How the Persecution Will Arrive in an (Overly) Tolerant Culture
Jesus said clearly, « A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you » (John 15:20) and Paul said, « Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, » (2 Timothy 3:12). For Christians, it’s not a question of « if » we will be persecuted, but when. For many years, Christians in the west have had to endure only the slight sorts of persecution: embarrassment, social harassment, and occasionally one heard of lawsuits or of someone being fired – but the incidences were rare. However, as our government and society marches confidently in the direction of secular humanism (what I have elsewhere called « Liberalism« ), a new reality is approaching. It would be impossible for our government to worship man (humanism) without at the same time opposing and ultimately persecuting those who worship God.
« But our culture is moving in the direction of tolerance » You say. « How can a tolerant society be prejudiced against Christianity? »
I’m glad you asked.
HOW TOLERANCE CAN BE SHARPENED LIKE A KNIFE
One of the cardinal ideals of our culture is indeed tolerance. In itself, tolerance is a very good thing. It flows out of the Christian idea that all people need to be able to freely choose Christ as their saviour, and that every person – made in the image of God – should be free from slavery, free from repressive rules (legal or religious) and free to live as they please. Those who doubt this Christian heritage would do well to take a glance around the world, and throughout history. Do you think tolerance is normal? It is the exception, not the rule. And it is present – almost exclusively – in Christian or post-Christian empires and cultures.
However, when severed from its Christian origins and when imported into a humanistic framework, tolerance can be sharpened like a knife to attack, threaten, persecute and repress people and ultimately to destroy tolerance itself. How, you ask?
HOW SELF-ACTUALIZATION IS A NEW SACRAMENT
If God is God, tolerance is there to give every person a choice, and the dignity they deserve to live free before God. Tolerance is a strong force in this case – but it is not ultimate. Tolerance has limits. For example, if a person wants to do something totally outside of the plan of God, then tolerance no longer applies to them. If they wish to live in sin, to hurt themselves or others, then tolerance steps aside and allows laws or social stigmas to step in.
However, when humanism is god then tolerance takes on a whole new form. In our humanistic society, « humanity » is the ideal that we worship. As it says in Romans 1, we turn to the creature rather than the Creator in worship. And so our ultimate goal is not to worship, adore, venerate and respect GOD, but to do so with humanity. And what does this look like? One of the most important aspects of humanity-worship (humanism) is that the quest for self-actualization becomes paramount, and takes on the all the importance of a religious pilgrimage, salvation, or sacrament.
Think for a moment of a religion – pick any you like – with a central, all-defining quest, rite, sacrament or location. Got it? Now, how do proponents of that religion feel when an someone defiles this holy place, keeps people from getting to it? You’ve got it – religious zeal, hatred, anger, and the full force of the collective religious community against the person who has cut to the core of their religion.
So what does this mean for a humanistic culture? Anything which blocks or impedes the self-actualization of one person, or society as a whole, is seen as the absolute worst of evils, and must be stopped and stomped out at all costs.
And what is it that will stop or impede self-actualization? You guessed it – not being tolerant enough. However, we’re not done yet. Tolerance in itself must be changed within a humanistic framework. The older Christian sort of tolerance will not do: the new tolerance will be sharpened and honed down to a fine edge, to cut like a knife not only the older form of tolerance, but anybody who does not agree, and fully approve, of the great quest of self-actualization.
To explain the metamorphosis of tolerance A (Christian tolerance) into tolerance B (secular humanist tolerance) I will describe each of the logical steps between the two.
1) We must be tolerant (within reasonable limits) of all people and their choices in the sight of God, since all were made in the image of God, and all should be free to chose God as saviour.
2) We no longer believe God is necessary: so the new motto is, « We must be tolerant (within reasonable limits) of all people and their choices, since all are equally human beings. »
3) Without God, it is hard to know what is meant by « reasonable limits. » « Reasonable » implies some sort of universal reason, or right and wrong, which is not possible without God. Humanism worships the human: therefore, that line is changed to, « We must be tolerant to all people, as they are true to themselves, since all are equally human beings. »
4) Nobody really knows what it means to be « true to one’s self. » An ambiguity which is quickly capitalized by culture-leaders, sociologists, politicians and entertainers. In our society, « true to one’s self » has come to be defined almost exclusively around sexual choices, career choices, and the vague but strong idea of « self-actualization. »
5) Therefore, accidentally and blossoming as it does through a sub-clause in the original idea of tolerance, the idea of « be true to yourself » becomes the true and secret definition of tolerance. The new tolerance, truth be told, simply says this: « Tolerance means you will not hinder in any way (including judging as wrong, looking down on, or even openly disagreeing with) one’s quest to ‘be true to themselves’ and so ‘self-actualize’ in their humanistic attempt to worship themselves. »
And now we have a very sharp knife, don’t we?
Anyone seen standing in the way – in any way – of self-actualization is now an enemy. And how are they an enemy? Because they have stopped the great process of self-actualization – the only true spiritual quest of a humanistic society – they have made themselves « enemy of state #1 » and not only the enemy of this one person, but all people everywhere.
To impede the self-actualization of even one person is to touch the apple (pupil) in the eye of a humanistic society: she will not leave you untouched. Society will violently attack. They will persecute.
WHAT DOES THE NEW TOLERANCE LOOK LIKE?
The old tolerance was this: « We must be tolerant (within reasonable limits) of all people and their choices in the sight of God, since all were made in the image of God, and all should be free to chose God as saviour. » Therefore, we could say, « I disagree with how you live/think/believe. However, you are made in the image of God and are thus valuable and worthy of my respect. » In the older system, intolerance was the opposite: « I disagree with how you live/think, but I refuse to give you the respect you deserve as a fellow human-being made in God’s image. »
In the new system, tolerance is a sort of code-word for self-actualization. Therefore, tolerance is: « I will do all I can do to help you self-actualize, and never even think anything that could impede your progress. » Tolerance is doing anything to stop the process of self-actualization. Specifically:
1) Judging. That is, deciding that certain actions, life-styles or beliefs are wrong.
2) Speaking. That is, expressing publicly the view that certain life-styles or beliefs are wrong.
3) Thinking. Even thinking such things are wrong could (in a quiet but powerful way) hinder someone’s path to self-actualization.
4) Legislating. All laws must now be relaxed to allow people to self-actualize in whatever way they find beneficial.
Tolerance has now become a knife that just about anybody can use against just about anybody for just about any reason.
« I like peanut butter and pickles on my sandwich. » « Dude, that’s gross! » « Don’t judge me – this is who I am! »
A ridiculous example? Maybe, but one that will keep me out of trouble for the time-being.
THE BROADER IMPLICATIONS OF TOLERANCE
Before moving on, we must take just a moment to consider the far-reaching effects of this sort of « tolerance. » In the older system, one could have their private beliefs, but they needed to treat with respect those who disagreed. And let us not forget that – despite the well-known failures – Christians have been world-leaders in respect and tolerance for the entire modern age. After all, nobody was breaking down the doors of secular Russia/China to try to immigrate there for religious sanction, were they? The old system worked precisely because everyone could have their own beliefs, so long as they did not harm or disrespect (interpreted as diminishing the God-given value of a person in word or deed) another person.
However, in the new system we cannot even think wrong of another. Because if we think another is wrong, this thinking may in some way leak out and offend them or impede their quest of self-actualization. You may think the tomato is red, I think it is orange – and we are able to get along because fundamentally we are thinking the same way, only our perspective and context is different. But when we make the jump to saying that nobody is right, nobody is wrong we surrender any idea of real truth. In morality, this means that it has become impossible to speak meaningfully of right and wrong.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES?
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the issues at stake today are:
1) Religious freedom (especially Islam)
2) Sexual freedom (especially homosexuality, and increasingly polygamy)
3) (to a lesser extent) the diminishing of a standard of « right and wrong » in schools, so that kids are given passing grades on failing papers because they are « self-actualizing »
HOW DOES THIS TRANSLATE INTO CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION?
…to name a few…
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
1) Be calm. Against the raging flood of angry evangelicals, hiring lawyers and legislating for power, I would simply shrug or even smile. Persecution is coming. Jesus said it would. It’s normal. We can’t stop it. Be calm. For who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to your life? Luke 12:25.
2) Be hopeful. Remember, persecution is a moment for you to demonstrate the power of Jesus in you, to glorify His name, and to suffer for Christ’s sake. Remember the attitude of the early church – who left their first flogging « rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer, » and went home and prayed for boldness, so that the place they met in was shaken (Acts 5). We need more of that attitude, less of the « my rights have been violated, I’m going to fight for what’s coming to me » attitude so prevalent in Christianity today.
3) Be loving. Loving people who are different from you is the essence of tolerance as it used to be defined. Today, it is not good enough to love and disagree: we must love and agree. Well, love LOTS and disagree calmly. It will make a difference. « Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. » 1 Peter 4:8
4) Be firm. Don’t compromise on your beliefs just because they will bring persecution. Believe what you have always believed, teach what you have always taught. Don’t bow to the winds of culture: serve your Lord.
5) Don’t be irritating. It’s tempting to jump into cultural debates and bang your drum louder than others, drawing huge attention to yourself and making it all about you and how right you are, while secretly watching in glee as your ratings sky-rocket, and your name takes on more internet notoriety. Stop it. It’s annoying. And the point of our message is not these minor issues, but the gospel of Jesus Christ.
6) Don’t compromise. Christians who compromise to make friends, converts, or to get out of hot water make life harder for faithful Christians. Don’t try to present Christianity to the world as more open, friendly, inviting, « culturally relevant » than it is. You will make the faithful look like fundamentalist hard-liners, and will create division in the church. Just preach it like it is, and take the consequences.
7) Don’t be defensive. Yes, the essence of religious freedom in North America is at stake here. Yes, the Gay Agenda is the cutting edge of that attack. But no, your gay co-worker is not the enemy. It’s not then and there that the battle for North America can be fought and won. Relax, love, respect. « If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. » Romans 12:18
8) Be friendly. Yes, we know that you love homosexuals in a vague sort of « I love everybody, homosexuals are people, therefore I love them too » sort of a way. But remember to really let it show by making eye-contact, shaking hands, engaging in normal conversation, and – as has been said – remaining calm, not being defensive, and not seeing this person as the vanguard of a huge invading army of social humanists, intent on « stealing our God-given rights and freedoms » (remember, Jesus promised persecution, not rights and freedoms) but as a dear brother/sister in the Lord who is worthy of just as much respect and love as your own children are worthy of. « For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. » Matthew 5:46-48