This article comes from a place to see the prisoners freed, the oppressed empowered, and the peoples of God united.
Oppression is the suppression of the ability to live freely, safely, and comfortably. It is a forced endeavor, endemic to many systems of economics and governance, such as fascism.
Oppression can look like Israel’s occupation of Palestine, or threatening trans* youth for attempting to come out. It can look like locking people away for minor drug charges or stigmatizing mental illness to the point of suicide.
Many Christian pundits these days are arguing that the Church is oppressed. That the American church is being systematically targeted by the State; that the American church heritage and belief systems are being dismantled by a socialist named Obama.
Oh God if only…
Rachel Evans wrote a compelling piece deconstructing the arguments from the right concerning church oppression. She argued that this “persecution complex” is both disingenuous and wrong. And while I partly agree, I want to clarify something- the body of Christ is under attack, it is severely bleeding and broken, and the perpetrator of this violence is the White American Church.
Mike Brown’s family is Christian. In fact many of those killed by police this past year are a part of the proud Black American Church. They were murdered by white officers. Many of them Christian. This Christian persecution of Christians is brought on by external economic realities that do not adversely affect the church claiming persecution. The church that desires to fly the Confederate flag, hide under white sheets like cowards, ignorantly accost Muslims, and expand America’s imperialist nationalism is not concerned with the social and civil rights of the very people Jesus said we are brothers and sisters with. Christian on Christian violence is not the answer to our society’s ills, nor is it the message Christ sent to us.
Christians stuffed into tiny jail cells for minor drug infractions. A war on drugs designed specifically to target black and brown communities; “a genocide in slow motion” (The House I Live In). The white church is entrenched in segregation. It is a reflection of the modern American society. It is not at odds with the state (hell, all presidents have been Christian, and most politicians claim to be people of the book), rather it corroborates state violence with hateful theology not befitting the God of community, love, compassion, and forgiveness.
Christians with mental illness are often persecuted, as I was, for not being closer to Christ, or for seeking treatment outside of the Church. I was close to Christ. But I needed medication and therapy. And millions of Christians like me are struggling with suicidal thoughts, yet the only guidance we often receive is patriarchal, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, theology. It further piles on guilt and implied distance from community and God.
Let me say this, if someone says they feel lonely and distant to people and God, please, please, please do not encourage them to take ownership of their distance from God. It is not our fault that God is not near…
Women in the Church still face great oppression. Many are pressured into fitting a certain body image mold, and most are taught to be timid and agreeable counterparts to the patriarchs of the family, be they the father or husband. This often leads to physical and emotional abuse. Plus it illustrates a way that the church fails half of its congregants.
Many LGBTQ people identify as Christian. And yet the the mainstream church has disenfranchised this part of the family of God. People who, because of Christ’s sacrifice, are literally equal to Jesus in the eyes of God. And yet these homophobic tropes burst from the pulpits and the state houses decrying a moral deviation shrouding America. Really, it is that hate and ignorance that destroys the Church’s veracity in claiming to be a religion of love, forgiveness, and community.
Let us not forget our Arab Christian siblings, who seem to only matter to American Christians if they can use their misfortune and death to vilify Islam. Nevermind that Israel has killed more Christians than ISIS, and that The U.S. even outdoes Israel in this regard thanks both the war on drugs and war on terror; all we hear from the Church are prayers for the victims of ISIS.
Another member of the Christian body are undocumented immigrants, many of whom are Catholic, crossing the border in hopes for a safer and more prosperous future for themselves and their family. The church should be at the front lines here, welcoming our family in, dining with them, helping find work, marching for equal pay, and amnesty for the travelers. For Jesus was an undocumented refugee- what will he say when the Church leaders come to him with their history of blocking support for the rights of immigrants: Thanks for “defending” the nation of America, or shame on you for dividing the body of Christ?
And of course Christians living in poverty. Homeless on the streets or struggling in section 8. Working several jobs, taking care of kids- and where is the church to aid in fighting for a fair wage? Where is the church while we fight for $15/hr for all laborers? Where is the church when we ask for salary caps on the rich? Where is the church when we ask to keep schools open in poor neighborhoods? I’ll tell you, it is right there. These people are the Church, and it is the affluent white conservative Church that wages not just a culture war, but an economic war on the people of our own family…
The state is attempting to break the church. And it is succeeding. Not because of Gay Marriage mind you, but in the forms of the privatization of prisons, policing for profits, the war on drugs, the racist rhetoric towards undocumented immigrants, the backwards understanding of mental health issues, and the regressive theology towards women in the church- all of this with extreme political power to theocratically oppress people of difference.
The Christian Church in America is under attack by the Christian Right in America.
Christianity must be oppressed. We must step in unison with Christ and his disciples, fighting bigotry, greed, the accumulation of wealth, violence, imperialism, nationalism, racism, and sexism. We must die for these causes, with the people who are being murdered, threatened, cast out, and imprisoned. Our voices, we raise with the power of God, to challenge corrupt organizations like the Gospel Coalition and the Acts 29 Church. We challenge these white institutions of American nationalism to stand up for what is true about the family of God, that we are all as one, and in division we blaspheme the Holy Spirit’s directive, making communion a senseless act.
White Christians should be oppressed by the state. But we aren’t. We should be a part of the anti-war struggle, encouraging people to drop out of the military and join the varied international struggles for peace, justice, life without poverty and full of community and love. We should be a threat to the status quo. To the racism that seeps from every crevice of American society. Yet the GOP, the Christians in political leadership, have misdirected the gospel and preached false words to the people of God.
They have blood on their hands, they have divided, killed, imprisoned, and deported the church. They have sent youth to war in the name of a God who absolutely despises violence to kill their own family around the world.
Well if it’s war they want, it’s a war they should get. One waged with a furious forgiveness and incredible courage that does not fear their state sponsored, corporate funded terrorism and hate! A war fought on God’s terms of sacrifice and reconciliation.
May the Church be united, and rightfully persecuted…