Tag Archives: religious restriction

Injustice — Barely Short of Persecution

The concept of persecution is defined several different ways, depending on the context in which the situation arises. In casual conversation, even social shunning may be viewed as persecution, but in a court of law, there are specific criteria that must be met for the word persecution to apply.

When the culture opposes Christianity so strongly that Christians are afraid to appear in public, it certainly feels like persecution to individual Christians. In places like Pakistan and Syria, for example, even if someone is neither arrested nor beaten in public, pockets of the population are so strongly opposed to the very existence of Christians that they run a terrifying gauntlet in order to go to work or buy food.

Disinformation adds to the pressure when the media or public figures accuse Christians of expecting privilege when they ask for religious liberty. Secular voices declare that religious liberty is freedom of worship, not the freedom to act according to conscience when culture or government set conflicting expectations.

The third level of development along the path to persecution is injustice. In many countries Christians suffer injustice when culture and government work hand in glove. For example, many countries require that personal ID include a person’s religion. There is no religion entry on a driver’s license or a passport for the USA, but in many countries it is required. In those countries where religious ID is required and simultaneously, Christians are reviled, when a Christian presents ID, it triggers obstruction in legal processes or may even trigger abuse.

Because a Christian is identified in public records, both citizens and officials can easily target Christians. In Vietnam, local officials have been known to forcibly remove Christians from their homes and then confiscate their property. In Kazakhstan officials have broken into the homes of known Christians to look for religious literature that might not have been printed by the government-authorized publishing house. In Pakistan, Muslim men abduct Christian women and force them into marriage, succeeding even after their families file charges in court, because the courts rule that the women went voluntarily, converted to Islam voluntarily and married their abductors voluntarily, all without any supporting evidence.

The rise of injustice in any country will almost certainly lead to persecution.

In the USA, Christians are being subjected to opposition and maligned by disinformation almost daily. A growing number of legal cases surround situations in which Christians have been not only pressured by the culture but also constrained by government to act against conscience. The constantly changing landscape surrounding the impetus to make it legal everywhere for a homosexual union to be called a marriage threatens Christian business owners who simply want the freedom not to participate in same-gender weddings and the associated festivities. For them it is a matter of conscience not to appear to condone or to act in support of same-gender marriage because of biblical proscriptions against homosexuality under any circumstances. States which have passed laws prohibiting a long list of discriminatory practices are issuing citations and assessing fines against Christians judged to be guilty of discrimination simply because they consider homosexuality to be sin. To Christians who expect the freedom protected by the First Amendment, such judgments are injustices, and legal action is working its way through the various courts of both the state and federal systems.

The US has a long history of religious liberty. More than one colony of the original thirteen was founded by refugees from religious persecution. The USA has been a safe haven for refugees from religious persecution since its founding. Christians must pray that this history is not turned on its head in the name of political correctness and newly-created moral laws based on the rule that if it makes someone happy, it must be right and good. God has revealed himself in the Bible, and Christians recognize that the Bible is their guide, given by God, for faith and life. It is time to pray earnestly that new versions of secular morality will not impose injustice on Christians who, like the apostles in Jerusalem, say, “We must obey God rather than men.”(Acts 5:29)

 

Your Enemy is not a Secular Government; Your Enemy is Satan

That statement sounds like a copout to some people. Of course, Satan is behind all the restrictions and pressure to conform. Sure, he is the one who motivates even people who call themselves Christians to vote for bad leaders and bad laws. That is a real oversimplification of the difficulties we experience just trying to live our faith according the freedom the Constitution protects.

It sounds too simple to be worth thinking about, but it is exactly what we need to think about. If we think that presidents or senators or judges or laws or neighbors or foreigners or unbelievers are the problem, then we will contend with all those people. To focus our efforts on the people enslaved by Satan is like telling an unjustly imprisoned man to fix his problem by breaking out of jail. If we believe that our society will be improved if we win some legal battles or a few elections, then we are doomed to deep disappointment.

It is the elected and appointed leaders who enact and interpret and enforce laws that restrict religious liberty. It is neighbors, friends and fellow employees who make spiteful remarks about religious fanatics and militant bigotry. But these people don’t dream up all these problems by themselves. They are inspired and motivated and pressured by the most powerful evil force in the universe. Without Christ in their lives, they have no hope of resisting that power. Even people who have received Christ may be very weak in their commitment and may still be lured by satanic turns of phrase that sound ever so sophisticated and mature.

The enemy who masterminds cultural shunning and scorn, government restrictions, and outright persecution is Satan. Eve could not withstand his cunning, and people today are just as gullible. If we fight the world only by fighting fellow-citizens in street demonstrations, petition campaigns, legal proceedings, elections or on the floors of legislatures, we will never really win. In every war, there are numerous battles. Usually one side wins some contests, and the other side wins some. The death of an infantryman in a muddy foxhole may be necessary to the cause. Death and destruction mount up over time. Still, the person who must actually be defeated is the mastermind behind all the action. No matter how many men take the field in a given conflict, there are two generals whose decisions set everything in motion, and one of them must surrender or be soundly defeated. Otherwise, winners and losers scurry off with their dead and wounded, clean up, re-provision, and start over somewhere else. This is what happens when Christians engage in the battle for religious liberty without recognizing the real enemy.

The real enemy is Satan, and the only power who can defeat him in time and space is the same power who defeated him for eternity on the cross: Christ our Savior. The battle for religious liberty in the US and countries around the world is not a battle for the power of good in eternity. That battle was won when Jesus died and rose again. The competition today is against evil in the time-space realm. We battle for religious liberty primarily in order that we can rescue all the people imprisoned in the ranks of Satan’s troops. Think about it. We don’t want to be able to speak and live our testimony to Christ in order to make more money or even in order to feel good about ourselves. We do it, because Christ told us to share the good news with everyone. We cannot share the good news with those who need it if there are laws and enforcers in place to forbid us to speak our testimony.

Laws and rules and practices which restrict and constrain our ability to share the good news in word and deed must be overturned and ended, because Christ loves all the people. He loves and desires fellowship with all the people who call him a figment of a wishful imagination. Those laws were enacted by people deceived by Satan’s lies, because Satan does not want those people to follow Christ. Why do you suppose he offered to hand over the kingdoms of the world to Jesus in return for worship? Satan knew that if Christ, God in the flesh, worshiped him in order to get the kingdoms, the people would be following a Jesus who followed Satan. As long as Satan gets the people, he is not picky about who is leading the pack behind him. He will let anyone lead the pack, as long as he leads the leader.

Christians must remember that Paul warned the Ephesians not to be confused about who was their enemy. He said, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) This is the description of our enemy as well. Before we sign petitions, plan campaigns, vote in elections, sue in court, write to our legislators and so forth, we need to call on the general of our army, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we need to get our uniforms and weapons from him. He wants us in the trenches and the fray, but he probably thinks we march best on our knees.

Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. … And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:13, 18 NIV)