For as long as I can remember, creating a fear of a future America where Christians are persecuted has been a part of certain streams of Christianity and youth ministry. Having grown up under that kind of teaching, I can honestly say that it is completely irrelevant to the life of the American teenager and produces no good spiritual fruit.
Teen Mania is no stranger to this persecution fetish and in this video from 2005, we see a Battlecry skit based on that premise. It appears that a young man must endure persecution by the government and because he refuses to give up his beliefs, a woman watching him is saved.
Of course, no Teen Mania skit would be complete without a heavy dose of works based Christianity and this one is no exception…But here is what really boggles my mind:
If you only have a weekend to speak to thousands of teenagers, many of which come from broken homes, are abused, neglected or bullied, are depressed, engage in self-harm, etc. – why would you spend any time at all on the idea that they should be ready to go to jail or die for their beliefs? Especially when the chances of that situation actually presenting itself are slim to none?
In my opinion, this is a prime example of Evangelical Christianity living in a false reality. They create and market spiritual experiences that have NOTHING to do with real life!
Newsflash: There is no grand plan to physically persecute Christians in America. Slight forms of discrimination that may occur from time to time can hardly be called persecution – especially when Christians are actively involved in dishing out that “persecution” to others (gays, the poor, etc.) In fact, the idea that Christians are persecuted in this country is downright laughable considering how much power they’ve had historically and currently. (When was the last time a self-proclaimed Atheist was president?)
What’s the fallout from this war and persecution rhetoric? It’s a fear based spirituality that gives kids an us vs. them mentality. It teaches that anyone opposed to my beliefs is trying to persecute me and I must “stand up for the truth” (usually in an obnoxious way). This mentality prevents kids from seeing the other person as another human worth understanding and getting to know. There can be no compromise or common ground sought because they are the enemy in this great spiritual war. There can be no open-mindedness to new ways of seeing things. There is only entrenchment and fear. Instead of moving towards reconciliation, this teaching further polarizes the two groups.
Could we possibly miss the point any more??
I’m on a journey of rejecting the false reality that was sold to me by so many ministries, including Teen Mania.
Instead of conjuring up end of the world scenarios and torturing myself over whether or not I would “endure,” I’m going to spend my time on living in the reality of RIGHT NOW: learning to live in God’s love for me and giving it to those around me. Instead of seeing others as the enemy, I want to live in the awareness that every person is created by God with inherent dignity and worth and that their opinions, needs and desires deserve to be heard as much as mine do.
Not nearly as sexy as imaginary persecution, and it might not make a great skit, but it sure has a lot more to do with how we can actually experience the kingdom of God today.
And now I’m wondering, is it too much to ask that Christians actually live in reality? And not a manufactured fantasy world??