Troy Newman leads Operation Rescue, an extreme anti-abortion organization that has advocated the execution of doctors—likely inciting the murder of Dr. George Tiller—while ironically condemning women who end ill-conceived pregnancies as murderers. Newman also is one of three board members for the “Center for Medical Progress,” the group facing federal and state charges over its secretive recording of Planned Parenthood employees to produce deceptively spliced videos.
The Australian immigration code treats people like Newman as undesirables—with reason—and when Newman, on a mission to agitate against abortion care, tried to board a plane to New South Wales, his visa was revoked.
Why No Visa?
Under the code, Australia can deny or revoke a visa when “the presence of its holder in Australia is or may be, or would or might be, a risk to: the health, safety or good order of the Australian community or a segment of the Australian community; or the health or safety of an individual or individuals.”
Seems pretty clear in this case.
In the words of Labor MP, Teri Butler, “Anyone who advocates the execution of doctors or compares women who seek terminations to murderers clearly fails the Australian community’s character test.”
But Newman sees himself as a victim. “Please pray for me. I’m stuck in Denver airport like a man without a country,” he wrote on Facebook, which lists the Bible and The Art of War as his reading list. Then he got onto a plane without a visa.
Martyr Complex At Odds with Reality
Mercifully, Australia’s high court appears prepared to deport him. High Court Justice Geoffrey Nettle ruled that Newman threatened “the good order of the Australian community.” . . . “He does not come to this court with clean hands,” Nettle added.
Obviously, Newman is a man with a country, or we wouldn’t be stuck with him here in the U.S. But his hyperbole is classic Christian persecution complex (CPC).
Despite having co-authored a book advocating the execution of abortion doctors, Newman insists that he is being mistreated. “The revocation was based on a pile of lies, including the idea that I promote violence,” he added to his Facebook on Wednesday. “My 25 year history of peaceful, prayerful action speaks for itself.”
Never mind that the fabricated shock videos produced by the so called Center for Medical Progress have triggered violent threats, doxing, hacking and denial-of-service attacks against abortion care providers, and likely clinic arsons in Washington and California.
Genuine and horrible persecution of Christians exists in the world, often in countries dominated by Islam, which—like Christianity—makes exclusive truth claims and denigrates outsiders. But the loudest cries of persecution tend to come from fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians who are safe and well-fed, but who are being thwarted from foisting their views on others:
- Evangelicals in the military cry persecution (and sometimes make horrible threats) when they are blocked from proselytizing men and women under their command, or citizens of other countries under their control, or in uniform on the public dime.
- Para-church organizations cry persecution when they are blocked from seeking converts among children in public grade schools.
- Christian aid organizations like World Vision cry persecution when forced to treat employees like aid workers rather than missionaries.
- Public servants cry persecution when forced to skip sermonizing, Christian-themed prayers before meetings, or else make prayers more inclusive (or issue marriage licenses to queer couples).
Bible and Tradition Set Believers Up For Persecution Complex
Every religion has an immune system–a set of teachings that inoculate believers against doubt or defection–and one part of Christianity’s immune system is a group of teachings that brace believers to expect persecution simply because they are good people who love Jesus. This expectation that Christians will be persecuted—not because they often are obnoxious or wrongheaded or causing harm but simply because they are Christians—is a theme throughout the Bible that was later reinforced by a long Christian tradition of celebrating martyrs.
In addition to an immune system, every religion also has a reproductive system. In Christianity, a handful of sentences in the New Testament command Christians to proselytize (which can produce some very bad behavior in the service of this perceived greater good). For Evangelicals this is considered one of the most important commandments in the Bible. It is called “The Great Commission.”
As a way to prevent missionaries and other enthusiastic “witnesses” from taking negative feedback to heart, the Bible and Christian tradition specifically predict persecution as a response to evangelism. Consequently, almost nothing brings out Christianity’s multi-millennial persecution complex more readily than thwarted evangelism:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:18-20
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. Matthew 10:16-17
Australia Sees Through It
Troy Newman isn’t on a mission to win converts to Christianity, but he believes he is on a mission to win converts to what God wants—in this case, to end abortion by criminalizing it (rather than simply making it obsolete, which might allow women a little too much sexual freedom).
A man like Troy Newman, convinced that he is on a righteous mission—convinced that he speaks for God and God speaks through him—has no hope of seeing obstruction for what it is, a rejection of his own ugly verbiage and behavior by more clear-headed people whose morality is based, not in blind belief, but in a thoughtful commitment to wellbeing. What Newman is up against is not persecution, but Australia’s commitment to the wellbeing of her healthcare providers and couples who are trying to make wise intentional decisions about their families. That may make him feel persecuted, but it makes many of the rest of us feel grateful that, in Australia at least, someone is minding the shop.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.