The stonings, torture and other murderous actions that people around the globe face at the hands of extremists and madmen might seem entirely foreign or implausible to most Americans.
Yet that’s the reality for Christians living in various regions, as persecution rages at alarming rates, claiming the homes, families, loved ones — and lives — of its victims.
Watchdog Open Doors recently released its annual World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 nations where it’s most difficult to be a Christian. The group warned of the “horrifying growth” of persecution, exposing the dire realities in nations such as Afghanistan, North Korea and Nigeria.
“Over the 30 years of the Open Doors World Watch List reporting, the global phenomenon of Christian persecution has grown alarmingly,” the organization said.
As we grapple with this deadly reality, we also must ponder how to process our own religious persecution battles here in America.
How are we to make sense of what’s transpiring in the U.S. while appropriately juxtaposing and differentiating it from the unspeakable and ghastly crimes people face abroad? After all, it’s hard to compare the freedom-driven lives most Americans lead with those of Christians hiding out from the Taliban in Afghanistan or facing stonings in Nigeria.
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Somehow, though, one cannot pretend America’s gentler forms of persecution or pushback are permissible or worth simply glazing over.
The dynamics in America are quite strange if you consider our recent COVID-19 restrictions and the years-long legal battle high school football coach Joe Kennedy faced over his constitutionally guaranteed right to pray on the 50-yard line after games.
Properly processing America’s religious conundrum boils down to two key realities that Johnnie Moore, author of “The New Book of Christian Martyrs: The Heroes of Our Faith from the 1st Century to the 21st Century,” recently shared with me in an interview for CBN’s Faithwire.
Taking great care to separate acts of horror abroad from religious discrimination in America, Mr. Moore noted two “small caveats” about the roots of persecution.
“When I’m in the most intensely persecuting places, the persecuted church always tells me, in some way, they’ll say something like, ‘It didn’t start like this here. It started with marginalization. It started with discrimination. It started with our children being treated differently in schools,’” he said. “And so they always say, ‘Watch out for the early warning signs.’”
The deep diligence to which that final line calls every American is profoundly convicting, particularly as our society descends into a secularist wormhole seemingly intent on forgetting the Judeo-Christian values that distinguish the U.S. as history’s most exceptional nation.
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Like Mr. Moore, I’m careful when discussing these matters and make no assertion we’re inching toward the diabolical forms of persecution we see elsewhere. That said, an honest and ongoing assessment of where we are is certainly critical if we’re to be on the lookout for warning signs.
I’ve already covered the disturbing pattern in which secularists and liberals have begun to openly proclaim that Christians are ill-equipped for government posts and appointments. While isolated, this horrific tactic has certainly kicked up a few notches.
And these same dynamics are at play in pop culture, with Christians being ignored or misrepresented. Even actors such as Rainn Wilson of “The Office” are speaking out about such framings, with Mr. Wilson recently tweeting, “I do think there is an anti-Christian bias in Hollywood.”
Plus, when people such as New York Mayor Eric Adams are honest about the problematic impact society’s move away from faith is having on children, they face intense blowback.
Some might see these as isolated incidents, though a recent survey that found just under half of Americans (47%) recognize religious freedom as a First Amendment protection should serve as a wake-up call. Not only are hostilities on the rise, but so is confusion about constitutional basics.
That brings me to Mr. Moore’s second point. Whether it’s a deadly scenario in which a Christian is told to convert or die or a “cancel culture” moment in which a political appointee is informed he or she holds unacceptable Christian views, the core sentiment is the same.
The offending party is essentially proclaiming: “Change your beliefs or else.”
Again, the circumstances are not necessarily comparable, but the central demand being made paints a disturbing parallel, particularly when the victims of such intense persecution warn us to pay attention to the root warning signs.
Fortunately, as Mr. Moore said, the First Amendment provides Americans with robust protection.
“There is no parallel between the unrivaled religious freedom we enjoy in the United States of America and all of these other places and circumstances,” he said. “It’s the first clause of the first sentence of our First Amendment, and, under most circumstances, when it gets squeezed, it works its way up in our system, and it’s protected.”
This is true and valid and something for which we must be grateful. Still, we must also be diligent and operate with wisdom as we confront the reality that many people — from bakers to web designers to football coaches — are finding themselves in the grips of that squeeze.
Our collective futures depend on defending their freedoms to ensure we don’t one day end up seeing those rights evaporate.
• Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” Hallowell is the author of four books, including “Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts,” and “The Armageddon Code: One Journalist’s Quest for End-Times Answers.”
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