I have read enough about the alleged “War on Christmas” to know that the people purporting that there is such an organised offensive (generally) feel that their faith is constantly under attack by those outside of their defined boundaries.
I know this because I grew up in this subculture.
Every Christmas season, we made it exceptionally clear in all our decorations, presents, and greetings that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’ (So much so, I believe, that I totally shy away from using this cheesy cliche now.) We just knew that those who gave out Santa Claus cards or said ‘Seasons Greetings’ or placed reindeer and snowmen in their front yard really didn’t get it. It was not only our duty to inform them but also our grave responsibility to decry this agenda of the devil to all who would listen.
This wasn’t–isn’t–limited to Christmas.
Those in our church believed with great conviction that persecution, ridicule, mockery, and having doors slammed in your face was actually a sign that we were doing the right thing. We were on God’s side and God was on our side. We laughed in the face of abusive language directed at us (though not visibly, because we still valued our life). We delighted when someone would take the gospel tract we gave them and proceed to tear it up, throw it on the ground and stomp on it (We would then pick it up and put it in the garbage bin to show we cared for the state of our city streets). We rejoiced when we heard someone speaking of our church of Christian school as a ‘warped, backwards, cult-like’ organisation. (So it is no surprise my parents sent me to Bob Jones University for my tertiary education.)
Looking back, I know we were sincere and truly believed we were pleasing God and following God’s holy Word to the letter:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 NRSV)
I had all the best intentions.
Today, I am disturbed when I see groups such as Westboro Baptist Church doing the evil, angry and attention-seeking things they do under the illusion that they are blessed because they are persecuted. I don’t like being the bearer of bad news but, from my own experience, I tell you this: ‘You are not blessed because you are persecuted, nor is receiving abuse from the crowd a sign that God is on your side.’
If this were so, then God is on the side of a host of causes that make well-intentioned Church folk sick to their stomach. After all, those who support euthanasia laws in this state believe their cause is righteous and just (to end unnecessary suffering), but their rallies are vocally–and sometimes angrily–mobbed by those who claim to speak for God. Likewise, our friends in the U.S. who believe universal health care is a necessity find themselves on the defense when sincere Christians rally against this just cause.
In all this, I can see symptoms of a larger disorder at work, a paranoia, a persecution complex:
People that suffer from persecution complex tend to believe that others are out to get or hurt them in some way. Their fears are utterly unfounded in reality and at times exaggerated paranoia and it reflects a belief that everyone has it in for them.Symptoms of persecution complex may be seen when the person interacts in normal ways and then over-reacts to perceived wrongs. For example, one person might see the affected individual as going to a restaurant, eating lunch and leaving, then going to a library, checking out a book, followed by going to the dry cleaners to pick up some clothing. What the person with the complex sees is entirely different. They might see a waitress out to get their money by enticing them to get more of the expensive food on the menu and that the waitress purposely delivered their meal late and got the order wrong just to irritate them. Then, they may feel that when they went to the library, the library personnel purposely did not offer to help them while they were perusing the shelves and that they chose to check out other patrons before them. After leaving there they may feel people who parked in the handicap spots at the dry cleaners are not really handicapped and they have it in for handicapped people and that”s why they took all the spaces and it upsets the person because they have to park far away. After going in to pick up the dry cleaning, and being told it is not ready yet, they assume it is because the workers did not like them and purposely delayed cleaning their garments and wanted to force them to wait longer for their garments just to make them spend more time in the store waiting for them.Although people who suffer from persecution complex are not dealing with a life-threatening disease, the complex can still be debilitating because it affects the way that people function in their every day life. (Reference.com)
I don’t think this disorder in its religious manifestation will ever be eradicated. There is something in the dark side of human nature that, in order to feel some sense of importance, needs to believe others are envious of you or your situation and ultimately would like to see you beaten down and vanquished.
But, in saying this, I believe that, individually, we can make an immense difference if we simply refuse to believe that we alone are right, our causes alone are just, and our way of doing things is the only way sanctioned by God. Surely God is on our side, as God is also on the side of all humanity, wanting to see us grow up! In becoming a more mature people, we put aside the childish ways of self-aggrandisement, arrogant belief, and self-elevation to recognise that we are all loved of and valued by God–sometimes despite our opinionated pig-headed thoughts to the contrary.
Maybe we should look at persecution and ridicule as a reminder to ourselves that perhaps there is a better way of doing, saying, being, that will put across with clarity what we see as important to us, yet a way that gives value and respect to fellow companions on our journey–companions even though we aren’t always on the same path.