That’s not what persecuted means, part 2

Image of a newspaper story.

Families in Russia faced actual religious persecution.

Besides the incident I wrote about yesterday, the various anti-gay groups, a whole lot of the speakers at the so-called Values Voters Summit, have been getting more paranoid in their claims. They refer to things like the legal recognition of marriage equality as religious persecution. They refer to the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws that have been on the books for many years before the marriage equality movement as religious persecution, but only when it is used to combat discrimination against gays and lesbians. They refer to anti-bullying programs in schools as religious persecution.

None of that is religious persecution.

You know what is religious persecution? Having your grandfather and later your father arrested for leading a Bible study. Having the police show up at your school when you are nine years old and they take you into custody, put you in an interrogation room, and question you for hours about your parents’ religious beliefs, while your little sister is held in another room, and they tell you can see her again if you will just admit that your parents are preaching illegally.

I knew a woman whose childhood included those things. She was attending Seattle Pacific University and we had a class together. She was about ten years older than the rest of the students, wanting to finally get a degree, because she had spent her high school years (years) taking refuge in a U.S. Embassy in the Soviet Union.

After years of harassment and abuse by the Soviet authorities, after having some family members beaten and taken away to camps (never to be seen again), her parents and other members of the extended family decided to try to leave their native land. They made plans to travel separately in small groups (because not only was preaching about your religion forbidden, so was immigrating) to Moscow and meet at the U.S. Embassy to apply for visas to go to America. Not all of them made it.

The authorities figured out what they were doing, and they intercepted at least one of her brothers before he got to the embassy. He was beaten severely and taken to jail.

The U.S. gave them sanctuary in the Embassy, and they spent years living within the confines of the embassy building while various governments tried to negotiate with the Soviet government to let the family leave the country. The arrested brother had been shipped off to a labor camp while they waited in the embassy.

Eventually they were allowed to leave, and her brother was released, too.

She was a very friendly and cheerful person. She’s also the star of one of my favorite anecdotes from college.

The class we were taking together was an Old Testament class, and our professor (who was a Hebrew scholar, and I learned later was at the time considered one of the world’s leading experts in the portion of the old testament known as the Former Prophets) was explaining the many challenges of translating ancient texts. While trying to explain idiom, he finally said, “I’m going to say a sentence in English. I guarantee that each of you will recognize and know the meaning of every word in the sentence. Grammatically, the sentence will also be correct. But some of you will not know what it means. Those of you who do will know right away. So only people who don’t know will make guesses. Can we do that?”

Once we all agreed, he smiled and said, “He was caught in a suicide squeeze.”

Several of us smiled, because we knew what it meant. A bunch of people didn’t. And some of the answer they gave were interesting. Liuba’s guess was, “He killed himself with a boa constrictor?”

After that, half the people who didn’t know said that they thought Liuba’s was answer was the only thing that made sense.

A suicide squeeze, of course, is a baseball term. It’s what happens when a runner is caught between bases, and the basemen from the other team have the ball. They can throw the ball back and forth between the bases faster than he can cover the distance. Unless one of them drops the ball, he is eventually going to get tagged out. Thus a “suicide squeeze.”

Religious persecution has and does exist in the world. But it isn’t being directed at Christians in this country. Please take note that they’re the ones talking about sending people (gay people) to concentration camps. They’re the ones who are applauding the parents who send their gay teen-agers to camps where the kids are tortured and sometimes die. They’re the one’s urging parents to have their own children abducted and abused for being gay. They’re the ones who are saying they want to file class action lawsuits against homosexuals. They’re the ones who want to make our love lives a crime. They’re the ones who not only want to lock us up in jail, but want to jail the ministers and judges who perform our marriage ceremonies!

Trying to punish other people who don’t share your religious beliefs? That’s religious persecution. And it is definitely not the gays and our allies who are doing it!

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. For more than 20 years I edited and published an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live near Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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