The Bogus ‘Others Have It Worse’ Argument: Persecution Abroad, Restricting Freedom at Home

By John Stonestreet

Every time someone points out growing restrictions on religious liberty, we hear “Well, that’s not real persecution. Others have it worse!” I say that’s a bogus argument.

As you probably know, on February 15th twenty-one Coptic Christians were martyred by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Libya. The gruesome video shows the victims declaring their faith and calling upon the name of Jesus even as they died.

The killing brings to mind the words of Tertullian, the second-century apologist who was also from North Africa, who said “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

And that’s what the brother of the martyrs Bishoy and Samuel Kamel is counting on. As he told an Arabic Christian channel, “ISIS gave us more than we asked when they didn’t edit out the part where they declared their faith and called upon Jesus Christ. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith.” Wow. Amen.

Now a less edifying use of this story is how some, both Christians as well as non-Christians, are using what happened in Libya to downplay the challenges to religious freedom happening here in the U.S.

Now, let me first state the obvious: Nothing happening here or elsewhere in the West can remotely be compared to what Christians in the Islamic world undergo on a daily basis. Our first and second response should be to pray for them, and our third response should be to do whatever we can to draw attention to their plight.

At the same time, as Rod Dreher has helpfully pointed out, the “people in this country who fear and loathe Christians” are not beneath using what happened in Libya as an “argument-ender” when Christians complain about infringements on religious freedom. Their response is in essence, “Get back to me when they’re chopping Christian heads off in Times Square, then we’ll talk.”

Never mind, as Dreher also points out, that “No secular liberal would— nor should they—accept the argument that gays in the [U.S.] have no right to complain against discrimination because they don’t have it as bad as gays in ISIS-held territory.”

Yet American Christians are often held to a different standard, and not just by secular liberals. Some of our fellow Christians have become almost predictable in employing this rhetorical shaming strategy…

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The Bogus ‘Others Have It Worse’ Argument