Glad Tidings Assembly of God, Middletown, PANote: There’s additional news about this story.

Over the years I’ve mentioned, many times, the tendency of devout Christians to obsess about “persecution.” They just can’t help but consider themselves “persecuted” — going as far as to invent persecution where it doesn’t exist (as in most of the occidental world, where Christianity is the majority religion). That there is some persecution of Christians in some parts of the world fuels their obsession, and knowing that it can’t happen here doesn’t seem to have any effect on that.

Almost unbelievably, a church in Middletown, PA has gone as far to stage fake kidnappings of kids in its own congregation — essentially “creating” persecution that’s not actually happening — and, as the Washington Post On Faith blog reports, they’re using that true persecution abroad in order to justify these outrageous exercises (WebCite cached article):

The men burst into the church classroom and ordered the 15 teens in the youth group to the floor.

They covered the teens’ heads with pillowcases and bound their hands. One man waved an unloaded gun, and another yelled, his face daubed with camouflage paint. …

It sounds terrifying, but there’s a catch: The raid was fake, staged to show the teens the perils faced by Christian missionaries in the world’s trouble spots, [the Rev. John] Lanza said.

Yet it traumatized one 14-year-old girl so badly that her mother filed a report with the police, claiming her daughter suffered a busted lip and bruised knees.

They did this without even getting parental permission:

Neither she nor the other teens in the group knew the raid was coming, Lanza said. He said church officials didn’t notify their parents, either.

As I said, the excuse given for this is the fact that Christians are being persecuted elsewhere, and in response to a particular incident of persecution:

“This is to give students a sense of the constant threat brought against missionaries everywhere,” [Lanza] said.

The mock raid came on the heels of the terrorist slaying in Yemen of a Lancaster County man, Joel Shrum, who was killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle in the city of Taiz on March 18.

Shrum was learning Arabic and teaching English, according to his family. A group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for his murder, saying Shrum was proselytizing.

Lanza said Shrum’s slaying is just one example of why it’s important for students to know the dangers of mission work.

Amazingly for a representative of “the Religion of Love” who ought to be showing compassion for others, Lanza is unrepentant, doesn’t see the harm in what his church is doing, and thinks it was all just good fun:

“I’m pretty sure she [i.e. the injured teen] was laughing at some point and having fun with the other students,” Jordan told the TV station. “I can’t confirm that, but that’s what I’ve heard from friends of hers that were there.”

Oh yeah, Reverend, I’m sure her injuries were just a lot of rollicking hilarity. No doubt about that.

What’s really happening here is not giving these kids an “education” in how Christians are being persecuted. That can be done rather easily, without staging fake kidnappings. No, the real plan here is to expose them to the sensation of actually being persecuted; in other words, to sensitize them to it. They’ll relive this trauma — which to an extent was very “real” at the time they were experiencing it in spite of it being fake — whenever they hear about persecution of Christians. It’s really very clever on Lanza’s part … not to mention diabolical.

Yes, I get that there is persecution of Christians in some places. Yes, I get that Mr Shrum was killed in Yemen. Yes, that persecution is wrong, and the killing of Mr Shrum was horrible. But terrorizing kids in Pennsylvania is horrible, too … and the former horror does not justify the latter. (To believe so is “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious.)

Isn’t it long past time for Christians to grow up to the point where they don’t have to pull shit like this any more, because they no longer feel the need to “be persecuted” for Jesus?

Update: It took a few months, but charges have been filed in this case. Those responsible still refuse to admit any wrongdoing, but they’re delusional, so that’s to be expected.

Photo credit: Glad Tidings Assembly of God Web site.

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