The Path to Persecution

In the present culture wars it has become a regular practice among the armies of the politically correct to vilify those who defend historic Christianity. We are blamed for being exclusive, homophobic, racist transphobes.

If we attempt to disagree politely and encourage rational argument, we are blamed for being white supremacists because being calm and rational is “white.” The irony of this name-calling bullying is that it comes from folks who hate bullying and whine constantly about being victims.

It is always cowardly and immature to play the victim card, but at the same time we should be aware of the path to persecution. It follows a clear, historical pattern.

Blame

The first step is blame. The person who feels victimized blames another person for their pain. The next step is to blame an entire group of people. It is not this bad woman who hurt me, for example, instead we begin to believe all women are bad.

Once a whole group is blamed for the pain we feel, it is much easier to move on to the next stages of persecution because the dignity of each individual person is subsumed and obliterated by their membership in the larger group. I no longer see this particular black person. I just see black people. I no longer see this rich white man I only see all rich white men.

Once the evil is projected onto a whole group the resentful victim feels justified in vilifying the whole group.

Vilification

The next step is crucial and frightening. As long as the blame is aimed at one particular person it is still possible for the one who feels victimized to give that person the benefit of the doubt and to perhaps see that they too share in the problem. Once the blame is shifted to the whole group the person who feels victimized will also feel overwhelmed by the size of the “evil” group. This pushes their fear and anger onto the next level of intensity.

Furthermore, at this stage the person who feels victimized will also begin to see their resentment as a good thing and themselves as a righteous martyr. Once they start to see themselves and their blame of others as a good thing almost any level of evil can take place. Indeed, the greater the evil the more righteous they will feel. In their own mind they have moved from “poor victim martyr” to “courageous warrior for justice!”

Marginalization

The next step from vilification of the “evil group” is marginalization. This marginalization can take the form of simply ignoring the “evil” group of people, cancellation from social media, being fired from a job, having one’s rights restricted or forcing them to be silent.

Exclusion

After marginalization comes active exclusion. The “evil” group is punished through vandalism against their property, threats against their family or their reputation, false accusations, financial penalties, lawsuits and even personal violence.

Persecution

The final step is active, formal persecution. Members of the “evil” group will be arrested, fined, imprisoned and eventually tortured and killed.

Be assured of this: those who engage in such persecution believe they are doing a good thing. After all, they are the “good” people, and what do good people do? They seek to eradicate evil.

Love Our Neighbors As Ourselves

This fearful dynamic has played out in human history time and again in a multitude of ways. It is a dynamic I outline in more detail in my book Immortal Combat. It is a dynamic that is especially virulent and toxic when it happens in a religious context. Sadly, some Christians through the centuries have been guilty of persecuting others in this way, but in our lifetimes the Christians have more often been the victims of this insidious evil.

All of us should be on our guard and be aware that the path of persecution begins with playing the victim and first blaming others for our problems then bullying them to conform. The answer is for each of us to look in the mirror and ask for the wisdom and enlightenment to see where we share in the blame and take responsibility for ourselves and ask for help to love our neighbors as ourselves and so avoid the downward, destructive path of persecution.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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