NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – Atheist talk show host Bill Maher is flat wrong when he says Christians should stop whining about being persecuted in America, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, said on FOX News yesterday.
Jeffress, a guest on Sean Hannity's program, said Christians losing their businesses because of their Christian faith and a U.S. Marine recently court martialed for having a Bible verse on her computer demonstrate Christianity is under assault in America.
"It doesn't rise to the level of having their head chopped off by ISIS in the Middle East, but it's all the same attitude that allows for those attacks," Jeffress said.
Jeffress told Hannity persecution comes in stages. The first stage is marginalization, which he said is easily demonstrated by the media's contempt for Christians.
"I want to remind people that, you know, the Nazis weren't able to take the Jews to the crematoriums immediately. The German people wouldn't have allowed it. Instead, the Nazis had to change public opinion. They marginalized the Jewish people, disparaged them, and made them objects of contempt," Jeffress said.
Afterwards, Jeffress said, "the taking away of further rights will be very easy."
On his HBO program, Maher said he understood why Christians "constantly whine about being under attack."
"Christians love to feel persecuted. It's part of their origin story, but we're a long way from them getting eaten by lions in the coliseum," Maher said.
He pointed to recent claims by talk show host Bill O'Reilly and presidential candidates Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum that Christians were being targeted in American culture and politics. Santorum said Christians were on their way to being persecuted and killed like Jews in Germany during World War II.
"This idea that everybody on the left is plotting against Christianity and wants to wipe out religion is offensive – to me," Maher said. He claimed to be the only media figure with a show "week in and week out" who says that and he did not want credit going "to the entire Left when I'm doing the heavy lifting."
Psychiatrist Keith Ablow, who has debated Jeffress on the program before, agreed with the Dallas pastor that Christians are being marginalized. He said people of faith find truth outside of themselves, and when they do that they "incur the wrath of those who want the state to have authority, who don't want you to think for yourself."
"When we talk about self I see that as connected to ultimate truth and to God," Ablow said.
People for the American Way, which advocates progressive causes and the election of progressive candidates to public office, claims "none of these stories is true."
"These myths – which are becoming ever more pervasive in the right-wing media – serve to bolster a larger story, that of a majority religious group in American society becoming a persecuted minority, driven underground in its own country," the group said on its web site.
"This narrative has become an important rallying cry for a movement that has found itself on the losing side of many of the so-called 'culture wars.' By reframing political losses as religious oppression, the Right has attempted to build a justification for turning back advances in gay rights, reproductive rights and religious liberty for minority faiths."
The rise of statism is the particular threat Christians in America face, according to Fay Voshell, who writes at American Thinker. Voshell cites examples of anti-Christian bias in the media and political arena, which she says demonstrate Christians are entering the earliest stage of persecution – marginalization from politics and public life.
Voshell, for instance, cites MSNBC's Chris Matthews' suggestion that Christians have no place in politics and Hillary Clinton's assertion that "deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed" in order for women to have full access to reproductive health services – abortion on demand.
These attitudes, Voshell writes, could lead to further stages of persecution, such as the confiscation of church property or compulsory support of state initiatives. Voshell cited the belief of New York Times columnists Frank Bruni that Christian pastors and priests should be forced to marry same-sex couples.
"Christians ... must realize they have been deceived by the terms of the left, which successfully persecutes Christians in the name of civil rights and equality," Voshell writes.
"The battle against Christians in the name of 'equality' and 'rights' must be seen for what it is; namely, a battle between two inimically opposed religious world views, one of which is historic Christianity, the other of which is a tyrannous statism that seeks to ram its views down Christians' throats."