At a recent White House press briefing, a reporter asked what the “red line” is for U.S. action to defend Egypt’s Christians from jihad. The response was, “I didn’t bring my red pen out with me today.” It is easy to understand what this response means: there is nothing that could be bad enough to compel me to defend Egypt’s Christians from the violence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Such an attitude is completely inconsistent with what most people consider to be American principles, but it isn’t really surprising in view of the clear daily evidence that the US government is committed to secular principles. Secularism considers any and all religions to be childish regression to a fairytale world peopled with beings invisible to the average person, beings that only exist in the minds of those who claim to see them. Secular thinkers refer to expressions of faith in God as a manifestations of personal neediness and immaturity that leans on an Imaginary Friend. To a secular thinker, a Christian who is persecuted for his faith just needs to grow up. Bombing, beheading, burning, looting and raping Christians is certainly undesirable behavior, but to a secular thinker all this uproar could be brought to a halt if Christians simply stop acting like children. That attitude is made very plain by the fact that the White House press secretary didn’t make any case whatsoever for allowing the violence to continue, but instead, smirked and made a joke about it. It would be hard for someone to state more clearly that this whole Christian thing is just silly, and beneath the dignity of a White House response.
In effect, the White House asked, What am I supposed to do about this? How is this in any way my problem?
Christians around the world, on the other hand, joined by non-Christians who have basic humanitarian instincts, are deeply concerned that a violent organization is being permitted to wreak havoc unimpeded. They are concerned that this violent organization, some of whose “warriors” were trained by the US under some past ill-advised aid program, will overwhelm the ability of the Egyptian military to bring order to the streets of Egypt. Christians everywhere see the hands-off attitude of the US president, and he looks just like the Egyptian police who respond to calls for help by saying, “I can’t be bothered to protect every Christian pastor who might be attacked.”
The real problem with the White House response, however, is not whether military intervention or support is the right answer. The problem is that the White House dismisses the question. It reminds thoughtful observers that the White House has a very narrow interpretation of the legitimate expression of a religious conviction. Demonstrating a viewpoint consistent with secular standards, the White House has asserted multiple times that when a person engages in business, he loses the right to exercise his religion in the course of doing business. From that viewpoint, compelling a Christian businessman to engage in a transaction against his conscience is not persecution, or even restriction of his free exercise of religion. To a secular thinker, if the businessman or any other Christian is free to go inside any house of worship he chooses and engage in conversations with his imaginary friend, then he has all the religious liberty he has a right to. From that perspective, the White House sanely puts distance between itself and some dispute in Egypt between competing religions over which imaginary friend is better.
Are you asking yourself, What am I supposed to do about this?
If you are a Christian, you face similar challenges every day. The culture of the US is increasingly secular, and secular advocates are becoming more aggressive all the time. The successes achieved in the campaign to redefine marriage, to make the state (the federal government) the parent, to dissolve all moral boundaries and to restrict religion to an ever smaller footprint in the culture feed an enthusiasm for ever more hostility toward traditional values and the religions which shaped them. Even if you identify with the pain of Christians besieged by Muslims, your own battles are less bloody and fought on a different plain. You may think that because you battle intangible ideas you are in less danger than a Coptic Christian in Egypt.
You are wrong. The US is only at the beginning of a fundamental transformation, which, you may remember, was promised by Barack Obama as part of his campaign. There are many secular governments in the world where you can observe where secularism goes. There are numerous countries where full-blown secularism is the official worldview. The local officials in nations such as those have confiscated the property of Christians simply because they are Christians. Christians are beaten in their own homes for holding unauthorized prayer meetings. Christians are forbidden to take their own children to church, because of a secular law forbidding the inculcation of religious teaching to anyone under the age of 18. And so forth.
It is a tragedy that the late great nation of the USA does not stand up for the vulnerable in the battle between Coptic Christians and Muslim jihadists. Despite that official stance, Christians can and should pray personally for the protection of the Christians and the conversion of the Muslims. However, for American Christians, the real battle is right here in the USA. The real battle is one you will fight first within yourself. How much are you willing to risk for the freedom to exercise your religious faith? The First Amendment is only words if people are not actually exercising their convictions. Are you willing to lose friends for your faith? Some people will actively distance themselves from “fanatics” or “radical fundamentalists” who speak publicly of their religion. Are you willing to risk your job, or to lose your own business for the sake of Christ? Are you willing to be as scornfully dismissed by your government as the Coptic Christians were?
What, exactly, are you supposed to do about this?