Blessed are the Persecuted

persecuted-jail-bible

Many self identified Christians in the United States feel persecuted. They are outraged that they have to bake cakes for same gender weddings, allow persons who are transgender to use public restrooms of their choice, provide coverage for the whole range of women’s health care for their employees, not fire workers based on sexual or gender orientation, and allow Muslims freedom of religious expression. Many self-identified Christians see these things as an affront to their morality and an attack on their religious freedom rather than a just implementation of the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of law for all persons.

In the generations right before my own, many self-identified Christians also expressed feelings of being persecuted. They were outraged that they could not continue the practices of Jim Crow in the South, that people of different races would date or marry one another, that women would aspire to equal rights with men, and that persons who were LGBTQ would do anything but totally repress their sexual and gender orientation. Earlier generations of self-identified Christians in the United States felt persecuted when their “right” to own other people was challenged. Christian denominations even split over these issues, including my own Methodist Church.

Many self-identified Christians who feel persecuted may find solace in the passage from the Beatitudes where Jesus says “blessed are the persecuted.” Perhaps they see their reward as the “Kingdom of Heaven” as the passage promises. The passage, however, reads “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” not blessed are those who are persecuted for denying persons equal protection under the law. Feeling persecuted because you can’t treat people unequally is not persecution for the sake of righteousness. It is persecution for the sake of wanting to treat people unequally – in other words, persecution for the sake of bigotry.

Christians in the United States who follow the way of Jesus may well experience persecution for righteousness’ sake in the years ahead. They may be persecuted for protecting our Latin@ sisters and brothers from deportation, for resisting a proposed Muslim registry and attacks on freedom of religious expression, for resisting systemic racism, for resisting voter suppression across the country, for resisting the exploitation of the natural world and protecting a livable climate, for standing with indigenous persons to protect water and land, for resisting growing white nationalism, and for protecting the equal rights of persons who are LGBTQ.

If Christians in the United States follow the way of Jesus, then we may very well see millions of Christians being persecuted for righteousness’ sake in the years ahead. If Christians in the United States  follow the way of Jesus, then we should see millions of Christians being arrested over the next four years. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for they will inherit the Beloved Community.

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About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is The Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. From 2009 to 2015, Mark was dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences and Wimberly Professor of Social Ethics at Oklahoma City University. Previously, Mark was dean of the Wimberly School of Religion at Oklahoma City University and Founding Director of the Vivian Wimberly Center for Ethics and Servant Leadership. Prior to becoming dean of the Wimberly School of Religion in 2002, he was associate dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma City University and chair of the department of philosophy. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University.
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3 Responses to Blessed are the Persecuted

  1. Mark Jewell says:

    A timely piece, Mark. These next four years are critical to detwedetwermining the footprint we leave on this planet for the next decade or more. Asking ourselves what it means to be a Christian is nio longer exclusively a philosophical question but one of action.

  2. Hi Mark, I’ve had the idea for a while now (and have preached on it) that American Christians are actually engaged in an epic battle of King of the Hill. What we call persecution is actually an attempt by the larger society to throw one controlling segment of dogmatic, ideological Christianity off the top of the hill of American society. Personally, I think Christianity never should have been at the top of the hill to begin with. We need to be down at the bottom of the hill with the poor, the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the orphan, the immigrant, and all the others who never have a prayer of even stepping foot on the bottom of the hill.

  3. Pingback: One World House – Top Five Blog Posts of 2016 | One World House

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