I was reading about the Irish Mass Paths, the secret paths that Irish catholics had to use to attend Mass. These people had to worship in secret because if they were found in violation of the religion laws, they were killed. Priests were hunted by bounty collecting “Priest Hunters” and brought dead or alive.
The last of these anti-Catholic laws was not repealed until 1920.
How does one man so hate another man’s religion that he will kill to suppress it? Why is another man’s relationship with God so important that I want to force him to pretend to approach God a different way.
Christians, especially, should have been free of this kind of attitude. We are told, repeatedly, in the New Testament, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant. To his own master he standeth or falleth” (Romans 14:4)
It even violates common sense. When I am judged by God at the end of time, He won’t ask me my opinion of anyone else, nor will God ask anyone else their opinion of me.
I believe that people hate other people’s religion not because of the religion, but because religion becomes people’s “brand.” In order to adapt a certain religion, one is forced by peer-pressure to adopt everything else about that particular sect – from dress styles, to which car to drive, to politics.
Now, some people defend this by saying that your religion should inform the rest of your life. Yes, it should. A Christian who cheats in his business or on his wife is in violation of his faith. But should religion really be able to tell you what clothes to wear, what car to drive, what you think about welfare reform, the death penalty, socialized medicine?
Please don’t tell me that you got all of these opinions from the Bible. Do you have so little insight as to believe that you read the scriptures first and developed your opinion later? If you have some scriptures that you quote about welfare reform, then let me ask you. When did you first memorize those scriptures – before or after your registered your political affiliation?
I started out this post by talking about the persecution of the Irish Catholics. Those who love English history understand that the persecution of the Catholics was NOT about religion. It was about politics. Beginning in the Tudor dynasty, whether you were Protestant or Catholic determined your politics. The reason Mary Tudor was “Bloody Mary” – the reason that she burned so many protestants to death – was because to state the you were a protestant was to, literally, call her a bastard. Simply to say, “I don’t believe in Papal primacy” was to say that her parents were not married and that she was illegitimate – that her mother was a whore.
No wonder Protestants made her so angry.
Similarly, to be an Irish Catholic in the days or Cromwell meant that you declared that the head of the British Commonwealth was a murderer.
So, for hundreds of years of British/English history, simply stating your religion was to personally insult someone.
Religion was a not a belief, it was a brand. It determined everything about you: where you lived, what job you could hold, what language you could speak, what clothes you could wear, who you could marry, how your children would inherit your property.
I believe that turning religion into a brand, rather than a faith, is the root cause of most persecution.
Take, for instance, the Christmas season. We evangelicals are now taught that we MUST say “Merry Christmas” That we should boycott Starbucks because they didn’t have a Christmas tree on their cup. Christmas has become a mark, one of the elements of the Brand of Evangelical Christianity.
But there is no command in the Bible to celebrate Christmas. In fact, for most of American history, simply using the word “Christmas” would identify you as a closet Catholic and someone to be held in suspicion.
America today is increasingly divided into Brands – into (let’s face it) cults. Some of us watch Fox news, wear wranglers, drive pickup trucks, own guns, eat at McDonald’s or Outback, listen to country, pop, or rock music, shop at Walmart, and (this is important) VOTE REPUBLICAN. Another set of people wear skinny jeans, eat at places I don’t recognize, order food that I don’t recognize, listen to music that doesn’t make sense to me. shop at stores that I can’t afford, and rarely go to church, or if they go, they go with a sneer on their face.
So, by declaring yourself an evangelical Christian: a baptist or pentecostal, you have identified everything else about yourself. People think that they know everything. They believe that you listen to Sean Hannity, preach against alcohol, talk against porn, and like Donald Trump.
But, you see, I am an Evangelical Christian and I don’t do any of those things.
But because everyone is branded, is forced into either this cult or that, to merely declare yourself a Christian on a college campus is considered a “microaggression.” Why, because Christianity in America today is not a faith, it is a brand.
If we want to look for the reasons of persecution – and yes, I do see that persecution of Christians is coming – then we ought to look at how we have divided up into camps that hate one another. We are looking, more and more, like England on the verge of the Cromwell Civil War.
This is not going to end well.