modern forms of persecution

The two Pauls woke up this morning with the farm all to ourselves, roosters crowing wildly, ducks quacking, and dogs greeting us with a lick. It reminded me of the passage from Mark we read yesterday in our prayer time together. Bill and Sue and the kids went to the coast for the day, and we gladly offered to care for the animals while they were gone. They've been so welcoming; it really feels like family.

Over dinner last night, Paul and I talked deeply on a theme I touched on earlier with Bill. How, in our modern democratic states, it's more likely for persecution to come by some form of shunning rather than by physical force (like beatings or jail). In most cases there's no need to sic the police on us and create martyrs. Instead, the majority of people are simply induced to turn away and withdraw support from us, refuse help, turn us away. Which can result in real physical suffering (loss of job, lack of resources), as well as the emotional torment of isolation. And it doesn't look like persecution. It looks like the rejected ones are in the wrong.

It reminds me of a journal entry from five years ago, which begins with a quote from Alexis DeTocqueville's classic, Democracy in America:

In America the majority raises very formidable barriers to the liberty of opinion: within these barriers an author may write whatever he pleases, but he will repent it if he ever step beyond them. Not that he is exposed to the terrors of an auto-da-fe, but he is tormented by the slights and persecutions of daily obloquy. His political career is closed forever, since he has offended the only authority which is able to promote his success. Every sort of compensation, even that of celebrity, is refused to him. Before he published his opinions he imagined that he held them in common with many others; but no sooner has he declared them openly than he is loudly censured by his overbearing opponents, whilst those who think without having the courage to speak, like him, abandon him in silence. He yields at length, oppressed by the daily efforts he has been making, and he subsides into silence, as if he was tormented by remorse for having spoken the truth.

Fetters and headsmen were the coarse instruments which tyranny formerly employed; but the civilization of our age has refined the arts of despotism which seemed, however, to have been sufficiently perfected before. The excesses of monarchical power had devised a variety of physical means of oppression: the democratic republics of the present day have rendered it as entirely an affair of the mind as that will which it is intended to coerce. Under the absolute sway of an individual despot the body was attacked in order to subdue the soul, and the soul escaped the blows which were directed against it and rose superior to the attempt; but such is not the course adopted by tyranny in democratic republics; there the body is left free, and the soul is enslaved. The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;" but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people. You may retain your civil rights, but they will be useless to you, for you will never be chosen by your fellow-citizens if you solicit their suffrages, and they will affect to scorn you if you solicit their esteem. You will remain among men, but you will be deprived of the rights of mankind. Your fellow-creatures will shun you like an impure being, and those who are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they should be shunned in their turn. Go in peace! I have given you your life, but it is an existence in comparably worse than death."

Then, I wrote (and I still believe this is true):
Oppression is not eliminated in democracy, it's simply found a more subtle (and more insidious) way to exercise itself.

I think this is precisely the way Christians are persecuted in modern societies. Democracies and democratic organizations attempt to punish (and silence) radical Christians, [usually] not by imprisonment or physical violence, but by shunning. The "offender" is simply excluded from social life, [from society's support]. If the social exclusion is extreme, individuals may literally be forced into exile, though no one lays a hand on them.