2012: The Year of Persecution?

Dr. James Emery White, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

2012: The Year of Persecution?

More Christians will be persecuted in 2012 than any year in recent memory.

The reason is simple.

There is a clash of civilizations between the Muslim world and the predominantly Christian West, and Christianity is moving south toward the heart of the Muslim world.

Now for the details:

Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington presciently saw this conflict looming on the horizon, and called it the “clash of civilizations.” Released before 9/11, his book came out with Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, which received most of the press (featuring the idea that all of history had essentially ended with the fall of communism).

Huntington’s thesis was equally provocative, but more widely dismissed – namely that there were three great civilizations (Western, Asian, Islamic), that there would be great conflict between the West and Islam, and that Islam’s militarism would force much upon the world.

This conflict has been fast-tracked due to a significant demographic. While the Christian population as a whole has remained steady, its distribution has not. Of the 2.18 billion Christians in the world, only 25 percent can be found in Europe. In 1910, about two-thirds of all Christians lived in Europe.

So where have all the Christians gone?

South.

For example, the Christian percentage of the population in sub-Saharan Africa rose from 9 percent in 1910 to 63 percent in 2010. In the Asia-Pacific region it went from 3 percent to 7 percent.

Why does this generate conflict?

As an article in The Economist noted, “the locus of the world’s largest religion is shifting to hotter (in several senses) parts of the world.” In Nigeria scores of Christians have died in Islamist bomb attacks, targeting Christmas prayers. In Iran and Pakistan, Christians are being put on death row for “apostasy” (translation: quitting Islam) or blasphemy. Dozens of churches in Indonesia have been attacked or shuttered. Two-thirds of Iraq’s pre-war Christians have fled. In Egypt and Syria, Muslim zeal threatens ancient Christian groups.

All to say, Fukuyama was proven wrong.

Harrington has been proven right.

And it’s not just happening in other parts of the world.

One of the marks of the West in our day is an increasingly open hostility toward faith, and seemingly, those who adhere to it. Here is how the late Christopher Hitchens described religion: “Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.”

He even went so far as to suggest that if religion was done away with altogether, there would be an end to war, intellectual enlightenment would blossom and, one would infer, there would be an end to rush hour traffic.

The final sentence on the final page of his diatribe?

“It has become necessary to know the enemy, and to prepare to fight it.”

But it is not just any enemy, but specifically, Christianity.

Consider a tale of two ads. It is a simple, almost benign story, but one that bookends the past year and reflects the growing sentiment of our land.

In 2011, football phenomenon and committed Christian Tim Tebow began his strained relationship with the secular media by agreeing to a pro-family ad sponsored by Focus on the Family for the Super Bowl. It was met with howls of protest by many who said that there was no place for such ads on television. Boycotts were called for against the network in the hopes that they would cancel the ad.

Later that same year, Lowe’s decided to pull its ads from a reality show on TLC about Muslim-Americans due to complaints from Christian groups that the show was promoting Islam as a faith.

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