I don’t know about you, but recently the same news story of Christians being persecuted in California keeps hitting my newsfeed. The Headline normally goes like this, “California Family Fined for Bible Study in Home.”[i] The story is basically true, but the conclusions Christians on social media are running with needs some serious context.
Last year marked the highest year record in the recent history of global Christian persecution. Approximately 215 million Christians experienced high to extreme persecution,[ii] with the highest causes including, but not limited to, Middle-east related conflicts, Islamic extremism, Ethnic nationalism, politico-religious discrimination.
North Korea topped Open Doors list of worst places to live as a Christian and practice your faith, followed by Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Open Doors points out that Nigeria saw a 62 percent increase in the killings of Christians, and Mali leaped from #44 on their violence to Christians chart to #32. In spite of leaps like that, Pakistan remains the most violent.
Do you know what nation did not make their list? The United States of America.
Case in point, the story that keeps currently flying around my newsfeed about Christians being persecuted in California for having a Bible Study in their home is not what it seems on the surface; it certainly does not deserve the outrage it is getting. The fact is, it is old news. It took place way back in 2011 and was dealt with “back in the day.” It has only resurfaced now for political reasons and Christians are taking the bait; sharing it like it is a current news story and spreading near viral outrage in some places. All that was really happening is the city was asking the homeowner to get a “permit to assemble” because they had 50-60 people visiting weekly and this was a residential zone. The city had no issues with the Bible study, only the lack of a permit. The fine was only a factor because the Bible study group brought the persecution on their own head by refusing to get the permit! All groups assembling a certain number of people need a permit. My church renews their permit every year. That is not persecution, it is civic duty! It is part of the budget of running a ministry. After all, we want to use civic resources like water, 911, the roadways and parking spots right? Being asked to do what any group would be asked is not persecution. Lastly, in the end, the city gave the bible group a free pass, just to be “Christian” about it. How can a religion that is easily tax exempt at that same time claim its government is persecuting it!
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it does not happen in the USA; nor that it can’t happen. I believe it does. I also believe one day the USA will, in fact, be the hotbed of persecution that starts here and goes global. However, the data does not support that we are actually, currently, being overtly persecuted. Therefore, Christians need to stop whining that they get mistreated, are being persecuted, or are under attack and need to win their rights back. The last time I checked the only rights Christians were ever promised from Jesus was the right to die on a Cross for others (Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23). Are you sure you are ready for all your Christian rights?
Persecutio falsum[iii] is Latin for false persecution. We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf[iv]. He was a shepherd boy, tending the sheep, and just to see what would happen, he cried, “Wolf!” and all the villagers came out to help him. It worked so well, he did it again and again. Since the protection of the sheep was so important, the villagers kept coming. But the final time he calls, no one comes, because he is a multi-time, proven liar. Only the wolf did come and it ate him!
Listen up, Church! The Wolf really is coming! The wolf is real and no joke! I know you are zealous and fearless, and maybe even eager to see the Wolf, for then you know the final battle is on! However, if you keep crying Wolf for false, or even zealous, reasons no one will believe you when he really does show up! You might say, “That is fine, I will gladly be eaten by the Wolf to scare so many more people into the Kingdom.” However, what will you say when Jesus asks, “Why did you cry “wolf” and let my sheep be eaten up once the wolf finished you off! I put you at the gate to guard them because I had armies of helpers who would have come, who you knew nothing about, but who had long ago stopped believing in your testimony!”
“Persecutio falsum” is the blood of unprepared martyrs. Is that what we really want? It is not what Jesus wants.