America has always been a place where Christians were free to worship and live according to their consciences. In fact, our country was built upon the principles of religious tolerance, individual liberty and the right to dissent. In our founding documents, the source of these rights and freedoms is clearly acknowledged as God, not the government.
Yet the drastic changes we have experienced in the past half-century have so turned our culture on its head that to exercise those rights and freedoms means a Christian often risks marginalization, repression and even outright persecution.
As I’ve written in Is This the End? there are five distinct stages of religious oppression now occurring in our nation that when fully formed, ultimately result in Christian persecution. All of them emerge from a growing Christophobia exhibited by certain members of government in our country.
Stage 1: Stereotyping
Today, Christians are often stereotyped as ignorant, uneducated, backward, inhibited, hateful and intolerant. Even the president joined in when, in 2008, he said of workers who vote according to their values, “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion … .”
Sometimes the media even features Christians as evil antagonists, holier-than-thou bigots who sit on their high horse and judge others harshly, like the prison warden in the movie The Shawshank Redemption who recites the Bible but abuses inmates. While it’s true that some Christians represent the faith poorly, these stereotypes grow out of a rising prejudice in our culture. Not to mention, they are a denial of the indispensable role Christianity has played in the development of American culture and the American ideal, from higher education to the free market to health care to equal rights to the rule of law.
Stage 2: Marginalizing
What many secularists want is for Christianity to be displaced from the center of American life. If the church must be allowed to exist, they want it confined to the realm of personal privacy and denied any effect on public life. You’ll notice this sentiment when politicians and pundits carefully choose the phrase “freedom to worship” over “freedom of religion.” The first is meant to confine us, and the second is meant to free us. They’d rather us marginalized as MSNBC personality Chris Matthews once tweeted, “If you’re a politician and believe in God first, that’s all good. Just don’t run for government office, run for church office.” Matthews’ rule would have disqualified almost everyone who founded this country.