Man 1: "I had always thought that you made more than me."
Man 2: "No, all of us camp counselors make the same amount."
Man 1: "Huh. Well, I guess that's the way it goes."
Man 2: "Yeah, we get paid very little. It's part of our persecution for our belief in Christ. I view this work as part of my ministry, though."
The above snippet of conversation was overheard in my local coffee shop. The two guys talking were both wearing shirts that indicated that they were part of the staff of Mission Springs Christian Camp, a local, well, Christian camp. These two were apparently camp counselors.
Now, leaving aside the grandiosity but otherwise inert harmlessness of statements such as "this is part of my ministry", I want to focus really quickly on how he described his low wages: persecution.
The vast majority of Christians are aware enough of the world to know that they are the ones in power, and therefore by definition are not being persecuted. Nothing I say here as addressed to this large majority. However, there is this weird thought floating around among certain fundamentalist groups that holds that they are being persecuted, and anything that doesn't go their way is a sign of further persecution.
Non-Christian groups are allowed to put ads on buses, and so these fundamentalist folks claim that they are being persecuted.
A fundamentalist Christian group (specifically, the misnamed Liberty Counsel) claims to be persecuted when no religious group is allowed to distribute fliers to students, and then claims persecution when more than just Christian fliers are distributed to students.
These groups also hold that not being able to force other people's children to pray in public schools is also a form of persecution.
And, apparently, getting low pay when one has a job indoctrinating children into Christianity is a form of persecution*.
There's a long-term and short-term problem here.
The short-term problem is that the use of the term "persecution" can be used to silence opposition. This creates obvious problems, especially when, as in the case of Prop 8 for example, the people screaming persecution are the persecutors. However, this is a short-term problem because even now a growing number of people, Christian and non-Christian alike, are becoming increasingly aware of the vacuous nature of this ploy, and it is seems to become less effective with each passing day.
The long-term problem is that there is real religious persecution in the world, and every religious group, including Christians, has been targeted. In a number of nations, Christians are being genuinely persecuted, as are Jews, Hindus, Atheists, Jains, Muslims, and almost every other religious group. This is a very real, very serious problem. However, by constantly crying wolf, this particular minority but VERY vocal strain of Christianity is causing many people to ignore the very real problems by making them look like more of the same nonsense.
*Was it in the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of Luke where Jesus said "And truly I tell you that the sign of my imminent return will be low wages, and cheap furniture imported from Sweden"?