Christians’ Favourite Delusions 18: We’re the ones being persecuted!

Persecution

You think Christians don’t say they’re persecuted? Take a look at a recent entry on Christian Voice, where the claim is made that Christianity itself is being ‘criminalised’ in the UK. Visit American Christian blogs where they insist they’re being persecuted. Listen to the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, complain ad nauseam that Jesus’ followers today are marginalised and mistreated.

And why do they feel this way? Usually because they don’t like being told they should stop persecuting gay people. It’s their religious right, they tell us, to ‘live according to conscience’ and to bash (if only verbally in this country at least) a maligned minority. And any attempt to stop them from doing so, they say, is an infringement of religious liberty. Hatred of homosexuality has become such an integral part of the Christian faith these days.

Suggest to Christians in the West that they’re not experiencing persecution at all, but only a fair and reasonable attempt to make them treat others as they themselves would be like to be treated (didn’t Jesus say that?) and they respond, as a Christian Voice supporter did the other day, by sending you a link to the site of the Christian Liberty Council. Here’s the proof that Christians are really the victims! Go to the link and what you get is, yes, a list of believers who’ve been cautioned for abusing LGBT people. It’s so unfair! And that’s it, that’s their evidence.

If Christians were prevented from gathering together for worship, imprisoned for their belief in Jesus, stopped from talking about their faith, denied the means of praying together and so on, then perhaps they could reasonably say they were being persecuted. As it is, they’re the ones doing the sniping – and whining when they’re chastised for it.

In fact, their saviour tells them in Matthew 24.9 what to expect when any real persecution or ‘criminalisation’ comes along. They should, he says, whinge about it at length, even if it’s only a very remote possibility.

Oh, no wait, that’s not it; see it as a gift, he tells them, and pray for those doing the persecuting (Mark 10.30 etc). Problem solved! As ever though, they choose to ignore him. They much prefer to hang on to their prejudices and see themselves as the real victims.

Picture shows, clockwise:

Pat Robertson, US TV evangelist, who says gay people want to destroy marriage and the church itself.

Yoweri Museveni, Ugandan president and evangelical Christian who this week approved a bill toughening penalties and punishments for gay people.

George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who complains about how dreadfully Christians are treated in Britain.

Scott Lively, American evangelist currently facing a lawsuit for ‘crimes against humanity’. Influenced the anti-gay laws recently introduced in parts of Africa and, possibly, in Russia.

Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, which officially condemns homosexuality, whatever conciliatory noises Frankie himself appears to make.

Stephen Green, operator of Christian Voice, which insists Christians in the UK are being criminalised for their intolerance.

Caption suggested by an article on the excellent Joe.My.God blog.

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Christians’ Favourite Delusions 17: You get saved by being washed in the blood of the lamb (Romans 5.9 etc)

Sermon

Not according to Jesus you don’t. And you’d think he being the Son of God – not to mention ‘the lamb’ in question – he’d be in a position to know. So how does Jesus say you find salvation? No magic formula for him; no quick-fix like the one Paul invents after Jesus’ death.

So how does Jesus reckon you get right with God? For once, he couldn’t be clearer:

If you want to receive God’s forgiveness, first you have to give it:

For if you forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6.14)

If you want to avoid God’s judgement… then don’t judge others:

Judge not that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. (Matthew 7.1-2)

If you want God to show you mercy, first show mercy yourself:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5.7)

If you want to experience God’s riches and blessings, first you have to be generous yourself:

Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6.38)

If you want God to show you compassion, first be compassionate yourself:

The King will say to those at his right hand… I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me… Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord when did we see the hungry and feed thee or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee?… And the King will answer them, Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’.

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me… Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it not to me’. (Matthew 25.34-46)

That’s right, Jesus sees being saved as a ‘measure for measure’ arrangement and uses that exact term repeatedly in order to get the message across. According to the ‘Son of God’, you get what you give. And, what’s more, his death has nothing to do with it. He starts preaching his ‘gospel’ message long before he’s crucified (Mark 1.14) and it most definitely doesn’t include any mystical piggy-backing on a death that hasn’t happened yet in order to gain God’s favour. Even Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t add it to their stories of Jesus, even though they wrote them after he died and after Paul’s invention of his magic salvation formula.

Jesus’ ‘measure-for measure’ gospel is very different from Paul’s – the two are incompatible in fact, though Christians refuse to see this. Jesus’ gospel is practical and moral: the way to God’s heart, he says, is through treating others, even those who might despise us, with kindness and compassion.

This, though, is too hard for Christians. They find Paul’s spiritualised, self-centred version of salvation much more to their taste.

What’s this ‘Biblical morality’ we keep hearing about?

Is it feeding the hungry? Helping the poor? Visiting the sick and the imprisoned? Opposing injustice? Fighting against oppression? Giving away your possessions? Going the extra mile? Turning the other cheek? Respecting others? Loving your neighbour? Loving your enemies?

Or is just about sex? To read Christian web-sites and blogs, you’d think so. Jesus’ followers today are obsessed with it, which is why the God they make in their image is too. Sex that other people might be having, before marriage, during it; sex when it makes babies and when it doesn’t; sex with yourself; sex in the head, on the screen and in different positions; sex with too many partners, with the wrong partners and with partners of the same sex (the worst sin of all, apparently). They write about little else, because you see, what other people do in bed together is of great concern to God. It’s more important to him – or his self-appointed representatives on Earth, anyway – than hunger, oppression, slavery, injustice and genocide combined.

If only we all had sex like the Christian experts say we should (because it’s in the Bible) then we’d all be so much better off; civilisation wouldn’t be slipping into the abyss, God wouldn’t be so upset with us and we wouldn’t all be destined for hell.

End

But morality isn’t just about sex. In fact, it has little to do with who we sleep with and when. Rather, morality is about how we treat others, as Jesus said (Luke 6.31). Of course, how we treat others in a sexual context is important, but it’s no more important than how we treat them in other contexts. That’s because morality is, or should be, all embracing. It’s long past time Christians stopped banging on about it as if it was the only concern of morality. Instead they could start treating those who do sex differently from them as they themselves would like to be treated. That, if there really is such a thing, would be true Biblical morality.

Christians ignore Jesus

Optional

Christians are commanded to ‘take up their crosses’ to follow Jesus (Luke 9.23). That means, amongst other things, doing what he commands. Yet Christians don’t just fail to do as he tells them, they replace his agenda with their own and completely ignore him. Being a Christian, according to Jesus – and you’d think he’d know – is not about pointing out the failings of others, nor about defending God’s honour (as an omnipotent being he’s more than capable of doing that himself) and it isn’t about condemning those you don’t agree with. It’s about treating others as you’d like to be treated, loving your enemies… things like these, in fact –

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get (Matthew 7.1-2).

Yet Christians judge relentlessly and tell us they’re justified in doing so: ‘you’re a sinner’, ‘you’re going to hell’, ‘gay people are of the devil’, ‘you’ve got the wrong set of beliefs’. We can only suppose they’ve don’t have a problem with the judgement they themselves will face as a result (because they don’t really believe there’ll be any such judgement.)

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5.44).

What Jesus really meant to say here, surely, was ‘criticise those you don’t like, claim they’re infringing your rights, sue them if need be’. Yes, that’s it.

Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5.42).

Really? Let’s give it a go. Beg a Christian to pay off your mortgage or ask to borrow the cash for new car. See how far that gets you. The problem here, as with all of these commands, is that Jesus really has no idea. No wonder Christians ignore this one.

How can you say to your neighbour, ‘let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye’ (Luke 6.42).

Another ‘don’t judge’ command, to which Christians respond, ‘What log? Your speck is more of an eyesore than my log. My log doesn’t impede my vision at all. It’s you who can’t see.’

If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt (Luke 6.28).

Yeah, right.

Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6.31).

From which we can only conclude that Christians really must want to be treated as shabbily as they treat others (see links above)  

So how about it Christians? Maybe if you were doing what Jesus commands instead of judging the rest of us, we might take you a little more seriously. And, assuming he’s up in Heaven watching you – though even you know he isn’t or else you’d be doing as he tells you – so would Jesus himself.

As he says in Luke 6.46: ‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and don’t do what I tell you?’

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For more on this topic – Christians’ failure to take any notice of Jesus’ commands – see my book Why Christian Don’t Do What Jesus Tells Them To …And What They Believe Instead, available from Amazon.

Christians’ Favourite Delusions 16: Christians treat others as they themselves would like to be treated (Luke 6.31).

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Jesus promised his followers, back when he was alive, that they would take over the world when God’s new Kingdom arrived: ‘Blessed are the meek,’ he’s reported as saying in Matthew 5.5, ‘for they shall inherit the earth.’ He failed to tell them that this inheriting wouldn’t be any time soon, even though he himself thought it would be (Mark 13.26-30). Even so, Christians today fully expect JC to return any day now to vindicate them and turn the world over to them. Then, the meek – assuming that Jesus meant ‘Christians’ when (and if) he used the term – will inherit the Earth, whatever that actually means.

Back in the early 1980’s, when I was a Christian myself, I campaigned, in a very small way, for persecuted believers in the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union. Together with others in my church, I spoke out against the clampdown of Christian worship, restrictions on the availability of the Bible and the harsh punishments meted out for exercising faith. Certainly believers in Russia were meek and humble then, because they had no other choice.

How things have changed in the intervening thirty years. Now in Russia, under Putin, faith is supported and encouraged and formerly persecuted Christians have the upper hand. They have the ear of the Kremlin and are influential in deciding policy especially in so far as it relates to ‘morals’.

And do those Christians, having known the scourge of persecution, say, ‘we cannot support the persecution of others; we disliked it when it was done to us and, in the words of our saviour, we recognise we should treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated’ (Luke 6.31)?

What do you think? You think the meek, having found acceptance themselves and inherited positions of respectability and influence, use their new prominence to defend other minorities who are now being persecuted?

Of course not. The church in Russia endorses, supports and influences the policies of state that have lead to the persecution of people who have ‘non-traditional’ relationships; LGBT people and those who support them. Watch the Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘Hunted’ (on 4 On Demand, with clips on YouTube) to see how gay people in Russia are hunted, tortured and humiliated. Witness a so-called Christian proudly relate how he shot a young gay man in the face with a ‘non-lethal weapon’ because he was carrying a rainbow flag. See Father Sergei Rybko from the Russian Orthodox Church demonstrate true Christian love when he says:

Even cattle don’t engage in this (homosexuality). I just consider them spiritually and morally ill. Something is not right here (in their heads)… they’ve started to plant the idea in young people’s minds that this is normal, that they are just a bit different… Well excuse me, paedophiles and sex offenders are just different too. Murderers and thieves are just different – so we should also give them freedom to do what they want? Where gays are allowed, paedophilia will soon flourish. Permitted evil gives rise to more evil. Paedophiles, gays and people like this are basically serving the Devil.

Church condoned persecution of homosexuals is what we can expect when God’s Gentle People inherit the Earth. We know this because it’s happened before, many times in history. When Christians get the upper hand, others suffer, whether they’re Jews, womenchildren accused of witchcraft or LGBT people.

Mercifully, Jesus was wrong, as he was about so much, when he promised the meek would inherit the Earth: they will never hold sway over the entire globe and for that, we should all be eternally grateful.