A Pepper Grinder Post

Where Will We Die?

modern martyrMy wife is a much better Internet researcher than I am.  She reads various blogs and follows all sorts of interesting links.  I tend to approach the Internet the way I approach the grocery store: get in, get what's on my list, and get out--as fast as possible.  My wife follows rabbit trails, and while this can take a chunk of time, it can also lead her to some interesting things.  One quote she came across recently was the following, which was a statement made by Cardinal Francis George (this has been quoted fully and partially in various places, but one of the best articles we found about the quote was ):

I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.

I was struck by this because it feels so true to me.  More and more, it seems to me that Christians (in the Western world, at least; I'm sure it is much worse in many places) are becoming second-class citizens.  Sure, we have a right to our beliefs--with a few conditions.

  1. We should keep quiet about what we believe, especially when our beliefs have something to do with certain hot-button issues.  Do you believe that people who reject the divinity of Christ face the horrific prospect of a miserable eternity without God?  Quiet, please.  Do you believe that sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful?  Shut up, shut up, shut up!
  2. We must divorce our beliefs from our public life.  Are you a public high school teacher who thinks kids have a right to know about some of the massive problems with the theory of evolution?  Too bad for you.  Are you a butcher, baker, or wedding cake maker who doesn't want to promote lifestyles you believe are wrong?  Tough.  Are you an employer who doesn't want to pay for your employees to end the lives of newly conceived babies?  Shame on you.
  3. We even need to watch out for things we do in private.  This was driven home to me when the CEO of Mozilla was hounded from his position because of a $1,000 donation he quietly made to a group working to pass a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman (see more about that in my posting titled ). 

picnic table in the rainReally, it seems to me that we are getting to the point where any clearly defined rules about what Christians can and cannot do are becoming blurred.  I think we are getting close to the time when people who have the bad manners to identify themselves as Christians are expected to bow their heads and say quietly, "yes, sir" or "yes, ma'am,"  when the ruling trinity of government, media, and academia tells us to do anything. 

And if we don't do as we are told? Gone are the days when the greatest risk for a Christian was that people might think he was a fanatic and might whisper about him behind his back.  More and more, Christians who refuse to bend the knee are beginning to risk losing their jobs or their life savings.  To me, it seems like a fairly small step (depending on how court decisions go) from where we are now to the point where a Catholic bishop might die in prison.

It would be one thing if this had happened because some group had taken over our country and outlawed Christianity.  In that case, it would be clearer what our course must be.  We would be faced with the stark choice of denying our faith or doing what so many Christians in so many places and times have done and are currently doing: suffering.  Instead, though, we have gone through a subtle shift where Christians had to give up a tiny bit of freedom, and then a little more, and a little more.  At these early stages, it was easy to say that the little compromises we made allowed us to be a witness to those around us instead of turning them off with our intolerance. 

I believe that time is past.  It may be that there are still some times and places where we can be respected by non-Christians while living our lives according to the Bible, but I think that pleasant path may be coming to an end.  We will need to decide whether we want people to love us, or whether we truly want to submit to Jesus.  We can be staggering through the street carrying our cross, or we can be one of the people calling down curses on the cross-carriers.  We can't be both.


*Photo of Coptic Christian awaiting execution by Isis taken from a video released by Isis. Still photo posted on