I’m not surprised that Archbishop Rowan Williams is getting some grief from some commentators for his premise that some maturity is needed to bring perspective to Christian so-called persecution in Britain and the US.
The retired AofC on the notion that some people poke fun at Christians:
You have to earn respect if you want to be taken seriously in society.
But don’t confuse it with the systematic brutality and often murderous hostility which means that every morning you get up wondering if you and your children are going to make it through the day.
That is different, it’s real. It’s not quite what we’re facing in Western society.
What Christians do face are challenges to beliefs, lifestyles, and sometimes, the poor ways in which we present ourselves to the world. Should we speak out or shut up?
I think Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith makes an interesting point:
Lord Williams, who I admire, has said something that will give comfort to the enemies of the Church: he has added substance to the argument (if it can be called such) that Christians want special priveleges in society and complain that these are being eroded in the name of equality. Moreover, he has implied that we are spoiled and selfish, in that our complaints are nothing compared to those suffering abroad.
Speaking from the Catholic perspective, I think we have a sense of entitlement. We should get all the separated believers back to our flock. It should go perfectly well for us. We belong in heaven.
Fr Lucie-Smith thinks we’re in a no-win scenario:
If we defend ourselves, we are self-pitying complainers, and if we do not defend ourselves, we will suffer too.
He may be right.
It’s certainly correct that suffering comes into one’s life no matter what one does. The avoidance of suffering, criticism, and obstacles is impossible. So we accept that.
Christ accepted that. But the sacrifice of Christ is intended less as a portal for Christian existence (or, heaven forbid, privilege), and more as an example of what was done for us–something we should also do for others.
The Christian call is not to defend ourselves. The Christian call is to defend others, to stand up for those who have difficulty standing up for themselves. Fr Lucie-Smith writes of battering husbands. Good point. It leads us to this call: Christians stand up for others who are bullied. We stand up for those who lose their jobs unjustly, who struggle to put a meal on the table for their kids, who can’t get medical care for their loved ones.
On one level, yes: we decline to defend ourselves. We defend others to set an example for Christian belief in the world. Fr Lucie-Smith brought up the ridiculed Ronald Reagan as an example. Instead, I’d look to a figure like Mother Teresa. She cared for people who couldn’t care for themselves and I don’t recall her being the object of ridicule. (She also didn’t make comments about ketchup, but that’s another story.)
Have we given comfort to the enemies of the Church? Somehow, I think the most dangerous adversaries know what’s going on before we struggle to admit it.
I think the Christian stance in society has to go far beyond making a smarter case for the Christian way. It has to transcend the logic of the world. That’s why the way of Christ is going to call us to something different, something unexpected, something more like the Master.
So yes: Christians should defend the persecuted. Only when they are not us.