Doing my morning readings, I came across an interesting thought from a priest, Fr. George Rutler. The thought was that we have a tendency to only accept the changes we want. When we encounter a change that does not meet out expectations, we tend to reject it. I think that’s a good insight. We tend to get irritated when things don’t go our way, even when we seek to be doing God’s work.
Take for example, today’s First Reading. We see a beautiful response to God’s message sent through the prophet Jonah. The people of a city who oppressed Israel heard the message and repented of the evil done. But Jonah’s response (which takes place later in the Book of Jonah) is resentment. God sent him to warn Nineveh of a coming wrath, and then doesn’t follow through. Jonah wanted change, but the change he wanted was for Nineveh to be a smoking crater in the ground. Because God did not give him that change, he was angry with God….
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The word persecution tends to be misused today. Either people try to limit its use to the great atrocities of world history (such as the Holocaust or the Ethnic Cleansing), or use it as an epithet when a person happens to oppose their position (such as the rhetoric used by proponents of “same sex marriage”). Both would be misuses because:
1) Persecution is not limited to genocide
2) Persecution is not mere opposition.
Why These Two Cases Misapply the Word Persecution
The first case is a misuse because this confuses what a persecution is (definition) with the level of injustice directed at a person because of his or her religion, ethnicity or political outlook. When this confusion is made, it basically says, “You’re not being persecuted because what you’re going through is not severe enough to count.” Yes, genocide of people of a religion or race is a persecution, but there can be less drastic forms intending to cause harm to a person which are persecution, but fall short of mass murder.
The second case is a misuse because this confuses mere opposition to a person’s views or behavior with maltreating them on account of those who hold them. For example, when I meet an atheist who is virulently anti-Catholic, I may think he’s a bigot or an idiot if he’s obnoxious enough about it. But I don’t assume he is persecuting me simply on the grounds that he thinks my views or actions are wrong. It’s only if he goes from opposition to seeking to mistreat me on account of my beliefs that opposition can become persecution. When being opposed by someone who thinks your ideas are wrong and seeks to pass laws which support what they think is right, that’s not persecution. But when someone seeks to use the law to target someone who holds certain beliefs with the aim of punishing them for holding those beliefs and living in accordance with them, that is persecution.
So, the state not recognizing “same sex marriage” is not a persecution of people with same sex attraction. Nor is outlawing abortion a persecution of women. Such laws do not seek to punish people for having same sex attraction or being a woman They face no legal maltreatment for being a person with same sex attraction or being a woman. However, a judge who rules that it is illegal for a person who refuses to provide services on the grounds that he or she believes that to do so is to cooperate with moral evil is persecuting the person. He or she can either abandon their moral convictions or face repercussions….
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