That’s the question I’ve been wondering the past few weeks, and I’ve seen many pictures on Christian websites – way too many – of rows of bodies waiting to be buried.
And just today Sydney Anglican rector, and MSM go-to for all things evangelical, Michael Jensen, posed the same question on Facebook:
We are told to believe victims – that not to be believed adds to the trauma.
But in investigating the slaughter of Christians in northern Nigeria lately, I’ve noticed that supposedly ‘independent’ news agencies have simply disregarded claims by Christians that there is a specifically targeted programme of religious violence being waged against them, and instead spoken of ‘clashes’ over farm land. And yet, in these so-called ‘clashes’, there is no evidence that the killing is anything but one-sided!
An example of where an attempt to be neutral leads to distortion of the truth. But also: why do we not believe these victims, or allow them at least to give their point of view?
And he’s posed it in a brilliant way, undercutting the casual rejection of the victim’s voice in a culture in which victimhood is all too readily played out.
In essence, he’s asking “Why do those victims get airtime, and not these victims.”
Clearly the mainstream media in the West is ignoring this dreadful issue, in a way that they don’t ignore the killing of Palestinians in Israel for example. And that’s not to say that those deaths don’t matter, but the sheer scale of what is happening in Nigeria raises all sorts of disturbing questions about one-eyed reporting.
Now we’ve become so used to hearing (and saying), that we can’t consider what we experience in Australia as persecution, no matter the scorn levelled at Christians in the MSM, but this damnable silence suggests that even when persecution is being handed out to Christians on an industrial level the media either ignores it, or repaints it as a different matter.
No amount of persecution seems to penetrate the impenetrable collusion of our media. And as an aside it tells us that it would have to get pretty bad in Australia for such matters to concern the mainstream media; something far bigger than loss of jobs, fines and imprisonment, withdrawal of public funds, for example.
Now those who know me know I don’t play the persecution card – yet, unless Jesus’ description of persecution including all manner of awful things being said about you is taken into account.
Such fears don’t define me. And don’t take my word for it. Greg Sheridan who interviewed me for his new book: God Is Good For You:, observed that my colleague Rory Shiner and I are “not hysterics”, instead:
They try to calibrate the situation and they are deeply aware that Christians in Australia done’t confront anything like the difficulties Christians face in the Middle East or China or many other parts of the world.
Other parts of the world like Nigeria.
Yet the secondary issue of the killings in Nigeria is being played as the primary issue by the MSM; namely that local herdsmen are killing local villagers to make way for their herds. Anything to avoid calling it for what it is – religious killings. The victims are all clearly Christians and the perpetrators are all clearly Muslims. That would seem like a story worth reporting, but apparently not.
Now there are any number of complex reasons for this, complex on the surface at least. The most obvious, and it’s pointed out by another prominent public square Christian in Australia, John Dickson, is that there is the perception that Christians have abused their privilege. On the Facebook thread he wrote this prescient observation:
The perception of Christian bullies (in the West) makes it hard for some to believe in (and discuss) Christian victims.
I think there’s a deal of truth to that. So it sounds like Nigerian Christians are paying the price for our sins, real or otherwise.
But then it gets more confronting when you read this comment on the thread from, like you know, an actual African Christian:
They will never believe African Christian victims, this has been my experience since the first time my vicarage and church was burnt in 1987. I was blamed by the western media for “aggressive evangelistic preachings”. Even now these media have approved “reprisals” against the church as justified because the christian cannot be aggrieved, the only person allowed to be aggrieved is a non Christian. As a Christian we suffer unjust reporting from western press as well as suffering for the faith as well being plagued by all the ills of this evil political injustice of powers of this world apart from our own bad governance, diseases, very bad management of resources etc…The western media is driven by a merciless desire to “balance reporting” even when there is no balance. This is why they are most unfair and unjust, it is worse where Christians are involved. This is our case.
If ever a victim was able to clearly articulate the issue, it’s been done here. But I still expect the silence from our MSM to be deafening.
And then this comment from a Western missionary, which is most enlightening:
Christians in Nigeria are not a minority group. 55% of Nigerians are Christian and 45% Muslim. The recent attacks were coordinated and systematic over 4 days and more than 200 men, women and children were slaughtered in their beds and their houses burn along with their bodies. All this during a dusk to dawn curfew. Security forces did nothing. President Buhari told president Trump it was a minor land dispute. The villages that were attacked were the ones we ministered to in the 1980s and 90s. Many of my friends and colleagues are dead. Because they are Christian.
Which still won’t be enough to raise a squeak from the MSM, will it?
Now much of this discussion is focussed on visible reasons why this might be happening. Hence we have a clear tussle between the Anything-But-Christianity brigade that defines secular western media and those media outlets in the Christian world who want to bring this to light.
But I suspect there’s something deeper going on. Something stronger. Something invisible. Something spiritual.
In an excellent book that I will review in weeks to come, by Australian Catholic scholar, Conor Sweeney: Abiding the Long Defeat: How to Evangelise Like a Hobbit in a Disenchanted Age, the point is made that much of the hostility towards Christianity has a deeply spiritual sullenness to it based on Christ’s overwhelming defeat of every other spiritual foe.
Sweeney quotes the astonishing David Bentley Hart who states that Christianity is the:
midwife of nihilism, not because it is itself nihilistic, but because it is too powerful in its embrace of the world and all of the world’s mystery and beauty; and so to reject Christianity now is, of necessity, to reject everything except the barren anonymity of spontaneous subjectivity.
Get it? Jesus swept everything else away. There’s nowhere else to go. Nowhere else to go back to. Which is why I have always said that the post-Christian West is not at all the same as first century pagan culture (hence why it’s Babylon now and not Athens!).
Sweeney draws much the same conclusion:
… the rejection of Christ risks perpetuating a new kind of darkness and violence. The one who rejects Christ does not easily slip back into innocent paganism. No, the rejection of Christ more readily translates into a vigorous resistance against the truth, goodness and beauty that Christianity so effectively made its own. If what Hart says is true, when an entire culture begins to embrace the social and cultural death of God, the outcome will not be peaceful secularism…but stronger and more subversive forms of insecurity, transgression, violence, and evil.
The post-Christian West is like the defiant toddler who refuses to look the parent in the eye when being corrected with the truth and instead constantly yells out “I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening.”, turning their head vigorously from side to side.
That’s exactly what I believe the mainstream media is behaving like here: defiant toddlers who refuse the truth, because to accept the truth of what is happening to Nigeria’s Christians is too high a price to pay.
Faced with having to admit that Christianity is clearly being persecuted, the nihilistic secular frame cannot admit as much, because to do so might risk regaining the foothold into a culture which secularists have gone to such great lengths and expended so much energy to refuse entry.
They would rather thousands die than justice be delivered and the voiceless be given voice. Any enemy of Jesus is a friend of theirs, or not their foe, at least. We severely under-estimate the spiritual powers at work behind the scenes in this latest, and increasingly common, occurrence by our media.
And if you don’t believe that whole systems of injustice work like that then you haven’t been listening to the prophets on the margins of the culture. And you certainly haven’t read Ellul.
Of course there are visible reasons why the killing of Nigerian Christians is being explored, and plenty of invalid reasons (some of which made it on to Michael Jensen’s Facebook thread), but I think Hart, and Sweeney are right, and Jensen has raised the right question.
I’m looking forward to his next foray into the mainstream media world in which he operates so admirably, because I think he has put his finger on the pulse of what is going on. Which is, ironically, supposed to be the role of the mainstream media.