Blessed are the Persecuted
John Myhill considers Christians to be a persecuted minority in modern society, and has been considering what our attitude and response should be.
We must stop thinking of ourselves as the majority. Christians are a minority in this country, so we should look at how minorities behave.
When I saw a Muslim in full dress, I used to think: "how exotic, I really must learn about their culture"; but now I think: "how have they gained so much power? why do some of their young people see Christians as their enemy? What gives them unity, despite their internal differences?".
We need to think like missionaries in a foreign country, saving those around us from their own ignorance. We need the kind of confidence in our faith that has taken Christians amongst violent and dangerous people for two thousand years (the kind of confidence that most Muslims in Britain today appear to have). We need to arm ourselves with the letters of Saint Paul: a man called out from what he had been taught, to carry the Christian message to the Gentiles.
When I met people who identified as having a different sexuality to mine, I used to question who I was, and why I was not like them. But now I see that they have found a defence against authority, the defence of being a victim. We Christians need to realise that we are sometimes victimised for our faith: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake" (Matthew 5:10).
When I saw a homeless person in a wheel chair, I used to think of Matthew 25. But now I am tempted to wonder if they are really homeless, do they really need a wheel chair, or are they using their position as apparent victim to trick people out of their cash? It is not my compassion that is lessened, but now I wonder if they need Christ to lead them through repentance to a new life in which they learn to serve others rather than cheat them. Do they need my Faith more than my money?
When I met people who lived in Britain but identified as being part of another country, culture or religion; I would try to find out why? Now they only seem to want to tell me about the defects of my country, culture or religion, and why I should change.
A "Singularity" in science occurs when the laws of Physics cease to apply. Minorities claim a similar status, when state laws and even common sense cannot be applied to them.
We could present ourselves, as other minorities have, as being genetically programmed: we simply cannot help being religious. After all we have no desire to convert others to be like us: God will do that, whenever people are open to understanding that they also have the religious gene ("Grace"). But first we need to establish that we have the same rights as homosexuals, transsexuals, black people, addicts and the disabled. Christians long ceased to be the "Establishment" and should not be treated as if we are. We need to demand equality with other minority groups - it is our human right to be different without suffering the current oppression.
Jesus of Nazareth had many Minority advantages. He was from a working-class background and called mainly uneducated working people as his disciples. He was from an obscure corner of a huge empire, and came from Nazareth, the most reviled part of that country ("Can any good thing come from Nazareth?": John 1:46). It was inevitable that his followers would be part of a persecuted minority. But he taught the way of Peace, so his teachings have been passed on for two thousand years; whilst those who supported violent resistance (Barabbas and friends) disappeared from history in 70AD.
We live in a time when leaders, who appear to have power (politicians in government, CEOs, even the Archbishop and the Pope), spend much of their time apologising to minorities for the faults of past leaders of their organisation: "lessons have been learnt", "new procedures are in place", "moving forward, we are determined to prevent…". Words that often seem empty, because the minorities themselves are not given (taking) responsibility for preventing their further oppression.
In this sense Christians are unique, for we accept the broken nature of the world, and expect to be betrayed by those who use force; yet we pray for those who abuse us and forgive those who spitefully use us.
This may well be the last piece from me on Network Norfolk, as I am giving up the Internet, in order to concentrate on the direct line we all have with God. When we live in the Spirit, we have no need for man-made devices in order to reach out to others. God provides us every day with the people (often total strangers) with whom He wishes us to talk, about the deep things that really matter - God even provides the words and our ability to understand each other, as at Pentecost.
Hopefully I will meet more of you face to face, when the misunderstandings of the written word can be smoothed by the love we have for each other. For, above all, Christians should be recognised by outsiders, by the love we have for one another.
The above image of Domenichino, The Way to Calvary, is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
John Myhill is a Norwich Quaker, retired magistrate and author. His blog is at http://johnmyhill.wordpress.com/
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