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59% of American Christians Say They’re Persecuted, May Not Understand Real Persecution

59% of American Christians Say They’re Persecuted, May Not Understand Real Persecution

Losing religious freedom can look like a lot of different things. Sure, it can mean getting locked up for your beliefs, but it can be more subtle too — like not being allowed to speak out in public. That said, it’s not clear what the people who responded to Lifeway Research’s study about religious freedom think losing it would look like. They surveyed 1,005 Americans and over half (54 percent) now believe religious freedom is eroding.

And that’s not all. When asked about the treatment of Christians and their beliefs, the majority of Americans (59 percent) now say that religious tolerance for Christians is declining in the U.S. too. 

“Intolerance is about cultural pushback,” Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, explained. “In the American marketplace of ideas, not all systems of thought are welcomed. The majority of all religions notice this pushback against Christians today.”

Got it. So maybe this isn’t so much about actually losing religious freedom as it is losing the war for vibes. Because when it comes to actual legislative wins, conservative Christian groups have a lot to celebrate. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and delivered a big win to Christians who want to pray in public schools. These are big, historic decisions and they don’t square with a narrative of diminishing religious liberty for Christians.   

This is especially true on the global scale. Open Doors USA’ World Watch List keeps track of the countries where it’s most dangerous to be a Christian, and the stories on their meticulously detailed database are heartbreaking. Christians in places like Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia can be imprisoned, tortured and even killed for their faith. American Christians may miss the old days where they had a near monopoly on the public conversation, but they are still easily the nation’s dominant faith demographic and face zero risk of anything resembling persecution for their beliefs.

Persecution against Christians is real and we should be talking more about it. But it’s not what the American Church is facing, and conflating what’s happening in other countries with online backlash and political spats in the U.S. does a disservice to that conversation. Christians may not like being confronted with different opinions or having to make space for others in a diverse environment, but that does not necessarily mean they’re being met with outright intolerance. It simply means giving others the same freedom you want them to give you.  

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