to not just tolerate things that violate your faith, you’re going to have to endorse them (that is, you will have to bake a cake, take pictures or provide floral arrangements for “marriages” that do not fit the definition of traditional Christian beliefs on marriage)”

    Yeah I guess if you want to participate in all the perks of regulated commerce you should follow the regulations. Again, segregationists made very similar arguments about serving black people or interracial couples (and misogynists made similar arguments about women)–that the government was forcing them to violate their religious conscience by making them serve and treat minorities as equal citizens with equal rights. I think that argument is a big part of the reason we now have legally protected classes against which it is federally illegal to commercially discriminate. And by attacking the premise of equal treatment under the law, traditionalists or anti-gay Christians are painting themselves into a corner they must share with segregationists.

    “3) you’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture”

    That’s the thing–in this context the language of “bowing down to idols” diminishes those believers, in history and in the world now, who are actually enslaved or actually forced to bow down to idols. When there is fear of “blasphemy” or “idolatry” in business culture, it seems like often there is present an implicit endorsement of capitalism as a divinely-inspired religious system backed by God, in whom our dollar claims to trust. It treats participation in a regulated system of business as equal to the observation of “traditional” religious faith. Ironically, the idea that Christian faith is summarily compatible with the Almighty Dollar is literally, in the Bible, considered blasphemous. It’s literally “You cannot serve both God and Money.” Not “Money and God are equal masters and if you can’t have both you don’t have either.”

    Being asked by a corporation to wear a uniform that endorses same-sex marriage isn’t persecution, it’s a choice your family member gets to freely make. Don’t want to imply that same sex marriage is okay? You feel like wearing your assigned uniform might send that message? Fine. You could find a different job with a corporation or business that isn’t widely known for its pro-gay culture and policies. Go manage a Chick-Fil-A in a different corner of the country. Go work at Hobby Lobby. No one is suggesting that the local Starbucks manager must enter into a same-sex union or be thrown into a fiery furnace. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to Mike Pence, who is so culturally persecuted that he is only Vice President of the United States of America.

    Losing income because one chooses to express one’s faith by rejecting a t-shirt (Starbucks) isn’t the same as being forced to bow to an idol. Neither is facing an ineffective boycott because your company spends millions on anti-gay organizations (Chick-Fil-A). The notion that one should have the unfettered ability to make money while being traditionally intolerant—-the idea that one has a fundamental religious right to sell anti-gay cakes, or anti-gay sandwiches, or refuse pro-gay T-shirts, without facing stigma or judgment or hostility or even sometimes legal action from others—-that whole line of reasoning is insulting to people who are actually persecuted, actually threatened. It’s making mountains out of molehills. It’s like boycotting generic “Holiday Cups” because they don’t have baby Jesus plastered all over them—-it’s petty, and it looks petty to most people who are not desperate to feel like a martyr.

    “LGBTQ+XYZLMNOP”

    Actually the full acronym is currently LGBTTQQIAAP but you were close.

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  4. “Duly noted. How, dare I say … Trumpian of you.”

    Dare to say whatever you like. Your confident freedom of speech shows how deeply persecuted you really are in this country, trying to somehow force others into association with your president’s disregard for the Constitution in order to better validate your bad choices.

    I’d really love to help you out some more. Would you like a shovel to keep digging that giant hole you’re standing in? Rock bottom is down there somewhere.

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  5. Justin: this is simple. Either one is in favor of government actors intentionally discriminating against private businesses and individuals solely because of their religious and/or political convictions (whatever they may be), in direct contravention of the Constitution, or one is opposed to such unlawful abuses of power in all cases.

    Seems you are (unsurprisingly) in the “so long as the government is targeting a billion dollar fast food chicken company owned by Southern Christian fundies who I can’t stand, this is totally groovy” camp. Duly noted. How, dare I say … Trumpian of you.

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  6. The primary point of the article, I imagine, was to say that Mike Pence was wrong no matter what he said. Yes, I’m a cynic. The standard media outlets has trained me to be such.

    Pence stated “Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs…As you go about your daily life, just be ready because you’re going to be asked not just to tolerate things that violate your faith, you’re going to be asked to endorse them. You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture.”

    With maybe a few exceptions, I would imagine almost all of the students will be going about their daily lives in America, not in Syrai or Nigeria or China or anywhere else were there is serious persecution of Christians. Besides, did Pence ever use the “p” word?

    Which of these claims that Pence actually made is wrong? Did Pulliam address any of them?
    1) the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs
    2) you will be asked to not just tolerate things that violate your faith, you’re going to have to endorse them (that is, you will have to bake a cake, take pictures or provide floral arrangements for “marriages” that do not fit the definition of traditional Christian beliefs on marriage)
    3) you’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture

    I gave an example of number 2 that a family member may face in the next month. If that family member loses a job or otherwise gets reprimanted for not bowing down to the idols of popular culture and refusing to endorse, not just tolerate, a manner of living that the family member finds unBiblical, then will you still argue Pence is wrong in the above statements?

    So the “LGBTQ+XYZLMNOP” crowd and others that used to cry “TOLERANCE!” now demand conformity and some will attempt to beat you into submission if you refuse to bake a cake for their “wedding” ceremony. “Live and let live” is now too much to ask. You are not a proponent of religious liberty – or any other kind of liberty – if you are not willing to allow people to exercise that liberty in ways you find disagreeable. It’s all just cute-sounding lip service otherwise. I grew up when liberals used to say “I don’t like what you say, but I’ll defend to the death you’re right to say it.” That is no longer the case.

    From https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/september/are-us-christians-really-persecuted.html (sorry, but most of the article is behind their paywall)
    It seems that today, Christians must think through their cultural position more carefully than at any other point in US history.

    Still, given the terrible persecution of Christians overseas, I wonder whether it’s accurate to say that American Christians are “under persecution.” When I discuss the rise in anti-Christian hostility in the States, I avoid the “p word,” and I don’t make comparisons to other parts of the world.

    But listen to a Middle Eastern underground house church leader: “Persecution is easier to understand when it’s physical: torture, death, imprisonment….American persecution is like an advanced stage of cancer; it eats away at you, yet you cannot feel it. This is the worst kind of persecution.”

    Some “progressives” today talk about “weaponizing the First Amendment”. That is nothing but the cancer that the referenced church leader mentions in the quote above. It’s designed to eat way at the freedom to say what you believe in order to eventually restrict it.

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  7. All the sound and fury of martyrdom over the “persecution” of a multi-billion dollar fast food chain–thanks for diving in and enthusiastically making my point for me.

    Christian activism used to be about helping the poor, the stranger, the sick, the jailed; now it’s about buying fried chicken from a corporation to prove brand loyalty.

    “They nailed Jesus to the cross and now we eat chicken sandwiches.”

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  8. “Look at all the fuss on the conservative right over a chicken sandwich.”

    State and local governments in NY, Chicago, Boston, and most recently in San Antonio and Buffalo (and surely coming to any number of other coercively woke environs — Portlandia, Seattle, Ann Arbor, San Fran — don’t let us down!), run by exquisitely tolerant progressives, have tried to ban Chick-fil A from doing business. Not because of any discriminatory conduct, mind you; not because of any legally impermissible activity, but solely because they find the traditional Christian religious views of the owners, and their choices in charitable giving (like that awful Salvation Army, tip of the spear for hatethink), to be icky.

    This is illegal. This is patently unconstitutional. The government cannot punish private companies for the political or religious views of the owners. This is something which most “liberals” used to find objectionable — that is, government power used to attack and punish those with non-conforming views.

    It has nothing to do with chicken sandwiches. It has everything to do with government ideologues lawlessly punishing dissent. For some reason, I suspect if we changed the targeted group (use your imagination), you’d have a very different take. Oh, and it’s not persecution. But it is state-sanctioned bigotry, and it is wrong.

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  9. “nothing in the original WaPo article indicated Pence was talking about things outside of America, so why not address whether Pence was right or wrong on the topic as it relates to the fuss in various corners of America over baking cakes and eating the “wrong” brand of chicken sandwiches?”

    Wasn’t a primary point of the article that Pence SHOULD look outside of this present moment in America to better contextualize the “persecution” of being expected to treat LGBTQ+ people as equal citizens in the public sphere?

    It sounds like you’re objecting to a fundamental point of the article, which is that the situation of Christians in America is in no wise comparable to real persecution when you look at the historical realities of actual persecution around the globe.

    You just shrugged off the fact that people elsewhere are murdered for believing in Jesus and went straight to chicken sandwiches and baked goods.

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  10. It seems like many Christians need to feel persecuted in order to feel validated, maybe because the Bible fosters the notion that righteous Christians will be persecuted for righteous faith, and dogmatists don’t know how to process centuries of change; they think that a text-based revelation locks them into an unchangeable legal code; they don’t know how observe or follow the spirit of the text.

    I think one problem really arises when dominant groups are so comfortable with their unchallenged Christian privileges that being inconvenienced feels like persecution, and being challenged on “tradition” or “traditional teaching,” even being unable to enforce their traditions in the public sphere, is equated with an assault on their “freedom.”

    When integration or desegregation was forced on Southerners many bigots and racists framed it as an assault on traditional Christian values and as a demand for conformity from evil liberals and intrusive, authoritarian big government. It’s not hard to see the same kind of thing happening now. Look at all the fuss on the conservative right over a chicken sandwich.

    I used to think Pence was sincere in his dogmatism, but then he hitched his wagon to Trump. Now it’s easier to see him for what he is. Pence is a brand politician that has tapped religious fear and outrage over a loss of cultural dominance, and is willing to foment that negativity in order to rise upwards towards power.

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  11. Pence said this:
    “Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs…As you go about your daily life, just be ready because you’re going to be asked not just to tolerate things that violate your faith, you’re going to be asked to endorse them. You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture.”

    Is Pence wrong in this claim?

    A family member of mine manages a local Starbucks. As we both know, Starbucks is a corporation that generally espouses leftist political positions. Later this month (May 2019) or some time in June they’re going to have some type of deal where the employees will wear t-shirts in support of certain manners of living that are not in line with 2000+ years of traditional Christian teachings. If the family member decides that he/she will not endorse such actions contrary to his/her faith, will he/she be tolerated, or will it be demanded that those behaviors be endorsed by wearing some t-shirt? It will be interesting to watch this situation that has personal concern for me.

    When I was growing up, “tolerance” was all the rage, but that was also in a time before the cultural attitudes flipped and now tolerance is not sufficient. Once the champions of “tolerance” achieved a critical mass, they took they next step. As Pence said, endorsement is demanded. Diversity is not enough – conformity must be enforced.

    One can look across the border in Canada to where things are trending. One can observe all the idiotic fuss from the American left over a chicken sandwich. One can read college speech codes. One can watch as speakers are shouted down and run off college campuses. You must bake a cake for a gay wedding OR ELSE!!

    No, people aren’t dying in America for their faith. There are many other places where the lives of believers are in actual jeopardy or they face jail time for exercising their faith. Yet nothing in the original WaPo article indicated Pence was talking about things outside of America, so why not address whether Pence was right or wrong on the topic as it relates to the fuss in various corners of America over baking cakes and eating the “wrong” brand of chicken sandwiches?

    Side note: WHY, OH WHY do these colleges of ANY kind invite ANY politician of ANY party to come blow smoke up the backsides of a captive audience? I’d skip the process if it was me, or at least have my ear buds in listening to a TWOILH podcast. At least THAT would be beneficial. 🙂

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  12. My eyeballs about roll out of my head when I hear someone complain about how American Christians are persecuted. Sliding from cultural dominance, having to exist in a pluralistic society, or being the butt of jokes does not qualify as persecution in my book, at least.
    I would imagine the truly persecuted church would laugh at this fearmongering tripe.

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  13. “Dear Mike Pence: The real persecution of Christians isn’t here in America”

    BUT THAT IS THE PARTY LINE!
    Which conveniently justifies “doing it to them (the vast conspiracy headed by SATAN!!!) BEFORE they can do it to us”.

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