A report recently released by First Liberty Institute (FLI) entitled “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America” outlines the growing number of attacks on religious liberty in America.
Founded in 1972, First Liberty Institute fights for religious liberty in the US through advocacy and litigation by providing pro-bono legal defense to those being persecuted or discriminated against for their faith.
According to the organization’s report, the number attacks on Christians jumped by 15% between 2015 and 2016.
Since FLI started tracking attacks on religious liberty in 2001, the number has increased by 133% over the following five years. In 2011, FLI reported 600 attacks on religious liberty and by 2016 the number had reached 1,400.
FLI’s CEO Kelly Shackelford noted that the cases they cited are just the ones that were published. She described them as just the “tip of the iceberg” as many cases of faith persecution and discrimination are simply not reported.
This is not even referring to the number of attacks on Christians that now routinely take place in the comments sections of many websites and forums, including Christian ones.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things for a Christian to do is to respond to these insults in love. I have seen Christians aggressively match insult with insult when attacked by atheists and others.
Some things Christians say in retaliation is cringe worthy.
And if I am honest, at times I feel a similar urge to fight back. It is so easy to react and get caught up in the hate.
23 When they hurled their insults at him [Christ], he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23 NIV)
When Jesus was insulted (Greek loidoreo), He did not retaliate (Greek antiloidoreo) means simply he did not respond in a similar manner — with insults in return.
We are seeing today what Philo (20 BC-50 AD), an ancient Jewish Greek philosopher who lived in Jesus’ day, referred to in his book Hubandry as “insult duels.” This is when people went toe to toe in public forums insulting each other, often in the most vile ways.
Instead, Jesus calls for Christians to pray for those who persecute or hate you:
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:28 NASV)
Though I believe God answers prayer, I think praying for those who hate us actually does Christian more good. It is a tool the Holy Spirit uses to help us forgive and not to react.
According to its website, last year FLI handled 388 legal matters involving faith persecution successfully resolving 90% of its cases.
- Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America: First Liberty Institute
- Study: Attacks on Religious liberty have increased 133 percent in last five years: Christian headlines