Should Christians ever expect to experience persecution at the hand of Islam on U.S. soil?
If you follow Smyrna Ministries you know that in many countries throughout the world where Islam is dominant, Christians suffer greatly. Whether it be economic and political discrimination, social marginalization, or outright physical antagonism and frequent death, Christians live under circumstances almost beyond our ability to comprehend.
It is not hard to venture both a “yes” and “no” answer to this. On the one hand, political Islam is exerting more power while social and cultural Islam is benefitting from the unwillingness of non-Muslims to appear to discriminate against Muslims. The result is a worldwide shift in the influence of Muslims relative to Christians.
So should we be Pollyanna or Cassandra? Should we be cheerfully unconcerned about persecution here, or should we loudly warn about the imminent ascendance of militant Islam?
Framed that way, of course, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Ordinarily we might yawn at such a banal answer. The key uncertainty may be the timing of such persecution. Pollyanna says ‘not in my lifetime’ while Cassandra says ‘tomorrow’. Though the elements that influence the timing of such a crisis are many and varied, I am reminded of the words of a student of financial crises that seem to apply here.
The late economist Rudiger Dornbusch often warned of how quickly circumstances deteriorate in a crisis even though we can see them coming from a distance. Dornbusch, who was one of the foremost analysts of international economics and observer of many financial crises, said “things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.”
In other words, though Islamic persecution of Christians in this country looks far off, if it does indeed come (as we at Smyrna expect it will), it may well surprise us with its speed once it starts.
This crisis pattern of slow unfolding and rapid hit is not an unusual one. Just look at the recent (and on-going) Greek financial crisis to bear this out. The build-up to this debt crisis has been taking place since the end of the last decade — much longer when you consider Greece’s dysfunctional government and widespread corruption. But it was nevertheless a shock to many Greeks when they woke up several weeks ago to find they could no longer withdraw euros from their bank accounts.
Other examples abound. In the politico-economic realm, the former Soviet Union looked to be a rotted hulk for a number of years, but the speed at which the Berlin Wall collapsed was breathtaking.
In the socio-cultural sphere, the rapidity and decisiveness with which authoritative U.S. institutions have re-defined marriage and embraced “gender fluidity” along with other such “bias-free language” — even after we’ve seen these changes coming since the 1960s — has left many of us asking, “Wait, what just happened?”
These examples suggest that, if U.S. Christians are indeed to experience persecution at the hand of Islam as we see growing daily in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and even Europe, it could come crashing down upon us like an avalanche before we know it. As Dornbusch said, “[the crisis] took forever and then it took a night.”
And, of course, we have a much higher authority than a late economist to validate that spiritual crises descend with stunning speed. Jesus.
Our confidant assurance in His return– for which Christians have waited for two millennia — is described in Dornbusch-like terms in 1 Thess 5:2 and 2 Peter 3:10. Paul and Peter both describe that Christ’s return will be sudden, like a “thief in the night.” Jesus himself confirms this in Rev 16:15.
And don’t forget, Jesus told us that before His return, men would hunt down and kill Christians as a “service to God.” (John 16:2)
The lesson of each of these warnings about the return of Christ is, of course, that we should be prepared for it now even though it may not occur imminently. Are there analogous lessons we should learn from the prospect of persecution from Muslims in the U.S.?
Though there may be many such lessons, foremost among them is for us, too, to embrace the truths of Ephesians 1 and put on the full armor of God as described in Ephesians 6. And the last-but-not-least item of this armor is prayer. As Ephesians 6:18 emphasizes, “[P]ray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. . . be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”