Column: Persecution by degrees

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It remains quite impolite in America to kill someone over their religion.

Other world regions see awful and violent religious persecution. Here in Indiana, in the good ol’ USA, I feel fairly safe going to church. For now.

What is a pity, however, is how few Americans these days have a handle on how religions differ, how our American republic so heavily relies on the mysteriously transcendent yet demonstrably objective and unique virtues of Christian love and service, and how historically unique but temporally fragile is our American way of life.

It hasn’t always been impolite to kill over religion in this country. Prior to the United States’ formal founding, the New World saw great religious persecution by certain Christians against other Christians. After the Puritan pilgrims (later the Congregational Church) left the oppression of Anglican England, think of the Salem, Massachusetts, Witch Trials in the 1600s and the persecution of Baptists in the 1700s.

As “Freedom of Religion” was written into the Bill of Rights and America expanded west, Biblical evangelicalism boomed. Offshoot religions sprouted up. In the 1800s, the Mormons took quite a hit for their practices, doctrines and beliefs which vary greatly from standard-issue Trinitarian Christianity. In some states it was not a crime to murder a Mormon male. Roman Catholicism, hardly an “offshoot religion,” was largely unwelcome. Not until 1960 did John Kennedy take the oath of office – almost scandalously – as the first Roman Catholic U.S. President.

America fought elsewhere combatting religious insurgencies. Thomas Jefferson sent U.S. Marines to the African coast of the Mediterranean Sea – the shores of Tripoli – in 1803 to quell the Barbary pirates who in the name of Islam were capturing and enslaving U.S. merchant sailors. General Pershing subdued Muslim unrest in the Philippines in the early 1900s, and that wasn’t pretty.

Today we’ve arrived at a humanitarian place in America not to kill people for their religion. Only outsiders do that to us. Yet politically, culturally and academically, it seems that America is working awfully hard as a nation to kill religion itself, especially Christianity. It may not be the mass murders we see elsewhere, but still potentially lethal to our American way of life. A republic requires public, objective truth and private, faithful virtue. Tyranny is history’s unavoidable alternative.

America truly needs these usually well-meaning folks who worship Jesus, attend church, vote with scripture in mind and engage in charities great and small following the simplest command of Jesus from the Gospel of John, verse 15:12:

“… Love each other as I have loved you.”

If America successfully kills Christianity, what comes next will be far less polite.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) understands persecution is part of the Christian “deal.” See John 15:18-20.




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