It breaks my heart - and frustrates my mind - when Christians label non-events as persecution that have no business being categorized as such. It degrades the perception of the word - crying wolf when there’s no wolf to be found. Loss of privilege is not the same as persecution.
In a recent sermon, Ken Esau used this example for how persecution is on the rise (caption source: Approx. 66 minutes into this video on the Forest Grove Community Church YouTube channel)
…now Reg mentioned last week that there's not a lot of persecution for believers in Canada today and I suggest that that's true but it's growing. It is growing. This past week about eight days ago you may have heard the story of James Reimer. He's a hockey goaltender for the San Jose Sharks, and he chose uh not to wear a gay pride themed uniform during warm-ups for his team, and there's several other people this week who have done the same and these are his words:
“For all 13 years of my NHL career I have been a Christian not just in title but in how I choose to live my life daily. I have a personal faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for my sins and in response asks me to love everyone and follow Him. I have no hate in my heart for anyone, and I have always strived to treat everyone that I encounter with respect and kindness. In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions which are based on the bible, the highest authority in my life. I strongly believe that every person has value and worth, and the LGBTQIA+ community, like all others, should be welcomed in all aspects of the game of hockey.”
Now those are quotes from him you should know that Reimer is in the last year of his contract with the San Jose Sharks and many people are asking whether they're going to renew the contract after this. They're asking whether other teams would actually sign him to a contract in light of this. This could be the end of his career - but it seems to me that we should be thankful for someone like James Reimer because he is choosing to seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness in this difficult moment.
Let’s be clear: the only place I could find this coming from is a reporter asking Reimer if he thought it would be held against him. Reimer himself thinks it’s possible it could be, but nobody in management has said anything to indicate that to be true.
In fact, whole teams have opted out of wearing Pride themed jerseys:
This season, three NHL teams — Chicago, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild — that previously wore rainbow warmups decided not to. The Rangers and Wild changed course after initially planning for players to wear rainbow-themed warmup jerseys but did not specifically say why.
And it’s not explicitly because of the fear of Russian fines or backlash, because the majority of Russian players - who might have a legitimate reason to claim persecution, if not of themselves then their extended family back home - have also worn the jerseys:
In Florida, on the same night Eric Staal and Marc Staal refused to wear Pride jerseys, netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who has won four medals for Russia while representing his country at the Olympics, world championships, world juniors and World Cup, wore Florida’s Pride jersey without backlash, charges, or reprimand from any source.
The NHL is a business. They exist to make money. Their teams make more money by winning games. If Reimer was seen as a possible key player to a team in order to win more games, the NHL has plenty of teams who would happily look past any Pride related stances in order to win more games.
But he’s ranked 44th in save percentage, meaning there are 43 goalies in a 32 team league that are saving more pucks than he is. He’s got 12 wins and 18 losses this season on a team that’s currently ranked 29th in the league. And he’s 35 years old. Those 3 factors alone are going to be working against him more than any Pride jersey stance. Not to mention the fact that none of the other players who refused to wear the Pride jersey have seen play time drop as some sort of punishment or persecution.
Wealthy people can experience persecution - but Reimer is currently in the 2nd year of a 2 year / $4,500,000 contract. In 2022-23, Reimer will earn a base salary of $2,750,000USD. Even if he isn’t invited back to play another game in the NHL, he should be able to make it for a few years. (Heavy dollop of sarcasm fully intended.)
Esau’s example of persecution growing for Canadian Christians is an NHL goalie having to deal with a rumour that he may not have his $4.5M contract renewed with an American hockey team. When Christians use the term persecution to describe these kinds of situations, it’s important to recognize that this kind of language is not only problematic, but is dismissive of the actual cause of persecuted Christians throughout the world that are being imprisoned, losing their families, or their lives due to their choice to live as a Christian.
Once again: loss of privilege is not the same as persecution.