Christian Persecution, Not Guns, Is the Real UCC Story

Courtesy AP Images Courtesy AP Images

Last Thursday, a lone gunman at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, took the lives of nine people. The shooter targeted Christians for death and left non-Christians merely wounded, reports say. Despite this clear anti-Christian bias, President Obama used the occasion to push gun control rather than begin a “national conversation” about hatred toward Christians.

“This is something we should politicize,” Obama declared. “It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.”

After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Obama called for a national conversation on race. After the racist massacre of a black Bible-study group in a historic Charleston church earlier this year, politicians, pundits and news outlets universally condemned the Confederate flag when the real culprit was a hateful racist, not the flag itself.

When black Christians are attacked, the discussion is about race. When Christians are attacked only for their faith, the discussion turns to gun control. How does that do justice to such horrific massacres?

Marking Christians for Death

According to witness Anastasia Boylan, the Oregon shooter asked his victims about their faith. To Christians, he said, “Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,” Boylan reported. “And then he shot and killed them.”

Another witness, J.J. Vicari, told the same story. “Vicari said at one point the shooter told people to stand up before asking whether they were Christian or not,” NBC reported. “Anyone who responded ‘yes’ was shot in the head. If they said ‘other’ or didn’t answer, they were shot elsewhere in the body, usually the leg.”

As news of the shooting broke, Franklin Graham -- son and heir of evangelist Billy Graham and president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse -- zeroed in on the real culprit behind this vicious attack.

“Persecution and targeting of Christians isn’t just in Iran or the Middle East, it’s right here in America,” Graham declared in a viral Facebook post. “The bold souls of Umpqua Community College who stood up to say they were followers of Jesus Christ were heinously gunned down with no mercy.”

Graham finished his brief post with a quote from Jesus, in John 15:18: “If they hate you, remember they hated me before they hated you.”

Anti-Christian Bigotry in the United States?

Many have poo-pooed the idea that anything resembling persecution happens in the United States, but this shooting should serve as a wake-up call that many Americans view Christianity -- and religion in general -- as something fundamentally wrong with the world.

“The shooter in Oregon clearly had anti-Christian motives, which I do think are becoming more and more pervasive, especially in highly secular areas such as Oregon,” Jay Richards, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and executive editor of The Stream, told PJ Media in an email statement. Richards said that the shooter’s anti-Christian motives do not fully explain his actions, but they clearly contributed to his decision to engage in mass murder.

“What fascinates me is less the anti-Christian views of Chris Harper-Mercer than the tacit anti-Christianity of the mainstream media, which can barely manage to mention his anti-Christian views,” Richards added. He bemoaned a double-standard in modern media, where attacks on Christians are not remarked upon, but attacks on minorities -- especially Muslims -- are placed front-and-center.

“Just imagine if he had expressed anti-Muslim attitudes, on both social media and in the attacks themselves,” Richards argued. Then, “the media would have lit up like a million roman candles reporting on the anti-Muslim attitudes in the U.S.”

Richards pointed to “a strange mix of New Atheism and neo-paganism, especially in the Northwest,” where he lived for a long time. While the mixture of atheism and spiritualism seems impossible, Richards argued that they fit together well, and offered Carl Sagan as an example.

“My sense is that an evangelistic New Atheism is ultimately an unstable and spiritually arid territory for most people, so that even many atheists inconsistently adopt pagan and pantheistic spiritualities to fill the void,” he explained. While the ideas may not be consistent, a “strident anti-Christianity” pervades the movement as a whole, Richards argued.

Phil Cooke, a filmmaker, media consultant and co-founder of Influence Lab, also mentioned the tension between faith and science, exacerbated by the so-called New Atheists, as a cause behind anti-Christian sentiment.

Cooke criticized both Christians and atheists who argue vehemently against one another in scientific debates. “As a result, we criticize, demonize, and berate the other side, when we should be working together to discover the vast mystery of what it is to be human,” he told PJ Media in an email statement.