It is simply impossible to love others as oneself, to fully empathize with those who truly suffer, and to do all the things Jesus called his followers to do while holding a false sense of victimization.
This fear-induced insecurity and, therefore, defensiveness is quite common today, especially among American evangelicals. It is rooted in the ongoing alarm over social change in generally — and specifically over demographic shifts that threaten the cultural dominance in which a cozy, self-serving civil religion has been established within local to national power structures.
Self-victimization also allows those who feel they have come up short of social or economic expectations to find convenient ethnic, religious or political scapegoats. And, worst of all, false claims of persecution do a grave injustice to those around the world who actually suffer for their faithfulness.
Recently Vice President Mike Pence fostered false victimization when speaking at Liberty University — claiming “religious liberty is under assault,” and warning new graduates they “might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible.”
Of course, Pence meant a very selective interpretation of very selective verses of the Bible — often used by evangelicals to do the very things Pence warned was being done or would be done to them.
Self-victimization is a sad, even pitiful way to express one’s religious holdings — presenting the false witness of a very fragile faith that needs to be propped up by political might.
Odds are that a conservative Christian in America is not experiencing anything close to persecution. We have constitutional guarantees in place.
Something else is at play causing such fear, discomfort and defensiveness.
No, you are not being persecuted because others don’t share your baptized political ideology.
No, you are not the victim when you can’t force your religious beliefs on others.
No, you are not under attack because of laws that protect minorities from discrimination.
No, you are not a martyr because other Christians love their neighbors more than you are willing to do so.
In fact, it might be fair to ask if one can follow Jesus faithfully and be a staunch defender of the dominant culture.
So much of what Jesus said and did went against the grain of the accepted religious and political structures and norms of his time. There’s a reason he ended up on a cross.
At some point we have to decide if we want to fearfully oppose social change that threatens our cultural comforts — or follow Jesus knowing it will be rightfully uncomfortable at times.