The Telegraph, July 22nd 2014 carried an article by historian Tim Stanley. He wrote about war crimes against Christians in Iraq. He focussed particularly on the fact that atrocities perpetrated on Christians seemed to be of little concern to the western world.
I ‘shared’ the article on Facebook. Now any of my posts that smell a little of ‘Jesus’ will be studiously ignored by the majority of my Facebook friends. I’m the embarrassing outlier in my FB social circle. I can be counted on to have an opinion out of the ordinary.
Indeed, I can count the friends who ‘like’ my Jesus posts on one hand . Sometimes on two fingers.
But this article, and two others I shared, were about gross violations of human rights. Would these posts, although they included the loaded word, Christian, be received more favourably? I wrote a teaser preface:
I don’t expect much support for this cause. My friends (apart from those few who are Christian) just about ‘tolerate’ my Christianity, because they love me. But I share the post today, remembering persecuted people anywhere in the world — people of faith persecuted for their beliefs.
Articles posted around the same time, about Israeli aggression resulting in civilian casualties, received a great deal of attention, and many likes. This is the sexy issue of the year and the vote is in. It’s all the fault of the Jews! There is nothing like a little polarization in debate to make life look simple.
But back to the Christians. How many likes. How many comments. OK, let’s take a look. My three posts about violence against Christians in Iraq received, in aggregate, seven likes.
One update about my neck rash received seven likes.
I do not wish to seem ungrateful, or picky, (and I concede right up front that my survey method is flawed) but why does an article I wrote about a mild rash on my neck receive more attention than news about Christian women being forced to wear the hijab or being subjected to rape? Or of Christian places of worship being destroyed by fire? Or of Christians, men, women and children, forced to flee their homes? Or, on and on.
Dr. Stanley writes, Westerners have been trained to think of Christians as ‘an agent of aggression’, not its victim.
There is that, and then there’s just that it’s unfashionable to be Christian.
Popular opinion gets shaped by our cultural icons: the glib polemics of Richard Dawkins; the pure silliness of his comedian equivalent, Ricky Gervaise — their fundamentalist Sunday School presentation of scripture, their clumsy attempts at humor, their stereotyping, their impoverished and superficial understanding of our complex and subtle mystical heritage.
Yes! The earth is 6,000 years old! (Sycophantic sniggers of contempt from the studio audience).
If you want to win the football game pray better than the other team! The big umpire in the sky is adding up the score! (Roars of laughter from the arena).
On a personal level I try not to be cross when an atheist tells me what I believe rather than asking me what I believe. I resort to quoting Kierkegard – the absurdity of faith. We can agree on that. Sometimes I do the old Uncle Tom shit-eating shuffle, hoping they’ll find another Christian to bait and leave me alone. I try not to react to the stereotyping, the distortions, the scapegoating. I get a little annoyed sometimes when I’m blamed for the Crusades; pedo priests; hateful attitudes towards gays, lesbians, transgendered people; misogyny; and so on. I’ve had my spiritual practice likened to belief in fairy tales, explained as my hiding from the truth and my defending myself against the inevitability of death. I would be lying if I said it doesn’t bug me. It is uncomfortable – persecution, even a flea bite sized persecution eats you up And the personal is political.
The persecution of Christians in Iraq is political. It is about the use of power, the misuse of power, the failure to use power when necessary. Dr. T. Stanley again:
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has compared the suffering of Middle East Christians with Jewish pogroms in Europe and reminded everyone of the words of Martin Luther King: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” It would indeed be awful to think that the West might remain silent as violence rages purely out of a failure to recognise that Christians can be victimised, or out of a reluctance to cast aspersions on certain brands of Islam. It would make this the first genocide in history to be tolerated out of social awkwardness.