Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service, Apr.03
American Christians have a persecution complex. Whenever a public figure criticizes the Christian movement or offers believers in other faiths an equal voice in society, you can bet Christians will start howling. Claims about American persecution of Christians are a form of low comedy in a country where two-thirds of citizens claim to be Christians, where financial gifts to Christian churches are tax deductible, where Christian pastors can opt out of social security, and where no one is restricted from worshipping however, whenever, and wherever they wish.
But for many Christians, the “war on religion” is no laughing matter.
Let’s be clear: protecting religious freedom is a serious concern, and believers should speak up whenever they feel the free practice of any faith—not just their own—is threatened. But what is happening in America is not “persecution.” Using such a label is an insult to the faithful languishing in other parts of the world where persecution actually exists—places like the Middle East.
Rather than asking pastors to abstain from endorsing presidential candidates from their pulpits in exchange for tax-exempt status, persecution looks more like the recent experience of Saeed Abendini. The American pastor was sentenced to eight years in Iran’s Evin prison, where it is suspected that he is undergoing beatings, torture, and brainwashing techniques.