The Intellectual Persecution of the Church in the West

As regular readers will know I’m the first to say that Western Christians are not persecuted in the true sense of the word, or when viewed through the looking glass of the brutalisation of Christian minority groups in Islamic lands and elsewhere.

However, if we redefine the term by prefixing ‘intellectual’ then perhaps there is a stronger case; incorporating, the ‘slippery slope’ argument.

However, this is not the end of the story. While western Christians may not be physically persecuted for our faith, there is a great deal of intellectual persecution going on everyday and it shows no sign of slowing down. Persecution, as any sociologist knows, is notoriously difficult to define. At its core, it involves oppression, denial of freedom, harassment, instigation of pain, belittling, and wholesale hatred. It has a very emotional foundation and has little regard for the dignity of man. In Christianity, it has always been associated with an attempted denial of belief. The sporadic persecutions of the early church had grassroots beginnings. Normally the government would stay out of it. Eventually, it turned “official” and violent, especially during the Diocletian era at the turn of the third century. But whether physical or not, the end goal is the same: the individual oppression of people’s faith in Christ.

Many people believe that the western world is on a fast train heading toward a time when there will again be physical persecution. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that when we are always looking for some time in the future, some Christ-hating law to be passed, or some political leader whose name can be creatively associated with 666 (0r 616 for us Wallacites!), we miss something very important: we are already under persecution – intellectual persecution. It is happening right now, under our noses, everyday. All one has to do is turn on Bill Maher, watch the news, or read one of the “New Atheists.” Their interaction does not come in the form of reasoned intellectual response to Christian beliefs or values, but belittling sound bites which seek to gain them quick favoritism. Have you ever seen a Christian attempt to pull off a news interview? If the Christian stands up for traditional marriage, against abortion, or holds to the exclusivity of Christianity or the reality of eternal punishment, there is no call for debate or serious interaction, but ad hominem attacks. As in all things, belittling evidences more insecurity on the side of the belittler than anything else, but observers don’t always know that. This translates into a more culturally-accepted persecution and suppression of ideas. How do we know about it so intimately? Because we have done the same thing to others.

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9 Responses to “The Intellectual Persecution of the Church in the West”

  1. midwestlady Says:

    The irony of this intellectual persecution is also too great to be missed. The Church founded the University systems of the world and are the foundation of the Western intellectual tradition.

    Without the Church, we have nothing but body parts and death. If the church is left behind, it won’t be long before we are again tribal slobs looking for shelter from the winds of winter in our filthy caves, and worshiping meat and the moon.

  2. Sue Says:

    I think it cuts both ways! How can we say where the dividing line occurs between “intellectual persecution” and simply “being challenged” or even “someone disagreeing with you”. To me, intellectual persecution does not happen until people are actually prohibited from speaking or prevented from publishing books or disseminating material. Even then we have to understand that there must be some censorship – particularly in cases which incite hatred or violence. Someone disagreeing with you on a chat show or interview, or if certain views are pilloried by the media – that is not persecution.

  3. Bob Says:

    On the other hand, Christians are at least as guilty of this as those against them. Can you get more ad hominem than saying your opponent is going to hell? :-)

    I think the concept of persecution implies that the persecuting group has much more power than the persecuted group, and in the US, at least, people claiming to be Christians do not seem to have less power, though it tends to take different forms.

  4. Sue Says:

    The articles complains about comments such as,

    “Believing that homosexuality is wrong is backward, Middle Ages type stuff. Don’t you know we have evolved beyond that?”

    “You believe in God? Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy too?”

    “I quit believing in God when I woke up to reality. You should too.”

    “Imaginary friends (such as God) go here: trash.”

    But Bob has a point, all of those comments pale into insignificance next to “you are going to hell”!

    I’ve actually had the comment about the “tooth fairy” said to me and I didn’t yell “persecution”, I simply pointed out that there are many intelligent rational adults who believe in the existence of God but I’ve never met any who believe in the tooth fairy. I have met plenty who read their horoscope though and believe in the healing power of crystals… Anyhow, as Christians it IS true that we have a belief in what might be termed the “supernatural” by non believers. If we can’t address that question from others without whimpering about how we’re being persecuted, I can’t see that that says much for the robustness of our beliefs!

  5. Goy Says:

    I think there is a reluctance to accept that the U.K. at some levels has stumbled into a police state, denunciations and corruption who would argue that they are not a major component of British life and (political) culture.

    Intellectual persecution is persecution, persecution ends when the violence starts. That violence is the intimidation of criminalisation by a “public order offence” or the rigid handcuffs* for testing the expressing of an opinion.

    The correct terms for the “brutalisation” of Christian minority groups elsewhere in the world is ethnic cleansing and/or genocide.

    *rigid handcuffs – instruments of torture that are used by U.K. police forces.

  6. Simian Says:

    It seems to me that a sense of persecution is important to both Christianity and Islam, and actually serves to strengthen resolve and cohesiveness. If people in enlightened countries are searching for increasingly abstract examples then surely that is a good thing for the society in which they live, and we should rejoice in the fact. To me it seems that the UK Christian Legal Centre (CLC) pursues so many hopeless cases mainly to keep this sense of persecution alive in a benign society. It matters not to them that in a country with an independent judiciary they lose all their cases.

    Contrast that with the situation in Iran. I have just finished reading ‘And then they came for me’ by Maziar Bahari (You may have heard the serialisation on BBC Radio 4). Now there is a country where appalling persecution is real, all too real. And, mistakenly or not, much of it is carried out in the name of religion.

    You may say ‘…well that is Islam. Christians don’t behave that way.’ But if as an atheist I had dared to speak my mind only a few hundred years ago in the UK I could have been brutally tortured and burned to death. As a younger religion, in a few hundred years time Islam may become just as benign as Christianity, as the overall level of human enlightenment grows. One can only hope…

    I think we should count our blessings that for most of those reading this, persecution, if it exists at all, is only in other people’s words, and not in their deeds. Let’s keep this in perspective.

  7. Bob Says:

    Re Simian: Let’s start by convincing Muslims to exchange outrageous gifts for Ramadan, that seems to have gone a long way towards letting the starch out of Christianity.

  8. Roger Pearse Says:

    Interesting article, but what on earth is the matter with that site you linked to? They pop up some unwanted demand that you sign up to their mailing list, which you can’t get rid of and which prevents you reading the article! Idiots.

  9. Goy Says:

    @Simian,

    Have atheists and the gay lobby never used the courts to further their agendas?

    The contrast of Iran as a benchmark of when persecution is real in a society is not a very safe one, hopefully freemen in the U.K. have a much lower threshold when identifying and countering persecution (by example not by law).

    Looking at the swathe of communication/speech, discrimination and equality laws in England and Scotland it is self evident that to speak one’s mind is at the risk of being construed as a criminal offence. All these laws have served to do is intensify division in society, undermine and destroy civil liberties and take the U.K. down the road of a police state. In short to the social observer persecution is subtle in practice.

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