Most Christians like to think they would die for Christ, that they’d happily go down in a hail of executioners’ bullets shouting “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” And maybe they would.
But what if the persecution were more subtle than that? What if the temporal and spiritual powers who oppose the faith understood that outright persecution would only fertilize the church with martyrs’ blood?
In that case, they’d switch up their tactics, and that’s generally what they’ve done. Roman persecutors didn’t set out to exterminate every Christian from the empire. Instead, they insisted Christians could practice any religion they liked as long as they burned a pinch of incense to Caesar. You have religious freedom, the authorities insisted, as long as you publicly affirm the values of the regime.
The Soviets used similar tactics, as Rod Dreher documents in his book “Live Not By Lies.” Communist judges mocked Christian dissidents who complained of persecution. After all, no one was stopping them from attending church. They had the freedom to attend services, partake of the sacraments and listen to KGB-approved sermons. But freedom of worship is not the same as freedom of religion. Christianity makes demands on its adherents that go far beyond the four walls of a church building.
This anti-Christian gaslighting is now on full display in woke-occupied America.
In 2022, the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) denied a woman’s application to adopt on the grounds that her Christian beliefs would render her unable to “respect, accept, and support … the sexual orientation, gender identity, [and] gender expression” of any child she adopted. The ODHS knows full well that religious discrimination is illegal, so obviously they regard saluting the Pride flag (the modern equivalent of burning incense to Caesar) as compatible with Christianity. The would-be mother, of course, disagrees and is suing the ODHS. (RELATED: Single Mother Files Lawsuit After State Allegedly Denies Adoption Due To Her Christian Beliefs)
The state of Oregon refused to allow a Christian mother of five to adopt two children after she said her religion would not let her take a young minor to receive cross-hormone injections. @ADFLegal https://t.co/jBnes4uxE8
— Family Research Council (@FRCdc) April 6, 2023
In February, a “bilingual, disabled, neurodivergent Queer Black Latina” Arizona school board member named Tamillia Valenzuela used a similar argument to end the district’s policy of recruiting student-teachers from a local Christian college.
“At some point we need to get real with ourselves and take a look who we are making legal contracts with and the message that that is sending to our community, because that makes me feel like I could not be safe in this school district,” she said, citing Arizona Christian University’s (ACU) stated belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
No member of the school board even attempted to cite an example of an ACU student-teacher discriminating against a queer student. The decision to deny employment opportunities to these students was based solely on the school’s religious beliefs. And yet, the members who voted to end the partnership still attempted to deny that they were engaging in anti-Christian discrimination.
“For me, this is not a concern about Christianity,” Board Chairwoman Nikkie Gomez-Whaley said. “There are plenty of Christian denominations who are LGBTQ friendly so I want to make it clear that for me my pause is not that they’re Christians so much as this particular institution’s strong anti-LGBTQ stance and their belief that you believe this to your core and you take it out into the world.” (RELATED: Christian University Pushes Back After Local School District Bans Its Student-Teachers Because Of Their Faith)
Did you catch the implication there? Gomez-Whaley is saying that belief in traditional marriage is not an integral part of Christianity. It’s bigotry, not doctrine. Or, rather, it’s doctrine acting as a mask for bigotry. But in making this claim, she’s also made a second, more audacious one: that she has the authority to determine what is and is not true Christianity. The Emperor Constantine was never so arrogant.
Cursed moments from this year’s Interfaith “Transgender Day Of Visibility” vigil at All Saint’s Church Pasadena
First, some congregational singing: pic.twitter.com/kKWG4OPUwt
— Woke Preacher Clips (@WokePreacherTV) April 6, 2023
True Christianity, Gomez-Whaley suggests, is to be found in the queer-affirming denominations. Progressive churches are only too happy to agree. They might be headed for demographic extinction, but in the meantime there’s nothing they crave more than head-pats from elites who would never dream of attending church. These sycophantic court prophets never tire of reminding the regime that everything it loves — abortion, perversion, climate alarmism, race-baiting, child sterilization — God loves, too.
After a trans activist massacred six people at a Christian school, a local NBC affiliate ran a story with the headline, “In Nashville shooting aftermath, local pastor welcomes LGBTQ+ members in search of support.” (RELATED: Madonna To Donate Portion Of Proceeds From Nashville Performance To ‘Trans Rights’ Organizations)
It’s passé at this point to observe that none of this support appears to be directed at the actual victims, but there’s something else worth noticing here. The school the shooter targeted was part of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), a conservative denomination that rejects transgenderism and homosexuality. But instead of focusing coverage on the PCA, the outlet chose to highlight Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church, which is part of the queer-affirming Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA), as the authentic embodiment of Christianity. The message is clear: Non-affirming Christians are heretics; real Christians agree with regime ideology.
Trans activist shot up a Christian school, and the first reaction from media and prog “Christians” was, “Is the LGBT community ok?”
What about us? Is anyone going to check on us? https://t.co/EpKdAY8ITB pic.twitter.com/L1wvPgs5p4
— Grayson Quay ⚓️ (@hemingquay) March 29, 2023
This method has been tried before. The French Revolution attempted to create a tame national church by forcing priests to renounce their loyalty to the pope. The Soviets also tried it briefly with the so-called Living Church, but the experiment fizzled out fairly quickly. Today, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) employs the same strategy. The Party uses its Catholic Patriotic Association to disseminate and enforce the idea that every good Catholic agrees with the regime and that underground “Vatican loyalists” are dangerous subversives.
On Tuesday, news broke that this state-sanctioned pseudo-Church had gone so far as to appoint a new bishop without papal authorization. Soon, it’ll even have its own Bible, in which Christ crushes the skull of the woman caught in adultery, because “if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.” Yes, really. (RELATED: Christian Fugitives Face Martyrdom In Communist China)
Recent incidents in Oregon, Arizona and Nashville make it clear the U.S. is working out of the same playbook as the CCP, albeit with a softer form of totalitarianism more suited to a country that still pretends to hold liberal values.
These prosecutors won’t nail you to a cross. They won’t even make you stop going to church. They’ll just gradually exclude you from every institution of public life while insisting at every stage that you’re not being persecuted, and if you are, you deserve it for being a bigot. Jobs, colleges, professional associations, government offices and even banks will shut their doors in your face.
As St. Gregory Nazienzen wrote in the fourth century, “you, remaining a genuine Christian, will be ranked among the lowest, and will be in a position unworthy of yourself and your hopes.”
And at the same time, the powers and principalities will gesture invitingly in the direction of the PCUSA, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ and other woke denominations the regime deems religio licita.
Are you ready to withstand that? If not, get ready.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.