Recently the UCC's Facebook page posted an article about Christians being persecuted abroad. I knew a little bit about the situation in places like Syria mostly through my Orthodox friends, who have posted a nearly constant stream of news while other churches have remained silent. This silence was the nexus of the article the UCC posted, Three reasons the American church is ignoring Christian persecution. I'm not too sold on point #1 (if you can't tell the story without "being afraid of being called Islamaphobic," that says more about your own bias than the state of media in America), but overall it's a pretty solid article.
I'm afraid, though, is that it stopped too short. It skims the surface of the issue without cutting into the heart of it. It gives us reasons, sure, but doesn't actually ask us to examine our own biases and dark sides save a bit in point #3. Captain Buzzkill to the rescue! Here are a handful of other reasons why this may be happening...
(1) The people being harmed aren't white
I know this sounds incredibly cynical, but for a lot of churches in America, it's the truth. Entire denominations have formed over the desire to segregate racially and the wounds haven't healed, whether they are centuries or mere decades old. The face of the American Church at Large is very, very white. And the denominations that aren't white fit a very specific niche: either the delightfully Other black gospel charismatic church in Christian Culture or a handy bigot strawman for secular progressives. (see also: Dan Savage thinking black and Hispanic churches are dens of homophobia that brought down Prop 8) Even the churches of the Christian Left aren't without their hangups regarding race; if you've ever sat in a meeting where "how do we attract more people of color" comes up and listened to some of the suggestions, you'll know what I'm talking about. The fact that the people being killed are brown just doesn't fit the face of American Christianity. What's even more confusing, though, is that...
(2) The people being harmed are from the Middle East and Africa
The narrative of the collection of countries grouped as the Middle East is that they are full of the dangerous Other known as Muslims, who gleefully slaughter Christians and need White Knight Saviors to come over and liberated them from their sinful ways. The narrative of monolithic Africa is a land of savages who need missionaries to give them a bright shiny new culture and religion. Bring up the fact that Christians live in both, though, and it's miles of confusion. This is particularly true of the Middle East - I've had so many conversations with fellow Christians who just didn't know there were Christians in those countries. What's concerning about this is that the area we now call the Middle East is pretty much the birthplace of our faith; it's scary because ignorance of this simple fact indicates that American Christians no longer value studying history and theology.
(3) The people being harmed aren't evangelical
Again, this seems like another cynical statement, but I've seen the seeds of its ugly head pop up over and over in my life. I was raised in a denomination that didn't consider Catholics or most mainline Protestant churches "real Christians." (Baptists were alright, I guess, but they might slip into hell if they didn't stop smoking.) This is not a foreign concept to evangelicals - in fact, it's usually the topic of the "getting to know you" conversation of new folks that come to my church, the fact that each church they left was the "only true church." The Christians being raped, tortured, and killed abroad are Coptic Christians, Eastern Rites Catholics, Orthodox Christians - people that evangelical churches loop together in the Not Actual Christians category. I can remember not one but multiple sermons being preached against those people that worship idols called Icons, showing not just complete disrespect for our siblings in Christ but also a complete ignorance of the Orthodox faith. The fact that these brutalities are happening to people evangelicals consider an Other means that they get the luxury of ignoring it.
I feel like I need the following disclaimer. This isn't me saying every single person who is an evangelical Christian is a cold-hearted bully. This isn't me erasing what your particular church is doing about this tragedy. This is me saying, as a whole, American Christians need to get their act together and stop going off on trivial tangents. We need to clean house and get our priorities straight. Recently someone called me a hate-spewing atheist for suggesting this. (to be fair, I did suggest it in a sarcastic, snotty sort of way.) If saying that we need to start caring about Christians being actually killed and maimed for their faith is more important than calling Obama the Anti-Christ and yelling at Target clerks who tell us "Happy Holidays" - if that makes me a hatemongering atheist, maybe I don't want to be the alternative.
As I said above, I've gotten most of my news about the recent epidemics of Christian persecution from Orthodox friends, the UCC, and international news outlets like BBC news and Al-Jazeera. If you have any news items or blog posts from your denomination, please post them below so I can write an update.