Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. -Hebrews 13:3
Yesterday, in addition to being Veterans Day, was also International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Fittingly, it fell on a Sunday. As I sat in my church's morning service, singing hymns, praying, and receiving communion, I tried to focus on how precious my ability to openly worship and serve my faith is. An estimated 160, 000 Christians across the world will die at the hands of their oppressors and another 200 million are persecuted, arrested, tortured, beaten, or jailed for their beliefs. There are 48 nations where it is illegal to do one or all of the following things:
- own a bible
- discuss a personal belief in Christianity
- convert to Christianity
- allow children to attend a religious service not sanctioned by the government.
I hold my religious freedom very dear and am extremely blessed and fortunate to live in a country where I can choose my religion and publicly express my beliefs. But honestly, it is a freedom I take for granted. And that most American Christians take for granted as well.
Every time I hear someone mouth off about how "Christianity is under attack in this country", I wish I could ship them over to North Korea or China or Iran to see what "under attack" really means. All this grousing about prayer in schools or public nativity sets or Ten Commandments in courtrooms makes me wonder if a little bit of perspective has been lost. Christianity no longer has the same Most Favored Nation status in the public domain it used to. There was a time, say forty or fifty years ago, when it was assumed that the majority of the American populace was church going. Christian church going. Not any more. And this twerks some churchin' folks off who think that America should stay stuck in the Eisenhower Era.
Yet these same mouthy churchgoers are mum on the subject of the international church community. I don't hear a loud outcry for the Laotian and Indonesian ministers jailed with indefinite sentences or for the deaths of Christians in India or for the Nigerian Christians who worship secretly in fear of extreme persecution.
They blissfully go on about their lives. Christian bumper stickers slapped on their minivans, stereos tuned to a Christian radio station and blaring worship music, shopping at the local Christian store, sending their kids to a Christian school, wearing Christian sloganed t-shirts.
And then they bitch about "Happy Holidays" replacing "Merry Christmas".
God help us. Help us be grateful for the huge amount of religious freedom we have in this country.
Just as important as our right to practice openly and freely our religion of choice is the separation of church and state. And that the debate over this concept is still alive and continually renewing. Our founders thankfully learned from the religio-political rollercoaster England endured and saw fit to eliminate the state church. This separation, rather than quash religion in America, has kept it alive and thriving. Our public domain should never be sanitized of all mention of religion; that would be doing an enormous disservice to a vital element of American culture.
A theocracy, on the other hand, serves no man and serves no God.