A Proper Christian Response To The New Zealand Shooting
By David Metcalfe
March 25, 2019
A friend looks sad, and you ask them what’s wrong. They say, “My dog died yesterday, and I’m having a really hard time dealing with it.”
You respond, “Yeah? Well, my grandpa died two months ago and you didn’t seem to care. Mine was way worse and I’m not going to feel sympathy for you unless you feel way more sympathy about me.”
But you wouldn’t really say that, would you? Well, you might argue, “it’s about reciprocity: in any relationship, you need to give and take in equal amounts”. I’m not sure what worldview you would get that from, but it’s not the Christian one.
Evangelical Christians Are The Most Persecuted Group (according to evangelical Christians)
What we saw in the wake of the shootings of Muslims in New Zealand was massive sympathy on the part of the vast majority of people. The evangelical Christians, however, responded by seeking to “one up” the shooting by claiming that 120 Christians in Nigeria had been killed as well, and yet received no media coverage. This response was seen in dozens of right wing and Christian focused publications, such as Life Site News, Breitbart, Christianity Today, The New American, and others.
Biased and reactionary thinking has a tendency to ignore facts. As Snopes correctly points out here: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/nigeria-christians-muslims/, the Nigeria attacks were in a military context, and religion was a secondary issue. In addition, in that same time frame, there was also a massacre in the region that killed a majority Muslim population, which received equal media coverage to the majority Christian massacre.
But there is real Christian persecution that occurs. Harriet Sherwood points out in The Guardian that 1 in 3 Christians face persecution for their faith (Sherwood, 2019). While the Nigerian massacre may not have been a faith specific thing, there certainly are people in prison or even killed because they professed a belief in Christianity. This is especially bad in certain Muslim countries, where apostasy from Islam is considered a capital offence. There are some Muslims in the world who really are enemies of Christianity, and do seek to persecute them. Christians, of course, do not have the only claim to being persecuted. A quick google search of “any religion+persecution” will reveal that anyone of any belief can be persecuted. In addition, religious persecution is just one of many types; there is also persecution due to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political opinion, and many other things.
Jesus’ Response To Persecution
But misrepresentation of facts aside, let’s allow those Christians to believe that they are the most persecuted group. Still, the “one up” response is not Christian. Christians believe in a God who loves them and cares about them, and is sympathetic to their struggles. Imagine if you prayed to God about the death of a loved one, and he responded, “Yeah? Well my son got brutally murdered 2000 years ago, so yours is kind of bad but it’s nothing compared to my hardship.” I don’t think most Christians believe in a God who tries to “one up” their struggles. I don’t think most Christians believe that Jesus’ death was a ploy to reduce the value of the hardships we go through. I think Christians ought to believe that Jesus’ death was the opposite: it’s a means by which a giant, all powerful God intimately empathizes with humans, and enables each of us to feel his love more in our lives. So too, the hardships that Christians face can enable them to better empathize with the persecution that other people face.
Jesus spoke of persecution, saying, “Accuse your enemies, and fear those who persecute you.” Oh wait, he didn’t say that. He said, “Love your enemies, and do good to those who persecute you.” Later on, as Jesus faces the most severe persecution someone could possibly face, Peter responds by cutting off a soldier’s ear. Jesus picks up the ear and places it back on the soldier, and exclaims, “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51).
No more of this:
No more of this:
More of this:
More of this:
It’s certain that Christians are going to get persecuted, just like every religious, political, and identity group in history and modern day. What’s uncertain is how they’re going to respond to it. Are they going to try and “one up” the competition with biased interpretations of specific events that suit their agenda, or are they going to respond like Jesus responded, with kindness, compassion, and reconciliation?
Are Christians going to draw upon their belief in the innate, God-given value of all people and advance universal human rights, or are they going to gather in their little herd and care only for themselves?
I don’t know what Christians will do, but based on my understanding of scripture, human rights, and the person of Jesus, I believe I know what they should do: stand up for human rights and against persecution wherever and to whomever it is found, love and be kind to others no matter their identity or beliefs, and take God’s counsel to Micah seriously, to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God.”
Did Muslim Militants Kill 120 Christians in Nigeria in February/March 2019? Snopes. Retrieved from https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/nigeria-christians-muslims/
Sherwood, H. (2019). One in three Christians face persecution in Asia, report finds. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/16/one-in-three-christians-face-persecution-in-asia-report-finds
Williams, T. (2019). Media Silence Surrounds Muslim Massacre of Christians. Breitbart. Retrieved from https://www.breitbart.com/the-media/2019/03/17/media-silence-surrounds-muslim-massacre-of-christians/?fbclid=IwAR1PK48jDFfyit47ekjuZi-TdUqrOw8pPzIuY1Ll3rrEyd1aYo-wofML9IU