Perhaps it is foolish of me to take the bait, but I’m willing to get caught.
Bill O’Reilly is up in arms about the “War Against Christianity.” In an April 2nd, 2015 broadcast, O’Reilly opens up with the recent shooting at a Kenyan University then moves onto a suicide bombing and finally ISIS beheadings–all with Christian casualties. Within seconds, he pivots from “Christians are being slaughtered all over the place” to the “verbal attacks against Christians” in the US. He has the punch of Ali, but none of the grace.
I don’t want to get bogged down in O’Reilly’s broken semantics. He’s been thoroughly criticized in the leftist-liberal socialist secular propaganda media machine. My concern is not the pundit, but the audience. I want to talk to the Christians who think that they are under attack in the United States. And what I want to say to them is this:
You are not the Galilean. You are the Roman Centurion.
Before I go further, I want to give my Protestant American credentials. I was raised in the Nazarene church, attending three times a week. I’ve read through the Bible cover-to-cover at least once. I was a state and regional Bible Quiz champion (NC ’98 and Southeast ’99, baby). I graduated from a private Christian university, originally enrolling as a religion major. What is more, I was once under the impression that my religion was on the defense.
In case your New Testament history is shaky, by the time of Jesus’ birth, the majority of the Western world was under the control of Rome. The Pax Romana was underway and relative peace blanketed the Empire. Yet, Jerusalem was occupied. The Roman military regularly put down Jewish revolts and rebellions, crucifying the dissenters. Rome acted like the most abusive of lovers, grandiose in its generosity and brutal in its retaliation. It was clear: Rome was in charge.
Naturally the Christian church, being born out of these underdog sentiments and proclaimed heirs to the Jewish faith, would retain an identity of otherness and a perceived lack of worldly power. This would be reinforced in the early centuries of martyrdom by the hands of Rome. In that time it could be said that the Christians were, for once, persecuted more than the Jews–but who’s keeping tabs?
This all changed when Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome, had a vision on the battlefield. After his mystical experience, he painted Christian symbols on his soldier’s shields and won the battle. This bloody success would lead him to convert (eventually) and be Emperor of the Christian people. From then on, the Christian church would find legitimacy in Constantine’s reign, experiencing great religious freedom.
Let’s not gloss over this too quickly. Christianity found its footing in a Roman military victory. I’m not saying that the church would have died out without Constantine, but as James Baldwin said, “Know from whence you came.”
The Christian church can’t have its cake and eat it too. It can’t embrace 300 years of persecution and ignore 1700 years of domination. For every Christian fed to lions in the colosseum, there is an Inquisition. For every missionary killed by natives, there are natives killed by missionaries. For every pizza shop in Indiana there are pizza shops in Indiana.
So now we get to the point. When Christians think they have the right to refuse service to a homosexual couple because they “feel uncomfortable” with their lifestyle, it hardly seems likely that Christians would accept the opposite scenario. Furthermore, there is no formal moral code associated with homosexuality, it’s just a lifestyle. However, Christianity does have a very popular Golden Rule that Jesus spoke about twice: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31).
Of course not all Christians have this mindset. And a great majority of Christians I know are selfless, kind, and generous. They are willing to eat with the tax collectors and sinners. Yet, if the church wants to remain relevant and stop hemorrhaging members, they need to shed this defensive victim mentality. In the least, we could adopt the Roman attitude towards religious freedom.
Or think of it this way, hearing Christians complain about their lack of rights sounds like billionaires gripe about the capital gains tax.