". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


‘If We Don’t Take a Stand Now’ against Hostility, the Church Could Become ‘Voiceless,’ Pastor Warns

February 21, 2024

On Wednesday, Family Research Council released a report that analyzed the rise of hostility against churches between 2018 and 2023. Over the course of six years, FRC “identified 915 acts of hostility against churches in the United States,” with 2023 experiencing 436 attacks — more than double what FRC found in 2022.

Authored by Arielle Del Turco, director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, the findings suggest “that hostility against U.S. churches is not only on the rise but also accelerating,” and these acts of hostility include “vandalism, arson, gun-related incidents, bomb threats, and more.” And as FRC Senior Vice President Jody Hice emphasized on Monday’s episode of “Washington Watch,” the report does not account for every incident that has occurred.

“So, this increase in religious hostility should not be taken lightly,” Hice insisted. “It must be outright condemned,” he declared, pointing out that many churches facing these acts of hatred do not receive the recognition and support they deserve as they navigate their way through a variety of violent acts and threats. One example is Word of Life Church in Wichita, Kansas, and Pastor Rob Rotola shared his troublesome experiences on “Washington Watch.”

“I documented 18 separate incidences of either vandalism, theft, or hostilities in the year 2023 alone,” Rotola said. “And that is, honestly, with ignoring some of the smaller things that didn’t even make the list.” He explained how his church has four campuses around Wichita, but they chose to self-manage most of the incidents because many of the police officers in the area were replaced with social workers. “So, when you call now … the response time is markedly slower,” he added.

While there may be many contributing factors to the rise in hostility, Rotola emphasized that most attacks are likely rooted in an increased and “general lack of respect for churches.” But in addition to that aspect, the media tends to describe “churches and pastors and ministers and rabbis in almost always a negative light,” noting that church authorities are often labeled as “crooks,” “pedophiles,” or other terms of “ill will.”

He continued, “[I]f we don’t take a stand now and speak out and hold our ground, spirit, soul, and body” to “provide our own security … eventually we will be a voiceless society.” But Rotola emphasized that the church simply “can’t consider going voiceless and … hiding.” Because “when you go quiet,” he added, it does not make the problem cease or the persecutors go away, it only makes everything worse.

Rotola went on to emphasize the price Christians pay for refusing to stay silent. He shared how his church hosted a gathering in October 2023 called the Exposed Conference. At the event, they addressed LGBT ideology “from a loving standpoint,” articulating the message “that God can help you if you’re in this lifestyle.” However, during and after the conference, he and his church faced vandalism and a variety of threats. “Why?” Rotola asked. “Because we were not affirming them.”

Moving forward, Rotola said his “prayer would be … that churches take a stand, be more vocal … [and] push back [against] the bully.” He concluded, “Remember, the different people in the incidences are not our enemies. They’re the people that are being driven by forces and affections and emotions.” And even though Christians will be called “haters” and experience hostility for proclaiming the truth, both Hice and Rotola urged the church to stand strong.

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.