Tom Gilson

Preparing for Persecution

The world is changing on us. Tuesday night after the election results were made known, I tweeted this short word…

History teaches: Bad times are bad. Wrong decisions matter. Still God’s kingdom has survived and thrived in worse times; always will.

… and I went to bed. Wednesday morning I woke up very early, with a lot on my mind.

We have re-elected a President who supports abortion and same-sex “marriage,” whose health care program violates religious freedom by requiring nearly all employers identifiable as “secular” to supply contraceptives (an affront to Catholic religious freedom) and chemical abortifacients (violence to all who believe in life at conception) at company cost to their employees. Same-sex “marriage” was approved by two states’ voters for the first time.

For years I have steadfastly resisted any trend to describe American Christianity under persecution, but I am changing my mind.

America has been polarizing, especially over economics, sexuality, and family. The effect has been a gradual increase in openly expressed hostility toward Christian believers’ values and rights in the public square. I think it’s likely future historians will look at Tuesday’s vote as a symbolic marker of a turning point. Antipathy toward Christianity will accelerate from this point forward.


It’s only a prediction, and predictions are hazardous. I would be happy to be proved wrong. But if hedonism has become established (I use that word advisedly) as America’s official religion, as Jennifer Roback Morse thinks, it will severely limit other religions’ freedoms. Her analysis is right in line with mine. The so-called “culture wars” revolve almost entirely around sex and sexuality: abortion, marriage rights, the hookup culture, sex in the media ranging from raunchy sitcoms to horrendous pornography. There are in fact only two, maybe three domestic political issues in America: sex, stuff (economics), and survival (health of people, health of the planet).

Feel free to call that an exaggeration, but not without recognizing how much those topics dominate the rest. Of these three, Christians are decidedly on the wrong side of the sex controversies, as far as much of society is concerned. Stubbornly on the wrong side, I would add, for not only do we hold a contrary position, we think it’s right. Which is our other sin in the eyes of America: we think there exists truth to which all persons will be held accountable.

For these two sins we are becoming less and less popular.

I have much more to say in analysis, which I’ll be posting over the next days and weeks. What I want to say now is that God is well in charge (see here, for example). If coming events wake up the church, so much the better. Christians in Siberia are actually praying for us to come under the purifying fire of persecution. (I’ve heard that rumored in the past, but I’ve recently come by it on strong authority.) They believe it would be good for us—and they should know.

Our greatest weakness is our sleepiness. We’ve been comfortable. Although we’re a long, long way from the kind of persecution some of our brothers and sisters are experiencing elsewhere around the world, we’re also far more vulnerable to being caught unprepared.

So what do we do? I’ll have a lot more to say about this, too. Here’s a preview of what I’ll have to say about being prepared for persecution:

  1. We must go deep in Christ. He himself is our guide and our sustainer.
  2. We must know clearly what we believe, and why.

  3. We must train ourselves to be able to explain those beliefs and reasons, for we will be challenged on them.

  4. We must demonstrate God’s goodness through self-sacrificial love.

  5. We must act in unity, to the greatest extent possible consistent with our principles.

  6. We must see God as greater than whatever may come our way.

By the way, what if I’m wrong about increasing persecution? Those six points of preparation would be a good idea regardless. I’m praying through a possible change of direction in my writing and blogging, toward making this a much more intentional equipping effort. I’ve made no decisions yet, but you may hear more about it shortly.

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72 thoughts on “Preparing for Persecution

  1. I do believe that you are right. Persecution will increase. It has to. Young people are running away from God and are being brought up to look upon Christians as hinderances to their progressive agenda.

    This may be a good thing for the Church. Although I am not looking forward to it in my comfort zone.


  2. I think you’re right Tom. Interestingly, I just started studying through 1 Peter and learned this morning that when Peter wrote, the persecution of Christians in Rome had not yet reached Peter’s readers. He was writing to prepare them for what was ahead. I think American believers may finally be joining our fellow brothers and sisters in rejoicing in sharing the sufferings of Christ.

  3. Methinks you Americans have way to much faith in your government and what it should or shouldn’t do for the citizenry. Margaret Mead’s wisdom is what we need to be reminded of: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

  4. You’re probably right, Tim.

    But my concern isn’t so much about the government as it is about the electorate. The vote on Tuesday was symbolic of a turning point that was already happening and would have continued with or without the election. More than symbolic, though, it amounted to an endorsement.

    Christianity is still strong here. We’re not fading away, we’re just seeing increased polarization, which will inevitably produce more conflict.

  5. It’s difficult to deal with a culture that wants nothing to do with you on a day-to-day basis, except when it needs something you can give it (i.e. hope). This is likely nothing new under the sun, but perhaps it is more pronounced and vocal today. Here is what I hear from the culture today:

    “Intolerant, bigoted Christian’s, please go away – except when I want something from you. Then, please come close – very close – and work along side me, pray with me, help me and give me hope. And when I’m done with you, please just go away – far away.

  6. This is a very timely post and I agree strongly with both comments 3. and 4. The thing that makes this so much more trying is that people who call themselves Christians inhabit both sides of this great cultural chasm (e.g. Marcus Borg of Oregon State and Dale Martin of Yale).

  7. Tom, hello from the UK, which I think is further down the road you describe than the USA. Bible-believing Christians are having to get used to pretty much being treated as social pariahs by the ‘mainstream’ secular liberalism that is the de facto state religion now.

    What I find harder to take, though, is that in the midst of this we have supposed Christian leaders who claim to follow Christ and yet agree with the world’s consensus at every point where loyalty to Christ ought to make them disagree. Still, I know that the Bible warns us that there will be false teachers just as much as it warns us that there will be persecution.

  8. @ SteveK: Would you say more about when/how you feel that the culture asks Christianity to “come close”? I think I understand the first part of your point—that in general the wider culture has grown disinterested in what they have seen Christianity offer to them. But I’m not sure I understand the second part. Where do you see the wider culture asking Christians to come closer?

  9. Bach,
    In times of despair or need, the culture comes running to Christianity in its various forms – individuals, charities, churches, relief organizations.

  10. “Christians in Siberia are actually praying for us to come under the purifying fire of persecution. (I’ve heard that rumored in the past, but I’ve recently come by it on strong authority.) They believe it would be good for us—and they should know.”

    I agree with them.

  11. Tom,

    I think I have to disagree on about persecution (or future) of Christianity in America. I think, if anything, the population is seeing Christianity as increasingly irrelevant especially in terms of the political side of the evangelical movement. I think what hurt Christianity in America the most was wrapping itself up in a flag and getting tied in and used by one political party for their own gain. Congress has had a crazy low approval rating for years and the evangelical movement being tied to one party…it seems that those low approval ratings would tie over to the political christian movement. I think just because the evangelical movement isn’t “getting their way” (I dont mean this in a bad way) it doesn’t equal persecution.

    For example, Buddhism and Hinduism are not persecuted here, they are just irrelevant to the public as a whole yet they thrive in their own communities. The move towards same sex marriage, marijuana legalization and healthcare (which includes contraception) is not so much hostility or persecution towards Christianity or any other religion it is simply where the country is and seemingly wants to go …

    Christians and Christianity can thrive as much as they want. Churches are still on every corner. God is still on our money. Students still can pray at school. Just as America has to learn to thrive as a weakened superpower so Christianity has to learn to thrive with a weakened political arm. These things are not bad just different…I dont think chrisitans should prepare for persecution just prepare to adapt and change in a different environment…maybe more focus inward than outward?

  12. Noah, my post wasn’t primarily about politics but about differing visions of what constitutes the good, or in simpler terms, different values.

    I agree that “not getting our way” doesn’t equal persecution. That’s not what I was talking about either.

    An inward-focused Christianity is a contradiction in terms.

    By the way, the word “Christian” is a proper noun.

  13. Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. It’s really inevitable–both by way of social trends and of Biblical prophecy. We’ve known this was coming. And we really need to think, as you have, about how we will respond.

    Historically, the church tends to thrive under persecution. I’d bet that the Siberians know this. So we need to be on our knees. Let the weeding process begin–let the tree be shaken. And pray and pray and pray for strength

  14. I was just wondering… there were millions upon millions of people who prayed very hard on Election night to defeat the socialist Muslim* (their words, not mine). Yet, God failed to come through. I wonder how many people woke up on Nov 8 as atheists. How is it that God heard millions upon millions of prayers and either… a.) couldn’t do anything about it; b.) didn’t want to do anything about it, or c.) actually preferred that Obama win.

  15. Same sex marriage is not really about gay rights or marriage it’s a wedge issue… Notice how SSM proponents argue. They don’t rely on reason they appeal to emotions. They try to demonize and marginalize their opponents with pejorative labels (“homophobe”, for example) rather than engage in responsible and reasoned and civil discourse.

    Anti-religious bigotry is what is really behind the push for SSM. For evidence just look at who is showing up on this website to push the issue. It’s all the atheists. Why is that?

    Also notice how they rationalize their bigotry. “We won’t tolerate intolerance.” Actually what they are saying is, “We won’t tolerate what we think is intolerant.” Any disagreement with their agenda is apparently intolerant.

    Persecution isn’t just coming, it’s already here. All it requires is hatred. Hatred is already very much in evidence.

  16. Thanks, SteveK… but is that a problem exactly? If anything, I wonder whether the phenomenon you describe is indicative of the Church having neglected its responsibility & commission to run toward the hurting in love. If people feel they need to come to us in moments of need, is it because we have not done the job Christ modelled for us in the parables of the Good Shepherd?

  17. @ JAD: If anti-religious bigotry is truly the root of the SSM movement, then how do we account for the millions of American Christians who advocate for marriage equality? I find it dubious to call this self-hating behavior.

  18. @BACH (#16)

    I find the pretensions of that type of Christianity to be dubious. I don’t see how any Christian can defend SSM theologically or biblically. I suspect that the so called Christians you’re talking about have a very different kind of theology.

    Your objection still does not address the point why so many atheists are are so eager to jump on the SSM band wagon.

  19. Another possible explanation is that millions of Americans are advocating for “marriage equality” because they don’t understand the Scriptures or what natural law says on it. Or else they’re overwhelmed by the surging emotional pressure to support it. Or any number of other inadequate (though sociologically descriptive) reasons.

  20. I think you have a point, JAD. I’ve come across many atheists who seem to use SSM far more as a proxy for religion bashing than because of any fundamental personal support of or stake in SSM itself. But then, looking at many online atheist forums one might confuse atheism with general religiophobia and religion bashing. I think it’s a problem more with the ideological culture of New Atheism than with a simple atheistic world view, which itself should be fairly benign.

  21. Bach #15,
    My point is that this reality that I’ve described makes it difficult for Christian’s to deal with the culture. The relationship is becoming more strained and divided.

  22. Noah,
    Believe me, if you are a Christian living in the world today, you will be persecuted for your faith. And it’s getting much worse. No offense, but if not, then you are not a Christian.

    Tom mentioned “contraceptives (an affront to Catholic religious freedom)”, in the essay.
    Contraceptives should be an affront to all Christians, not just Catholics. They are integral to all aspects of the ‘Culture of Death’. They promise free, unaccountable sex. After the god of big all-encompassing government, that is the unstated (usually) underlying goal and desire of the modern secular progressive. Protestants really got confused and gave in to an anti-God agenda when it caved in on a clear stance on contraceptives.

    These thoughts have been written on extensively and I now feel more strongly about this than ever. A huge mental shift occurred amongst Christians with the advent of contraception that has impacted far more than I ever realized……

  23. Is “being disagreed with” or even “being disliked” the same as “being persecuted”, though?

    If “widely scattered reports of job loss” are a sign of persecution, would you agree that, say, gays and atheists were persecuted througout the 20th century at least?

  24. What I’m interested in is the trend, Ray, and helping Christians think through what it will take to respond with both truth and grace as events unfold.

  25. The main problem that I see with SSM is that it’ proponents demand that I accept it, or endorse it, even if I have valid reasons for opposing it. So basically SSM proponents are using coercion. What other human right have I, or anyone else, ever been coerced by the law into accepting?

    For example, some of our founding fathers, like Alexander Hamilton, did not want to amend the constitution to include the Bill of Rights. Part of the reasoning was that our rights were natural and already accepted by a broad consensus of people. It was feared that if we started to codify these rights, that might imply that our rights were limited to those rights we had codified.

    Where is the broad consensus the SSM is equivalent to traditional marriage? If your main weapon in advancing your agenda is coercion, how is that consistent with the concept of human rights which have been historically accepted freely and without coercion by the vast majority freedom loving people?

    Any kind of coercion is a form of persecution.

  26. Tom,

    A very thoughtful essay. I have told people for the last couple of years I am more concerned with the state of the Christian church than with America’s political situation. And this without having my head in the sand.
    I agree with your thesis, and believe we will begin to see those who are true followers of Christ drawing closer and following more deeply His way.


    Richard Bush

  27. Richard wrote:

    I have told people for the last couple of years I am more concerned with the state of the Christian church than with America’s political situation.

    I think politics is a side effect. If Christians had been involved as they should have been in the cause of social justice since the early 1960’s the political landscape would look completely different today. Let me be clear social justice is not the gospel but it certainly is an important part of the gospel. Basically, it’s just loving our neighbor.

    Unfortunately, like Essau selling his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34) we have abdicated our responsibility when it comes to the poor, the oppressed and downtrodden. Our “birthright” has been co-opted by people with political motivations. But unlike Essau we didn’t sell it, we let them steal it.

    Is it too late? I don’t think it’s ever too late. But if we are going to have an impact on our society we have to do it for the right reason– compassion for our fellow man, not for political reasons. It will probably take more than one or two election cycles, so we’d better make sure that we have the right motivation.

  28. JAD –

    it’ proponents demand that I accept it, or endorse it, even if I have valid reasons for opposing it

    The Westboro Baptist Church got the full protection of the Supreme Court. Where do you think that WBC doesn’t go far enough? What do you want to do or say that they can’t?

  29. I think that there is a broad misconception regarding the form that “persecution” is taking.
    It’s obvious to others where I work that I am a Christian. I have had folks single me out in both overt as well as more subtle, but very hurtful ways. The hatred is, at times, seething and bitter. This type of bigotry and intolerance is clearly getting worse as the mass culture continues to degrade and as kids see all the caricatures and cynicism on TV, radio, and internet.

  30. William Francis,
    What you describe, gay people have been experiencing forever. No one should be treated that way, whether gay, Christian, or member of some other group. We all need to find ways to disagree with each other while treating each other with compassion and respect.

  31. Is there a worldview out there, a system of understanding reality, that supports that, OS? Is there one that affords a person the ability to hold true to his or her deepest principles while refraining from retaliation against others? One that encourages people to bless even those who curse them? One that puts love even for one’s enemies at the heart of its teachings?

    This is not a gotcha question. It’s serious.

    There are worldview that teach tolerance, which I consider to be a terribly flat and disappointing synonym for “go ahead and do what you want and I’ll try not to let it bug me.”

    There are worldviews that teach resignation, which is as if to say that I don’t really care what I believe, it doesn’t matter that much. I find that to be sadly uninspiring at best, but more often insipid and unrealistic.

    There are worldviews that teach universal acceptance: all ideas and beliefs are to be celebrated in their diversity; it’s just that it’s literally impossible to do that.

    There is one worldview that takes seriously what it means to be who we are, to believe in what we believe in, and yet to love those we disagree with and forgive those who hurt us.

    I think you know of which one I’m speaking.

    I’m nowhere near achieving what I just described, though I make it my goal.

    I don’t know of anyone who perfectly represents that ideal, except that our Founder did. Maybe you do don’t want to buy in to our worldview because we’ve done a poor job living it out. But if you’re really interested in finding a model of being able to disagree with compassion and respect, you owe it to yourself at least to take a long and careful look at history’s best example, Jesus Christ.

  32. Can you still display your religious symbols on your clothing, on your jewelry, on your business signs, on your cars, on your websites?

    Can you still write/direct/produce Christian music/books/films and have them played in mainstream media, sold in mainstream media outlets, watched and listened to on public radio and television?

    Can you still pray and preach in public?

    Can you still be Christian and run for public office?

    Can you still have Christian schools?

    Can you still print and distribute and read the Bible in public?

    Can you still have religious quotations and imagery on our nation’s currency and many of its buildings of law and even use the word “God” in our Pledge of Allegiance?

    Are you still treated the same as a non-Christian in our courts of law?

    Are your churches still given legal protection and tax breaks?

    Can you still live anywhere a non-Christian could?

    Can you still walk around without having to have a giant symbol stuck to your clothing indicating who or what you are?

    Can you still walk around without fearing that you’ll be kidnapped or murdered or stopped and questioned by law enforcement for no other reason than simply being Christian?

    Can you still expect that when someone gives you a blanket as a gift, that it won’t be infected with smallpox?

    Can you still expect that your property (e.g. your house, your car) won’t be seized by the government and that you won’t be forcibly relocated to an internment camp of some kind?

    No? How exactly are you being persecuted??? 80% of the public professes Christianity. How can you be persecuted when you’re in the majority? Doesn’t that mean that you’re just persecuting each other?

    Now let’s flip it around and ask a simple question – in how many states are Christians forbidden from being hired for public office? There are six states that have laws on the books that, if enforced, would prevent atheists from holding public office.

    Discrimination? Perhaps. Persecution? I roll my eyes, sir.

  33. Sault,

    Please do me the favor of not reading more into this post than I wrote there.

    I was speaking of a trend, of a direction that I think things might be going, and of being prepared for it if it does go that way. I was speaking of preparations that are healthy and wise even if things don’t go that way.

    I wasn’t comparing our “persecution” with anyone else’s except once where I said it wasn’t as great as it is elsewhere. (There’s more about that in my link from the word “comfortable” there.)

    So if your point was to agree with me, then thank you for that. I’m not sure, however, what the rolling of the eyes was about.

  34. Treating each other with compassion and respect is completely possible without everyone embracing Christianity, Tom.

    And rejecting your version of Christianity doesn’t mean I haven’t taken a “long and careful look” at it.

  35. OS,

    I don’t know if you read exactly what I wrote. I didn’t ask who could practice compassion in the midst of disagreement, I asked which worldview supports that way of living.

    As you look at reality in the way you view it, where does compassion fit? Again, I’m not asking something about yourself but about reality itself according to your understanding of it.

    There are three possibilities, as I see it:

    Compassion is force-fit into reality. If for example you are a Spencerian “nature red in tooth and claw” type—which is certainly one valid way of viewing evolution—then compassion just doesn’t fit. Richard Dawkins once spoke of how un-Darwinian his ethics were; they’re force-fit into his Darwinianism.

    Compassion is accidental to reality. Reality is what it is, compassion is what it is, and if they don’t have anything to do with each other, hey, at least they are what they are. That’s a rather happy-go-lucky I-don’t-care-to-understand kind of attitude. Reality is not so free to let loose of its various aspects as that.

    Compassion is of the essence of reality. This is what Jesus Christ taught, demonstrated, lived, and died for. And rose again to show that compassion wins in the end—along with truth.

  36. You’ve busted Dawkins for calling the act of raising a child religiously to be ‘abuse’. You explained carefully that religious indoctrination had no symptoms or side effects of any form of abuse, so therefore it couldn’t be called ‘abuse’. I would ask you what aspects of discrimination against Christians here in the United States qualifies as ‘persecution’, compared to the persecution suffered by other groups and populations throughout history?

    I look at the shameful way that we treated Japanese Americans during WWII… we rounded them up and sent them to internment camps just because of their racial background. That is persecution. Try as I might, though, I can’t think of anything in our modern culture that a Christian can go through that compares.

    Do you feel that we are actually on a trend towards rounding up Christians and putting them into camps? Or making them wear giant cross stickers so we can identify them more easily? Or outlawing the Bible, perhaps? Because that is some Scary S*. I don’t want to live somewhere where people are treated like that!

    80% of us are Christian. 80%. How does the 20% discriminate against or persecute the 80%? Almost all of our Congressional leaders are Christian. As far as I know, every President we’ve had has been Christian. We have at least one national anthem with the word ‘God’ in it (“God Bless America”).

    Honestly, I don’t see it. I have speculated before that there is a martyr complex built into the Christian mindset, that there is an expectation that you aren’t doing it right *unless* you are being attacked and discriminated against. I dunno, I just don’t get it.

    On the other hand – what if it isn’t “Christians” but your particular brand of “Christianity” that is undergoing discrimination? Some interpretations are not as popular as others, and not all Christians think alike or hold the same beliefs (and never have, really). So I ask you – when your ideas meet opposition from other Christians, does that count as discrimination?

  37. Sault,


    I have already answered your comparative question, and I have already re-explained that I have already answered your comparative question. If you’re going to repeat the question, it’s rude not to at least acknowledge that something’s been said back in the meantime.

  38. Tom,
    Ok, maybe I’m missing something. You’re saying compassion is essential to reality? That Jesus taught that? That Dawkins et al are incorrect in believing that compassion is retrofitted to reality? Have I got it?

    Does that mean that only Christians can treat others compassionately? Or that Christians do compassion better than others? Christians will be able to be compassionate when others fail? (I certainly haven’t seen that on this site.)

    If we can’t all learn to be compassionate toward others, regardless of our beliefs, then I am worried for the future for everyone.

  39. OS,

    Your first paragraph is on target.

    This does not imply that only Christians can exercise compassion. It only means what it means: that when anyone exercises compassion, what they’re doing makes much more sense in a Christian view of reality than in any other view of reality. Christianity explains compassion; other worldviews do not, as I wrote above.

    Do Christians do compassion better? The historical record clearly shows that Christ-followers have led the way on this down through the centuries: care for the sick, the poor, the widowed and orphaned, the imprisoned, the uneducated, and so on.

    Sociological studies today show that religious persons in general give much more time and money to help others than do non-religious persons. That’s just an empirical bit of knowledge. Whether that’s the whole story of compassion or not I don’t know.

    Compassion does not preclude confrontation. When someone is following falsehood it does no good to give them a hug and say, “There, there, it was the best you could do.” It’s far more loving to show them what’s real and true.

    My ideal would be to do that in a very gracious manner, following Jesus’ example (John 1:14) of grace and truth combined.

    I know we have failed in that often here. We’re only what we are, and I apologize for those failures. I did not suggest you look to us as examples, but Jesus himself.

  40. My worldview explains compassion and I am not Christian.

    I’m not particularly interested in the kind of compassion that leads others to donate time and money. I’m much more interested in the kind of compassion that enables us to recognize and honor the humanity of even those with whom we vehemently disagree.

    I think where you run into trouble with this is in telling your truth to those who disagree with you. Although I understand that you believe that is compassionate, I and others believe that is unempathic and disrespectful. It precludes mutual understanding.

  41. So the best way to promote mutual understanding, I take it, is for me to give up my core beliefs.

    I can see how that would work. It would be a whole lot easier for you to understand me if there were no differences between us.

    What’s harder to understand is how I “run into trouble … in telling [my] truth to those who disagree,” but you don’t run into trouble for telling yours. How does that work?

    If you really wanted to recognize and honor my humanity you would recognize and honor it as I am, which includes my core beliefs.

    I wonder if you’re mixing up a couple of categories, though. There is honoring another person’s humanity, and honoring another person’s beliefs. I respect and honor our shared humanness, but I think your beliefs are wrong. You think my beliefs are wrong. Can we respect and honor our mutual humanity while considering each other’s opinions wrong?

    I think so. I think that’s love in action, as Jesus demonstrated it above all others. I’ve already said above how it differs from wimpy and weak “tolerance.”

    Oh, and before I read your latest comment I was going to add something else in response to your point; and now it’s even more relevant, I think. I know we haven’t always met the ideal of grace in the way we’ve disagreed with you here. Try this, though: go to one of the prominent atheist websites, like Pharyngula or Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution Is True,” or some atheist Reddit discussion. Use a different pseudonym and post something as if you were speaking from a Christian perspective.

    See whether you can detect at least some difference between the compassion with which they treat you there and the way you’re treated here.

  42. JAD, you complained of being forced to ‘accept’ or even ‘endorse’ me-sex marriage and so forth. I’m trying to understand what you mean by that.

    What are you compelled to do, or not do, in your life? Is it just that you don’t want anyone to talk about it near you, or what? I mean, Catholics are already ‘forced to accept’ divorce and remarriage in the eyes of the law. They are allowed to preach that people doing so are comitting adultery. They are allowed to shun those who do, to refuse to hold a marriage ceremony for them, to hold them to chastity. They are even allowed to exhort others not in the Church to join them and take up that standard.

    With respect to ‘gay marriage’, what – specifically, please – are you compelled to do or refrain from doing?

  43. Tom, you wrote, “If you really wanted to recognize and honor my humanity you would recognize and honor it as I am, which includes my core beliefs.” Well, that’s it exactly! You recognize my core beliefs and I recognize yours! But when you tell someone what you consider the truth as the only and universal truth, that is not recognizing and honoring that person’s core beliefs.

    I’m not saying I know the way around this. Like I said, I understand that sharing your truth with others is part of your core beliefs. (Sharing my truth with others in the same way [ie, as the only and universal truth] is not one of my core beliefs, so perhaps engaging in these types of conversations is easier for me in some way?)

    You wrote, “Can we respect and honor our mutual humanity while considering each other’s opinions wrong? I think so. I think that’s love in action, as Jesus demonstrated it above all others. I’ve already said above how it differs from wimpy and weak ‘tolerance.'” Can you give me an example of a conversation that would show how this differs from tolerance?

    Oh, and showing more compassion than some other people at another site is sort of like saying, “I didn’t beat you up as bad as the other guy did, so therefore I’m more compassionate.”

  44. On tolerance:

    On core beliefs: I don’t think you’re fully in touch with your own beliefs. You take it as a universal truth that Christianity (as I practice it) is wrong and should not be believed/practiced that way, and you are evangelizing for that belief.

    But when you tell someone what you consider the truth as the only and universal truth, that is not recognizing and honoring that person’s core beliefs.

    Exactly. That’s what I just told you. I recognize your core beliefs but I do not honor them, at least not in the sense of thinking that they are true or right. It’s no different than the way you are not honoring my core beliefs.

    It almost seems as if you think that when I disagree with your core beliefs I’m doing something fundamentally different than what you’re doing when you disagree with mine. I’m still scratching my head over that.

  45. @ordinaryseeker:

    My worldview explains compassion and I am not Christian.


    (before you protest, I am not claiming, implying or even suggesting that you are lying)

    Maybe you do not know what explanation is, but your worldview explains *nothing* like compassion in any way at all.

    But there is a point Tom made which you missed. On your view, compassion is justified by some goals you have set for yourself. Let us assume that your personal justification for these goals works — it does not, but let us just assume it for the sake of argument. It still is a matter of fact that compassion is *just* your private choice of goals. Nothing in the universe as you view it, nothing in humanity as you view it demands such a choice. As an act of your sovereign, free will (a contradiction in terms under naturalism, but let that pass), you *choose* to believe in such things as compassion as worthy goals to pursue, but the plain matter of fact is that there is nothing in the objective nature of reality that implies it, demands it, or justifies it.

    One of the greatest American poets of the 20th century, Wallace Stevens, has a famous adage:

    The final belief is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly.

    I love Steven’s poetry but I disagree with this as violently as I can. And yet it applies to *you* and all those like you to a T. What you believe *is* a fiction, meaning a mere construct of the mind, which you know it is a fiction, because as Stevens’ so aptly remarks “there being nothing else”. And you believe in it willingly and then even go on to provide all sorts of a posteriori justifications (all of them dismally bad, but let that pass).

    Here is the difference with Christianity: compassion and love are at the core of the fabric of the universe. They are not fictions in which we believe willingly, there being nothing else, but rather the very stuff of it, because God, the ultimate substratum of reality and its very upholder, *is* Love, *is* compassion, and He showed it in a distant day, in a solitary dreadful place aptly called Golgotha, or the place of the skull.

    You will say that this is all Christian invention; that is not the point. The point is that for the Christian, love and compassion are not accidental features of reality, the private arbitrary choices of human wills, but the very stuff of reality. There is a deep ontological difference, a world of difference, a chasm that “cannot be bridged” (to recall the words of Abraham to the rich in Jesus’ parable of Lazarus) between you and us. To repeat myself, this is not a question of “moral superiority” (there is none, although you do enjoy the pose) but of fundamental metaphysical, ontological difference of worldviews.

  46. GR, you wrote that there is, “…a chasm that ‘cannot be bridged’ between you and us.” My fear is that this is true. I came here to this site to try to understand the perspective of those who believe as you do, the Christian right, to try and find areas of agreement or at least areas of potential compromise. I don’t think I’ve found any.

  47. Tom, you wrote, “You take it as a universal truth that Christianity (as I practice it) is wrong and should not be believed/practiced that way, and you are evangelizing for that belief.” I apologize if I’ve given you that impression. I don’t believe it is “wrong” in the sense of being morally wrong (please put our difference in morality aside for the moment); nor do I believe it should not be practiced.

    Sure, I’d love it if more people believed as I do, but I’m not interested in “evangelizing” for my beliefs. I will disagree with people who think differently about particular issues than I do, but changing their core beliefs is not on my agenda.

    You think honoring another’s beliefs means believing them?

  48. I think it’s less about persecution, and more just that Christianity and religion in general are gradually sliding into irrelevance. Those that are serious are becoming more “fundamentalist” in their beliefs, but the vast majority are becoming more secular or even atheists.

    Religious people will never be persecuted for their views, especially in the west, but they may feel like their beliefs are becoming more and more in the minority.

    I can see how this might be alarming.

  49. Ray @ 43,

    If I disagree with the gay life style and gay agenda, do I have the right to refuse to endorse it in any way?

  50. Chris,

    Religious people have always been persecuted for their views, all over the world, even in the West. I have friends in America here who have been persecuted for their views.

    I don’t know what you mean by irrelevance, either. On any of the usual definitions I can think of, there is no such slide underway. Maybe it’s just that I’m not able to figure out what you mean, though, and perhaps you’d like to expand on it some.

  51. Tom,

    By irrelevance, I mean that more and more people do not hold strong religious views, and as such, it plays less and less a role in everyday life. The more people that think this way, the harder it will be for the minority that are becoming MORE religious to adjust as the world changes around them.

    There was a recent study that reported 1 in 5 Americans now have no religious affiliation at all.

  52. JAD –

    If I disagree with the gay life style and gay agenda, do I have the right to refuse to endorse it in any way?

    Define ‘endorse’. What actions, statements, financial transactions, or whatever will you be forced to undertake, or forbidden from undertaking? I assume by ‘endorse’ you don’t mean, “I’m JAD and I was forced to endorse this message” on the end of a TV commercial…

  53. G. Rodrigues –

    Nothing in the universe as you view it, nothing in humanity as you view it demands such a choice.

    Consider the game of chess. There are certain fundamental structures of chess that define it – the ‘rules of the game’. An 8×8 board, 8 pawns per side that move in certain ways, two rooks per side that move in other ways, castling, the initial configuration of the pieces, etc.

    Now, when playing chess, there is no rule that you can’t sacrifice your queen in the first few moves of the game. It’s illegal to move your king to a threatened square, but it’s perfectly acceptable by the rules to stick your queen in front of a pawn at the start of the game. However, if you want to win the game, you shouldn’t do that. There are almost no situations (at least, assuming evenly-matched opponents) where giving up your queen at the start will lead to your victory. Similarly, it’s rarely a good idea to move your king out to the center of the board. It’s usually a bad move.

    Note words like “shouldn’t” and “bad”. They are value judgements. They prescribe ‘oughts’. They are not part of the ‘rules’ of chess. From where do they come? They arise from the combinations of two things – first, the rules and structure of chess, and second, from the player’s desire to win the game. They are *strategic* rules. A player is free to disregard them, but they do so at their peril – it’s unlikely to further their goal.

    Hopefully the parallel to wider life is obvious. We have ‘rules of the game’ in life, too – the laws of physics, for example. We are not free to violate these strictures. (Well, technically, if we find a case where they are violated, we reformulate the laws and our theories to take into account the anomalous case.) Many of them are so well-established that it’s difficult to see how they could be wrong to a significant degree. (Unless you can produce a magic carpet, I think we can expect to have to obey the laws of gravity, for example.)

    We also have desires and goals as well. Some are very basic and inborn and apparently universal (air, water, food, sleep, shelter, etc.) and some are so common that only extremely rare individuals seem not to need them (e.g. the company of other people), and some are deeply personal and not common at all (a desire to write a novel, say). Might there be strategies that would arise from the combination of natural laws, and our own desires? I think there are, and I think they look rather like the basic moral intuitions all people have. I think those evolved in there just like our basic intuitions of physics, our dislike of pain, etc. because they work. They are the best strategies for living together and meeting our various desires and goals.

  54. Ray,

    Define ‘endorse’. What actions, statements, financial transactions, or whatever will you be forced to undertake, or forbidden from undertaking? I assume by ‘endorse’ you don’t mean, “I’m JAD and I was forced to endorse this message” on the end of a TV commercial…

    Here are some examples:

    (BTW none of these examples are me personally.)

    If I’m a photographer who owns her own studio, do I have the right to refuse to do photographs for a lesbian commitment ceremony?

    If I own a tee-shirt company, do I have the right to refuse to do tee- shirts promoting an upcoming LGBT pride festival?

    If I am the sole proprietor of a bed and breakfast, do I have the right not to host a lesbian wedding?

    If I am a pastor of a church, do I have the right to write letters to the editor of my local newspaper that are critical of the gay/lesbian lifestyle?

    If I am an educator, can I write an article, on my own time, followed up by letters to the editor, which uses scholarly research showing the negative down side of the gay life style?

    I’m not asking whether I have a right to be free from criticism, or even harsh criticism, in return. I am asking whether I have the right to be free from any kind of reprisal or punishment.

    For your information none of these people have views that are any where as near as extreme as Westboro Baptist Church.

  55. @ordinaryseeker:

    I came here to this site to try to understand the perspective of those who believe as you do, the Christian right, to try and find areas of agreement or at least areas of potential compromise.

    You have a very strange way of “trying to understand”. You do not understand and I doubt you can understand, since you only think — when you even “think” in the first place, a rare occurrence — by cliches.

    Christian right? Let me share a little bit of personal history: where I live, the extreme left has about 15-20% of the population’s votes. And when I talk of extreme left, I really do mean the extreme left, the direct descendants of the Soviet sponsored Stalinist parties or the splinter communist groups inspired by Mao and Trotsky, the real deal, not the piddling, puny joke of a left you have in America (I presume you are an American, if not my apologies). My fathers befriended these people. I met some of them and played with their children. My fathers even aided one that was a political fugitive during the dictatorship by harboring him in our house for a couple of days. They never saw his face. The shelves of my youth were literally filled to the brim with books and pamphlets frantically printed by the clandestine presses: from Mao’s Red Book to his military strategy writings (which I read alongside Sun Tzu and Clausewitz). Christian Right, as you understand it, in Portugal? Non-existent.

    You have absolutely no idea of what are my political ideas; you lump every Christian in the Christian Right. Catholic social teaching has been variously qualified as “progressive”, “leftist” or “socialist” depending on whom you ask. Christian Right? Giggle. You know absolutely nothing, you cannot mount a satisfying rational justification for any of your claims, you paint Christians with a broad brush, etc. No wonder that you “fear” or that you find no “areas of agreement”; how can you, if you do not even so much as understand, with real, genuine understanding, what you are dealing with?

    note: reposting this. If by some chance, it is a duplicate, could you please delete it Tom?

  56. @Ray Ingles:

    I presume you are the same Ray Ingles that for some time haunted E. Feser’s blog (which does raise the interesting question of why you chose this blog to chime in). Anyway, since you have made your round in Feser’s blog, you should know what the response to your theories is. I will grant you that polishing them with game theory does give it a nice pseudo-scientific varnish.

    If you are not the same Ray Ingles, my apologies and: this is a discussion for another day and let me leave it at that.

  57. @Tom Gilson:

    Hmmm, I posted, and then reposted, a response to ordinary seeker but for some reason it is refusing to appear.

    Is the comment somehow witheld? Should I repost?

  58. GR, you are correct; I assumed you are American and for that I apologize. Most of the rest of your comment is just insult. If you think I am misunderstanding something, explain it in other ways or ignore it, as I do Holo.

  59. Ray,

    Note words like “shouldn’t” and “bad”. They are value judgements. They prescribe ‘oughts’. They are not part of the ‘rules’ of chess. From where do they come? They arise from the combinations of two things – first, the rules and structure of chess, and second, from the player’s desire to win the game.

    This is silly. The game was created with the intent to win built into the game. If you play the game, you ought to do your best to win. That prescribed ought remains there even if the player disagrees. The ought doesn’t originate with the player and the rules – it precedes them.

  60. @Tom Gilson:

    In all honesty, I probably also deserve a slap on the wrist.


    I stick by every word I said to you in characterizing your position. Everything I said is demonstrable from your participation in this blog, which is a matter of public record and is open for everyone to consult and make his judgment.

    Nevertheless, the tone is certainly harsh and here and there, plausibly construed as insulting. I do not apologize for being harsh, but I do if I was insulting. Personally, I do not make much of invective and abuse in public debate; it has in my view a salutary effect of putting emotional pressure to force people to come up with something better. But I understand that not everyone agrees with me, and I even understand that here and there I may have crossed the line — so if I have, my apologies.

    You say you came here to “understand”; well, from my POV, it looks more like preaching — which is fine (a Christian can hardly complain about *that*) — but the plain matter of fact is that you simply do not show any understanding of what you presume to criticize. You have this broad caricature of what a Christian looks like (the “Christian right”) and then you aim your petards at such silly straw-man. Similarly, you do not engage with the criticisms being leveled.

    So my suggestion, instead of being easily offended by every word and give yourself a cheap excuse to *not* deal with the *arguments*, take a long look at yourself and to what exactly you are doing here.

  61. SteveK –

    That prescribed ought remains there even if the player disagrees. The ought doesn’t originate with the player and the rules – it precedes them.

    The analogy is only meant to illustrate a point – that given a desire or goal, and fixed conditions to interact with, ‘strategic rules’ arise naturally.

    Now, chess’s goal is fixed by design, true. But it’s awfully hard to deny that humans have desires and goals. And it’s likewise hard to deny that we have some pretty solid fixed conditions to interact with – like the laws of physics.

    So in turn it becomes hard to deny that ‘strategic rules’ arise from that interaction. If a human wants to live, then given the law of gravity, that human shouldn’t jump off cliffs.

    If there’s such a thing as ‘human nature’ – if it means something to say, ‘she is a human’ – then there could well be strategic rules that arise where humans interact with each other.

  62. Jesus prophesied that anti-Christian bigots would use the legal system to persecute believers.

    “But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers.” NLT (Luke 21:12)

    There is no doubt that those who are pushing Gay rights and SSM are doing so as a way to persecute Christians.

    Here is a relevant article:

  63. JAD –

    There is no doubt that those who are pushing Gay rights and SSM are doing so as a way to persecute Christians.

    I admit to a doubt. What if I were to say, “There is no doubt that those who are pushing ‘religious liberty’ are doing so as way to discriminate against gays”?

    Speaking of which, I meant to respond to your questions but forgot until this reminded me.

    I’d say definitely yes on the last two – and the WBC case seems to establish that. As to the first three, it depends more on the specifics. Churches are free to discriminate against mixed-race marriages but businesess serving the public come under harder scrutiny.

    Personally, I lean towards allowing smaller businesses more freedom to discriminate than large ones. Not sure how to implement that in the laws, though.

    (I will note that my wife’s cake shop has done cakes for same-sex couples without any hassles.)

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