Pastor Andrew Brunson soberly predicted on Sunday that Christians in the United States will face increasing hostility regardless of whether President Donald Trump prevails in his legal battles regarding the presidential election.
Brunson, who was an American missionary to Turkey for 25 years until he was unjustly imprisoned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, owes his freedom in part to the hardline diplomatic measures that the Trump administration took against Turkey on his behalf.
Nevertheless, Brunson said, the most that American Christians could hope from a second Trump term is a “delay” of the persecution that he discerns to be inevitable for his home country, for which reason he urges people of faith to prepare for intense pushback.
Speaking Sunday evening to a group of Christians who gathered via Zoom to pray for the integrity of the U.S. election, Brunson explained how he has been burdened with “a new urgency” toward the U.S. since he returned after being released from his imprisonment in October 2018.
“On my return to the U.S. just over two years ago, for the first time in my life—most of my life I’ve been focused overseas—for the first time in my life, I really, I have an urgency for this country, for the United States,” Brunson said. “And not just with this election. It’s not precipitated by this election, but it has been growing in me these last two years.”
“I believe the pressures that we’re seeing in our country now are going to increase, and one of these pressures is going to be hostility toward people who embrace Jesus Christ and his teaching, who are not ashamed to stand for him,” Brunson continued. “My concern is that we’re not ready for this pressure. And not being prepared is very, very dangerous on a number of levels.”
Referencing his own persecution in Turkey, which he described as “relatively intense,” Brunson explained his belief that God had allowed him to suffer so profoundly so that he could better equip his fellow Christians at home to endure similar trials.
“I think one of the purposes God had for me in my imprisonment was that I learned perseverance at a deeper level again and again and again, as I was repeatedly broken and finally he rebuilt me,” Brunson said. “But one of the purposes he had for me was to learn this perseverance so that I could help to prepare others to persevere.”
Brunson went on to describe the historically unusual freedom of religion in the U.S., which he attributed to godly ancestors and leaders whose legacy is running out. “So we have been spared major persecution in the U.S. until now, because generations before ours honored God,” he said. “And surely there were many mistakes and sins in our country, but many of our leaders honored God. And today, a great many leaders in our society and corporations, media, entertainment, politics, and academia, they do not honor God. And, in fact, they openly defy him.”
Brunson pinpointed “cancel culture” as a key example of the rising persecution. “We see this in ‘cancel culture,’ silencing and marginalizing and deplatforming; removing access to spreading information, to communicating. I think it’s coming into financial transactions now, and that’s going to present a lot of challenges. So that’s already happening.”
Recounting how he recently spoke with “a significant leader” whose online ministry had been “canceled and moved off of platforms,” Brunson pivoted to the growing cultural antipathy toward Christianity that transcends politics. “Whoever ends up prevailing in this election, I believe that persecution is still coming and it’s coming quickly and it’s coming soon,” he said. “So if President Trump prevails, it will delay persecution at a government level, but this will not keep us from the hostility that’s rising in our society toward followers of Jesus.”
“And I want to mention here that Jesus was the most loving, kind person in history, and yet he was called evil and people are not going to just disagree with us,” Brunson added. “They will say that we are evil and they will justify everything they do to us because they will paint us as evil people.”
If Trump does not prevail and the Democratic Party seizes the reins of power, Brunson maintained that such an occurrence will “accelerate significantly” the opposition against people of faith at the levels of government.
“So, in either case, and this is what is heavy on my heart, is that we need to prepare ourselves to prepare our own hearts,” Brunson admonished.
Brunson recently took part in the Prayer March in Washington, D.C., with evangelist Franklin Graham, who echoed Brunson’s warning regarding approaching persecution against American Christians during an interview with The Daily Wire:
Regarding what the future may hold for American Christians, Graham reiterated the warning of freed pastor Andrew Brunson, who will be attending the march and offering the prayer at one of the stops along the Mall. A year ago, Brunson told the Washington Examiner that he believes persecution is possibly “very close” for the American church, a prediction about which, Graham said, there is “no question.”
Graham condemned the lingering lockdowns of churches in states like California as illegal and unconstitutional. “The Constitution guarantees us the right to worship without interference from the government,” he said. “For a governor just to arbitrarily say that Lowe’s, Home Depot can be open, or Walmart can be open on Sunday, but churches have to be closed, and they can’t have more than 100 people or 50 people or whatever, it just shows you that they are targeting churches.”
“Businesses can stay open, but churches cannot. I appreciate the president saying that churches are essential,” Graham added, commending Los Angeles pastor John MacArthur especially for taking a stand against state and local authorities, despite continuous court battles. “He’s right,” Graham said. “We have the right to worship, whether pandemic or not a pandemic. We have the right to worship and the government can’t stop us.”
“Our country needs God’s help,” Graham said. “Only God can fix these problems. And there’s no easy answer to it. It’s going to take a solution from on high, which I believe God can give if the church prays and seeks his face.”