In Catholic school, every so often the nuns would want to gauge our religious purity by challenging us with ”œThe Test”. Sister Rita Agnes, or whoever that year was in charge of our catechistic upbringing, would ask: ”œIf the Communists came this minute into our classroom and demanded that ten students be selected to be shot on the playground so that all the others could live, who would volunteer?” The Test could only be passed if you were quicker than all the other students to volunteer for martyrdom and instant passage into heaven.
It was always the Communists who were going to invade our school ”“ this was the middle of the Cold War ”“ and The Test was always administered after we just studied the Lives of the Saints, especially the early martyrs who went through grisly tortures in order to receive a palm branch from an angel (at least that’s what the pictures showed ”“it seemed rather sad recompense considering the dreadful tortures the Romans devised).
Catholics, and for that matter most other Christian sects, venerate the early martyrs to such an extent that suffering for your faith is a cardinal virtue of being a Christian. As a consequence, some Christian groups play up what they describe as discrimination against Christians, or more frequently, ”œhate crimes” perpetrated against believers in Christ. Children are still being taught that, at a minimum, they should expect to be ridiculed for their faith, and in some circumstances tortured or killed. Tortured for Christ is a best seller in Christian bookstores, and is published by a group called The Voice of the Martyrs who catalogue crimes against Christians all around the world.
There is certainly a terrible history even today of religious persecution of Christians, in China, Indonesia, the Middle East, and Africa. But do these very real crimes translate to the Christian experience in the US, as some Christian groups suggest? On one hand we are told the US is a Christian nation and that Christians have a right to impose their view of morality on all of society, but at the same time Christians claim they live in fear of ostracism, discrimination, and increasingly ”“ hate crimes. If the overwhelming number of Americans are Christian, who is perpetrating these hate crimes?
According to Dr. Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, it is gay people. Says Dr. Cass:
The rights of Christians to peaceably gather in worship is something that can be abrogated at will by anybody, including these most vociferous homosexual activists who have no qualms coming in and doing the most blasphemous and sacrilegious acts right in the middle of a Christian worship service.
Dr. Cass is referring to the gay activists who protested outside of California churches after the passage of Proposition 8 outlawing gay marriage. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, decried a recent event in Michigan during which a group called Bash Back invaded a church during mass, carried an upside down pink cross, and shouted ”œJesus was a Homo”! Donohue lamented the fact that none of these ”œgay fascists” was arrested even though the police were called.
Is there some terrible crime wave underway against Christians that isn’t reported by the main stream media? Just how many Christians have been killed this past year in the US because of their faith? To find out, we can turn to a report on hate crimes issued today by the FBI, and covering a variety of hate crimes in the United States in 2008.
The quick answer to the question ”œHow many Christians were killed in the US in 2008 for their religion?” is zero. Not one Catholic, Protestant or any other sect of Christians suffered one member of their religion being martyred for Christ. But seven people were murdered last year in a hate crime: one of them for being black, one for being Hispanic, and five of them for being homosexual or lesbian.
There were 47 aggravated assaults classified last year as motivated by religion. Of these, one was against a Catholic, and three were against Protestants. The rest were overwhelmingly against Jews or Muslims. Compare this to 232 aggravated assaults against gay people, 6 rapes, 501 simple assaults, and 419 cases of intimidation. In every single category of crimes against persons or property (such as arson, robbery, or vandalism), there are at least 5 times more crimes against gay people than Christians, Jews or Muslims.
In terms of the sheer number of crimes, the only thing worse than being a gay person in America is being an African-American, but as gays are statistically a much smaller percentage of the population than blacks, the odds of suffering a hate crime is much, much higher for gay people than anyone else in this country.
And the least persecuted people? Christians. Christians aren’t being dragged out of their homes, hung up on crosses, burned alive, beaten senseless, raped, or dragged behind pick-up trucks along country roads. But gay people are ”“ there are documented cases of these crimes. And every year, blacks and Hispanics are victims of similar horrors.
There were 25 aggravated assaults against Jews in the US last year. There were 822 instances of vandalism against Jewish synagogues and cemeteries. There is definitely a place in American society for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.
But this country does not need a Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, nor the Christian League, crying wolf over an imaginary wave of anti-Christian discrimination and hate crimes. The mere presence of these organizations not only diminishes unfairly the true suffering that is inflicted every day on victims of hate crimes, it demeans the Christian faith by basing charges of Christian discrimination on lies.
The fact is, the United States is indeed overwhelmingly a Christian nation. Every neighborhood has a church, and all of them operate tax free, even if they try ”“ as many do ”“ to influence voting in the US. Christian broadcasting is to be found any time of the day and any day of the week on television and radio. Christian leaders like Bill Donohue are given enormous amounts of free air time to broadcast their views on news and opinion shows. Victims of hate crimes barely get a mention in the newspapers, and even the FBI admits their reporting process picks up only a fraction of the hate crimes committed in this country.
What these Christian churches need to do is stop pretending to be victims of a crime wave that doesn’t exist. They should stop teaching their children to expect to be victims of discrimination and hate crimes. They should pick up their Bible and ponder carefully what Jesus taught them ”“ it is the despised and weak in society who are the victims of discrimination and oppression. It is for them he undertook his mission, not the wealthy religious leaders who proclaim their personal virtues and suffering at every turn while ignoring the plight of others.