There are places where belief in the wrong or in no deity is a capital offense, a fact that makes decent people recoil in horror and, when they can, take action.1
But in places like the United States of America, where killing someone for not accepting the right religion remains illegal,2 it would seem that some Christians recoil not in horror but in envy. To understand their plight, consider the following biblical passage from Timothy 3:12 (NIV): “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
If persecution attests to a godly life, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that no persecution attests to a not-godly life. Sure, you can try to live a godly life anyway, but without an overt barometer like persecution, there’s little point. You are condemned to hide the light of your godly life under the overt bushel-basket of your humility.
Let’s pause here to dispel a common myth. People in other religions are not, repeat, not persecuted. Persecution is the exclusive domain of those who are on the right path, and you are not on the right path unless you believe in the right Jesus. With reference to non-Christians and people who claim to be Christian but believe in the wrong Jesus, the correct term for religion-related suffering is not persecution but just deserts.
On an encouraging note, if you believe in the right Jesus but are unlucky enough to live where persecution is illegal, you are a de facto persecution victim—because your government is actively depriving you of your godly life bona fides. Granted, being beaten or murdered might go further toward alleviating your persecution envy, but I have to tell you, beatings and murder aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Both can involve pain, and murder recovery times can be long.
The wise fanatic seeks the joy of persecution while avoiding its inconveniences. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. We are, after all, talking about people skilled in apologetics. Anyone who can rationalize the wrong side of Occam’s razor is not to be daunted by so trifling an oxymoron as “trouble-free persecution.” In this, persecution-bent Christians do not disappoint. Their behavior is a study in the manufacture of safe persecution.
A key development was the redefining of persecution to mean (1) angry retorts from people your preaching annoys and (2) interference with your meanness to People Who Are Different (PWAD). The redefinition would have been harder to pull off were not the horrors of real persecution largely confined to parts of the world populated by People Who Don’t Matter All That Much (PWDMATM). But largely confined the horrors are, leaving many Americans out of touch with what real persecution looks like. This allows for whipping out the p-word at the most benign retort or wimpiest defense of a PWAD. (Not to worry if you have trouble keeping PWADs and PWDMATMs straight. They’re pretty much interchangeable.)
The redefinition has placed persecution status within easy reach for all. With just a few tries, even the novice can master the art of retort-inducing annoyance. A popular approach is to tell people they must accept the right Jesus or burn in hell. This can be done in a sweet voice, so as to claim having been polite, or in a screaming voice, so as to claim having been filled with the Spirit. The more ardent Christian increases the annoyance quotient by threatening children with hell, preferably in front of their parents. More reticent Christians get the job done with a simple “Praise Jesus” appended to every phrase.
Interference with meanness to PWADs is equally attainable. Do not mistake the mean in meanness to PWADs to mean mean as in mean. “Meanness to PWADs” is shorthand for “delivering the wicked the above-referenced just deserts in hopes they’ll mend their ungodly ways.” It is, as such, the ultimate kindness. Popular methods include taking a stand against the evils of women’s health, refusing to serve gay people, making PWADs unwelcome in the neighborhood, and never, ever letting trans people pee or poop. Sooner or later, persecution is sure to arise in the form of someone saying, “Hey, knock it off” or, better yet, attempting to hinder you through legislation.
So here’s a message of hope for anyone suffering from persecution envy: Chin up. Even in countries with onerous anti-persecution laws, intolerance of your intolerance will more than attest to your godly life. You have earned your persecution. Wear it on your sleeve with pride.
- The Center for Inquiry’s Secular Rescue Program helps religious dissidents find safe haven, literally saving lives. For information on how you can help, log on to https://secure.centerforinquiry.org/secular-rescue or email Matt Cravatta at email@example.com.
- Give it time. As of this writing, Trump is not yet halfway through his term.