Just how should believers respond to persecution?
Hmm, some things are worth writing about – and often. The rise and rise of anti-Christian bigotry, hatred and discrimination in the West in general is one such topic. So too is the ruthless hounding out of a job by bedevilled Christophobes in particular.
As such, this is now my fourth piece in two days on the terrible case of injustice and woke McCarthyism that Andrew Thorburn has just been through. The new CEO of the Essendon footy club was only there for a matter of hours before the misotheists and secular left bigots drove him from his job. Just in case you still do not know what I am referring to, have a look at the three previous pieces:
What I want to discuss here are the various responses Christians have had to his so quickly stepping down. Some have been quite critical of him, arguing that he should have stood up to the bullies and not caved in so easily and so quickly. Others have said he did the right thing, and was brave to put his church ahead of his job.
For what it is worth, out of my three articles I only wrote one line on my views on this matter. As I said in my second piece: “While I think he should have stayed and fought this blatant anti-Christian bigotry and hatred, it is up to him to decide which way to proceed.”
That discussion will undoubtedly continue. And it raises bigger issues for the believer. For example, when persecution comes, how should we respond? Should we stay and fight or should we just give up and flee? I have discussed this before, as in this piece: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/11/07/fight-or-flight/
As I state in that and other articles, the Bible gives us cases of believers going with various options. Sometimes they would just leave when persecution came around. Sometimes they would stay and take what was happening to them. And sometimes – where possible – they would even seek to stand up for their rights, and make some sort of legal appeal. So all three can be viable biblical options.
Returning to the path that Thorburn took, I guess I tend to side with those who think he should have stuck it out a bit more and put up more of a fight. While I realise it may be easy for me to make someone else into a martyr for the cause, and he hopefully did what he felt was best, there are at least two bad outcomes of his decision.
One, this will certainly embolden the Christophobes. When they see how easy it is to get some big Christian leader to step down, that will just be further energised to keep up the witch-hunts. ‘Great, we got rid of him so easily – now let’s go after all those other pesky Christians.’ So he may have just provided some real encouragement to his – and our – foes.
And two, many other believers may waver in their commitment to stand strong. Had Thorburn perhaps hung in there, that may well have stiffened the spines of other Christians. But by seemingly caving in so quickly and not even putting up a fight, this may deter other believers from standing strong. They may end up raising the white flag of surrender as well.
I have long said that believers need to grow a backbone and learn how to stand for their beliefs, even if costly. We have too many spineless wonders among us, and we capitulate far too easily. I am not saying this is what Thorburn may have done, but I see it far too often in our churches.
And I have also said plenty of times that the approach of some Christians to just try to be nice, to smile a lot, and be winsome does not really cut it either. Sure, we remain polite and so on, but just hoping that if we are really nice and friendly the other side will leave us alone is a pipe-dream. The more easily we are intimidated, bullied and pushed around, the more they will do this to us.
So we need real wisdom and discernment here as to how we should proceed in these dark days. And some bits of counsel from our leaders can be better – or worse – than others. Consider what one such leader just said on the social media: “I’d be taking sermons offline into the future if I were a pastor committed to biblical preaching. Just for the sake of those in your congregation who might lose their jobs through guilt by association.”
While the fellow who said this is normally a solid and conservative Christian, I find this bit of advice to be far from helpful. It really does seem to be a counsel of surrender. Indeed, will folks like this next suggest that sermons first get checked out by the state, to keep us safe and secure? Self-censorship is NOT the way to proceed here.
And if the main concern is to keep folks from losing their jobs, then they should probably just ditch their Christianity altogether! Being an outspoken Christian has always been costly. Many have not just lost their jobs but their very lives. Seeking to tone things down and play it safe so we can hang on to our careers is not exactly the advice the prophets, Jesus or the disciples would have given.
They said the exact opposite. They said we should be willing to lose everything for the sake of the gospel. And millions have over the centuries. Now is not the time for words of surrender or compliance. Now is the time to hear about the great need for brave, bold and fearless followers of Christ.
As my friend Ben Davis just wrote about this matter:
Dear pastors, do not follow the advice of cowards urging you to hide Jesus from the world. Do not treat us as though we haven’t counted the cost of following Christ. Our brothers have taken the Gospel into harder places, and they were willing to suffer more than the “top job.” The enemy wants you to retreat, not God. The enemy wants you to fear, not God. The enemy wants you to value your career more than the truth, not God. Surrendering at this point not only empowers the enemy, it demoralises the church. Double down on the truth and we’ll have your backs!
“We are able to overcome it!” (Num. 13:30)
Amen to that. As to Thorburn, let’s keep him and his family in our prayers. And we all need to think and pray real hard as to what WE will do as the days get darker, as the persecution ramps up, and as the Christophobia reaches new, demonic levels in the West.