by John Ellis
When we apply the word “persecution” to ourselves, Christians in the West are often scoffed at by those on the left. Progressives, including progressive “Christians,” retort that we don’t understand what the word “persecution” means and that we’re simply afraid of losing our privilege. When confronted with that challenge, many Christians are at a loss at how to adequately unpack it. It is true that the vast majority of us do not face what our brothers and sisters in Christ face in Iran, for example. We are not being jailed, beaten, and even killed. However, persecution does not have to rise to the level of martyrdom to be counted as persecution. Overall, the deflection by liberals is a shell-game.
This past year, East Lansing, MI banned a Catholic family from selling their organic farm wares at the city’s farmer’s market (note – a public farmer’s market). Their crime? Holding to the orthodox Christian definition of marriage.
Believing that God has ordained marriage as the joining together of one man and one woman, the Tennes family committed before God to only host weddings on their farm that adhered to His definition. After city officials discovered this, East Lansing passed an ordinance banning the Tennes family from the farmer’s market. The Tennes’ plight is not new, of course; stories similar to theirs have been popping up with increased frequency.
Public/government discrimination based on religious beliefs is prohibited by the Constitution of the United Stated. The first amendment settles it. Or, rather, it should settle it.
Claiming that the Tennes family isn’t allowed to discriminate against those in a same-sex relationship contravenes the purpose of the First Amendment. It’s their farm, their business, and the Constitution forbids the government from penalizing the Tennes for operating their business according to their religious beliefs. Plain and simple.
On the flip side of this, if private individuals want to refrain from patronizing the Tennes’ farm and produce stand at the East Lansing farmer’s market, they are free to do so. Private citizens are free to rally each other to not spend money on the Tennes’ labors. If that shuts down the Tennes’ business, so be it. That’s how a free society works. Repeating myself, as well as the founding fathers, the government is not allowed to do so.
Admittedly, the Tennes’ case and the scores of others like it are a far cry from being beaten in the public square and then thrown in prison. But it’s persecution, nonetheless. And it’s not the end. While the left is busy scurrying rhetorical shells around, they are slowly building steam and are solidly on the beginning of the road of the persecution of Christians. Just because a thing is at the beginning, that doesn’t make it less of a thing. Unless God intervenes, the rolling waves of persecution directed at Christians in America are only to swell to larger and more intense levels. Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Christopher Van Hollen Jr. of Maryland harbingered that truth yesterday during the confirmation hearing for Russell Vought who has been nominated by President Trump as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
During the hearing, Bernie Sanders grilled Vought over an article he wrote for The Resurgence. Vought wrote the article in response to the controversy at Wheaton (Vought’s alma mater) over remarks made by a professor about how Muslims and Christians worship the same God. In the article, which is linked to here, Vought outlined the basic Christian belief that there is only way for sinful humans to restore relationship with our Creator, and that way is through the repentance of sins and faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Any religion that denies that does not, in fact, worship the same God as Christians, and, for the record, Islam denies that. Flat out denies that, and it’s absurd to claim otherwise.
Senator Sanders and Van Hollen took umbrage with Vought’s article. After querying Vought over his orthodox Christian belief, Bernie Sanders concluded, “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about.”
Upping the ante, Senator Van Hollen astonishingly said to Russell Vought, “It’s your comments that suggest a violation of the public trust in what will be a very important position.”
In other words, two sitting US Senators have now introduced a religious test for those who would hold public office. It’s shameful, frightening, and, make no mistake, it’s going to matter. (Joe Carter has written a more in-detail account of the hearing for The Gospel Coalition, and I encourage you to read it.)
Russell Vought expressed the belief that Christians have held to for over two millenniums. And, as the founding fathers of this country understood, although many (if not most) of them were not Christians as the Bible defines a Christian, Vought’s belief that there is only one way to God does not, by necessity, impede his ability to faithfully serve the public trust with integrity. Likewise, and I’m saying this as a fundamentalist Christian, being a committed Muslim does not, by necessity, impede an individual’s ability to faithfully serve the public trust with integrity. In fact, feel free to plug in Judaism, Taoism, Hinduism, Atheism, or any other religious “ism” into that equation.
As a Christian, in fact, because I’m a Christian, I do not want a religious test for those who would hold public office. Down that road lies persecution. This is the very reason why James Madison and Thomas Jefferson supported and pushed for a separation of church and state. They watched Baptist ministers in Virginia be persecuted by the State because of their faith and their failure to pass the religious test.
All Americans should be deeply disturbed by what’s happening in this country and most definitely by what happened yesterday during the Senate Confirmation Hearings for Russell Vought. However, Christians should expect this. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth that the world views the gospel of Jesus Christ as folly and foolishness. King Jesus told his followers that the world will hate us and persecute us. For the last two-hundred-plus years, by God’s grace, that hatred of Christians has been kept in check within the borders of the United States of America. That doesn’t appear to be changing, that is changing.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, outside of divine intervention, we are facing a future of increased persecution in America. If you aren’t already doing so, please begin praying for the grace and faith to find your full and complete identity in Christ. Pray for the grace and faith to have the courage to stand firm in your identity in Christ as broader society seeks to weed us out and partition us away from the public square. Please come quickly, King Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria
(You can watch the confirmation hearing here. The relevant remarks begin at around the 44:20 mark.)
 It’s important to note that they are not discriminating against same-sex attracted individuals. The Tennes family will happily sell their goods and services to a same-sex attracted individual. They are, however, discriminating against an event that they believe is a sin before God. There is a difference. And for you professing Christians who are sputtering, “But, but, but …. What about grace!?” Grace never, and I mean never, turns a blind eye to sin. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross.
 For the record, if you believe otherwise, if you do not believe in an exclusive soteriology that only allows for relationship to be restored between sinful humans and a holy, just God to be accomplished only through repentance of sins and faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then you are not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word.