The Myth of Christian Persecution
It is true that Christians were once subject to persecution. However, the Christian faith that the Romans had suppressed eventually became the dominant faith of the Empire. It collapsed in the West (the Empire that is), but the Eastern Empire endured. Christianity survived the collapse of the Western Empire and spread throughout Europe and eventually became the dominant faith in North America.
Oddly enough, some people claim that Christians are being persecuted in America today. Odder still, the folks who make this claim often also claim that America is a Christian nation. To use one example from a reply on this blog:
America is SO OBVIOUSLY a Christian nation. Christians now, who are psycho- persecuted by far left wingers and atheist “Jews” cannot even worship freely without “Chrislam” now invading into their doctrine, as well as left wing and even atheist Jews DEMANDING that they call it a “JUDEO-Christian” nation.
This quote nicely sums up this dual position. First, America is claimed to be Christian nation. Supporters of this view point to the number of churches and selectively quote (thus often committing the Fallacy of Accent) the writings of the founders as “evidence” for their view. It is also typically claimed that Christians are the majority and, of course, most politicians profess a Christian faith. One problem with settling this matter is that there is not an established account of what is meant by “Christian nation.” I will be writing more about this in another post.
Second, it is claimed that Christians are persecuted. As evidence, proponents of this view claim that Christians are denied the right to pray, that states forbid the display of Christian symbols (like the nativity scene), that there is a war on Christmas and so on. However, these claims are often unfounded (such as is the case with the alleged war on Christmas) or exaggerated. In any case, this is a factual matter and can be settled by empirical research.
On the face of it, these two views seem to be at odds. If America is a Christian nation that is awash in churches, then it seems odd that a minority of non-Christians would be able to persecute the Christians. Of course, it is not impossible. After all, South Africa’s majority black population was cruelly oppressed by the minority white population. However, we do not see a powerless Christian majority in America that is being subdued by a powerful minority of non-Christians. Powerful and influential leaders, from the President on down, claim to be Christians. Churches with great wealth and influence abound. Christian business people, academics, scientists, lawyers, police, soldiers and other professionals abound. If all these Christians are being persecuted, they do not seem to show signs of this persecution and to allow it to happen in the face of their power, influence and wealth would show an amazing ineptitude on their part.
This is not to say that some Christians do not feel persecuted. However, this often seems to be caused by a distorted perception of reality (like the war on Christmas) or by the belief that a failure to get what they want (such as prayer in schools) is a form of persecution.