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« Crucifix: Symbol of Power or Powerlessnes? | Main | God Visits Paradoxology! »

November 21, 2005

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Chris, Thanks for another challenging post.

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Over the ages, various people have taken this word, along with other biblical passages, to regard persecution -- on account of faith -- as a great work of faith. Christian Martyrs are regarded as great heros of the faith. Yet persecution is not a work of the one being persecuted. One may be tested by it, bravely endure it -- or die from it, but these are reactions not actions or works of faith. Religious persecution is a work of pure evil. Any form of persecution is a work of pure evil. No one wants to face, let alone invite, evil. No one should seek persecution as a means to prove their cause. No one should tempt the devil.
Should we care for those who are persecuted? pray for them? attempt to rescue them by appropriate means? Of course. We should do this for any persecuted person or group. I don't think Jesus' words (above) imply that he was only concerned with religious persecution -- or even more concerned with it than other aggressive acts of evil. When Christians single out religious persecution of fellow believers, over and above the attrocities committed against any people for any reason, we run the risk of becoming religious-supremacists instead of people who regard all of God's children as our neighbors. Thus, we should care equally for the muslims of Darfur as we do the Christians of the Blue Nile, as much for secular Shia as we do for American soldiers. When persecution abounds righteousness should abound all the more.

A friend of mine, Yussef is a missionary to Indonesia. He's shared with me some of the terrible things that happen in Indonesia to Christians. The same with another friend, Omran a former PLO member now sold out to Jesus, who works in Jordan and the Arab nations.

My fear is that in America we've lost what it means not only to be the 'persecuted Church' but what we should be doing to get persecuted for.

I'm afraid that Amercian Christians will think preaching Romans 1, I Corinthians 6:19 and having that called hate speech will content them they are persecuted.

Rather than being persecuted for unashamedly showing the love of Christ to the unwanted, to those in the gutter to the rejects of society. I'd be happier if we were being persecuted for how much we love those in the LGBT community (and love and forgiveness doesn't mean condoning the lifestyle) rather than being persecuted for hating / fearing / rejecting them.

LYB

Seraphim

Chris, thanks for sharing what God has put close to your heart. As I read the post, I checked out each link even before the final challenge. After reading the couple of comments, I simply prayed. How do we respond to this? How have I failed to respond? How should I respond?

Americans (especially middle class American "Christians") live a sterile (ie. insulated) environment. Even viewing pictures on the web is "clean." Perhaps this is why we feel contaminated when we are surprised with pictures of beheadings and the like. I would suggest something that may help "move us" deeper and closer to what God may be saying to us: Prayer Full Imagination.

These are the questions that I asked myself. What would it have felt like to be steamrolled to death? Can I really imagine what it would be like to watch something so horrific in person? What must these soldiers/executioners be feeling and thinking to order and/or participate in these actions?

I don't believe in obsessing over these or being sadistic, which is why I said a "Prayer Full" Imagination. As I imagine, I keep coming back to God. For me at least, I have a much deeper gratitude than I did yesterday. Which is certainly appropriate considering what holiday is on Thursday.

In Christ.

The lack of an authentic ascetic lifestyle has lot to do with the problem of American Christianity on this issue.

Chris, I definately feel where you are coming from on this post. Don't you think that the part about Americans " insulating that serves as a sort of "buffer-zone-of-the-soul," is part of a much bigger problem? Don't we isolate and cut ourselves off from anything that makes us uncomfortable? (think of the poor and homeless) It makes me think about the great show six feet under and your recent post about death and our reaction to it.

Anyway, if we want to treat others in the Body of Christ with respect, let's stop supporting blogs like the one you linked to. That was a fake photo from an unnamed source, and it ruins the credibility of the entire website, and could ruin the whole believability of the topic for some.

Benjy, then how should I respond to the comment post that appears at the persecutionblog.com article, which was signed...

Posted by: Glenn at Nov 10, 2005 12:44:57 PM

It's fine to contest the photo, Benjy -- but it would be helpful to cite your evidence. Thanks.

Anyway, if we want to treat others in the Body of Christ with respect, let's stop supporting blogs like the one you linked to. That was a fake photo from an unnamed source, and it ruins the credibility of the entire website, and could ruin the whole believability of the topic for some.

Reminds me of the story of the preacher who spoke about poverty, folk being so "Damn" poor, etc. And all that people came away from the sermon with was the fact the preacher said damn.

I'shalom

Seraphim

I had this thought today which seems relevent: Whatever persecution occurs in the U.S. seems to come about as a result of trying to realize the Kingdom of God within the U.S political system. Some lingering form of Manifest Destiny (or similar) leads many to this equation, Kingdom of God = USA. So, when Christians are opposed for trying to establish prayer in public schools, this is persecution.

This false equation is at the root of our problem. It is the source of our "insulation." As Seraphim said:

My fear is that in America we've lost what it means not only to be the 'persecuted Church' but what we should be doing to get persecuted for.

In other nations, where it is impossible to pretend that this equation is true, Christians are forced to seek the Kingdom outside of and beyond their nation-state, something which is bound to cause problems... as we can see.

Unfortunately, being among Coptic Christians puts a personal face on persecution. It makes me so angry to think of the humiliation and deprivation my brothers and sisters still face in Egypt. And Muslims whine loudly abroad about how they are insulted and abused by the West, when they're busy building mosques here and in Europe not just unhindered, but with civil support.

We should be concerned about suffering no matter what forms it takes, but love "especially for the family of believers" is completely scriptural and in keeping with how a family operates.

Lauren, your comment post was excellent. One thing in particular that stands out was:

"When Christians single out religious persecution of fellow believers, over and above the attrocities committed against any people for any reason, we run the risk of becoming religious-supremacists instead of people who regard all of God's children as our neighbors. "

The charge of exclusivity is certainly one we want to avoid. We say we love the world, but we need to prove it by our actions. That said, what Gina pointed out is also true:

"We should be concerned about suffering no matter what forms it takes, but love "especially for the family of believers" is completely scriptural and in keeping with how a family operates."

This highlights a paradox within our faith: all human beings are God's children, and yet there is also a family-of-faith (i.e. the body of Christ) that is separate and unique.

We must love our neighbors as ourselves, not just on an individual basis but on the corporate level as well.

"Some lingering form of Manifest Destiny (or similar) leads many to this equation, Kingdom of God = USA."

Bald Man -- now that's scary!

Lauren,
It is a rare and wonderful thing to come across someone who will actually say that we should care about people persecuted for a religion that is not ours. Far more unlikely for people to act that way. You impress me.

Seraphim,
"Rather than being persecuted for unashamedly showing the love of Christ to the unwanted, to those in the gutter to the rejects of society. I'd be happier if we were being persecuted for how much we love those in the LGBT community (and love and forgiveness doesn't mean condoning the lifestyle) rather than being persecuted for hating / fearing / rejecting them."

Also a refreshing and surprising position to run across on Christian blogs in general. I pray both of you succeed in spreading these thoughts to others.

Chris,
Unrelated to this post, but rather your "Blog-within-a-blog" I have heard this argument about upside down Christmas trees in numerous places. Two things: First, I can say from experience that this has no relation to any Pagan practice I have run across, and due to my vocation, I run across a large number of them. Second, hanging Christmas trees upside down from one's ceiling was a practice instituted by Christians many years ago, although predominantly in Europe. If any of you look up a history of the Christmas tree (a secular one preferably, or one who's lack of bias you can be certain of) you will find this to be the case. Most of the Christmas rituals are borrowed from Pagan practices. Why label one of the few that belong to you as hours?

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