10 January 2010

Taking Our Faith for Granted?

My intention when I began this blog was to keep this site separate from my day job - I'm a professional writer. Not all, but some of my work is political in content. Over time I am finding that when I am inspired to add to this site, it often coincides with my interest in world affairs. I am realizing that for me, the subjects of ethics, politics, society and religion are in fact inseparable. With that in mind, I am throwing in the towel and posting the following.

Last week, the supreme court of Malaysia ruled that a Christian newspaper may translate the word "God" as "Allah." This ruling came despite protests and numerous threats from the Muslim community. As the ruling came down, Muslim men streamed from two large mosques in downtown Kuala Lumpur to gather in formal protest. Later in the day, three churches were firebombed.

Aaron J. Leichman at the Christian Post wrote the following in an article posted on Friday, January 8 when he tried to explain the Islamic logic behind this nonsense:

" . . . Those sentiments and more were expressed Friday as young Muslims emerged from two main mosques in downtown Kuala Lumpur, carrying banners and delivering fiery speeches, vowing to defend Islam.

"We will not allow the word Allah to be inscribed in your churches," one speaker shouted into a loudspeaker at the Kampung Bahru mosque, according to The Associated Press. About 50 other people carried posters reading "Heresy arises from words wrongly used" and "Allah is only for us."

Allah is only for us. Amongst those living in Christian-based societies, who can't quite stomach the traditional faith, is an all-too-common complaint about Christians seeming exclusionary in their speech and conduct. I've heard it too, and as a Christian it makes me cringe: a sort of a you-are-not-one-of-us thing, that I assume arises as a natural, albeit ugly, characteristic of human nature. Those who consider themselves part of Christ's family, even some of the leaders of churches, seem to miss the whole point - that the Good News is for everyone, that each of us falls short of God's expectations. In true Christian love, there is no place for exclusive clubs. I humbly submit - in the confidence that Christ would nod in approval - that we need to be careful that we never send a message to even our "enemies" that God is only for us.

That being said, I think it's worth looking closer at the events in Malaysia because they speak to the state of Christianity in much of the world today. It is ironic - in Europe and North America, where Christianity has freely flourished for centuries, people have grown away from the church. Liberal progressive secularism looks down its elitist nose at a faith that it increasingly regards as outdated superstition. I don't think it is insignificant that we have an American president who sold himself as a candidate to a gullible public as a Christian who was currently without a church. He was looking forward, he said, to finding a church home in Washington with his family. A year and a half later, he does not have such a base, and rarely sets foot in a church. (Oh, I know, one doesn't need to actually GO to a church to have a relationship with God. But personally, much of this man's conduct, past history, and writing would suggest to me that he understands little of the Christian faith.) His children are being raised without the influence of Christian thought, as are too many children of their generation. As coming years bring greater societal and political strife, they won't have the faith foundation to lean on that generations past have depended upon in difficult times.

Meanwhile, as Europe reports fewer and fewer in younger generations who self-identify as Christian, the Faith is growing in places on the globe where being a Christian takes some serious commitment, work, and considerable threat to one's livelihood and life. Perhaps as things have become too easy, we in the West have become lazy - certainly not all of us, but far too many.

It is interesting to note that in such places as Iran and India, where Christians are persecuted regularly to the point of death, the Faith is actually growing. Imagine the courage it takes to risk beatings, arrest or torture because you attend a prayer meeting in a private home; or imagine being murdered after police invade your home and turn up six bibles. Imagine your child's school being subject to fire bombs because it is Christian. Imagine that the act of praying to Jesus Christ, or reading scripture, or wearing a cross around one's neck, is reason to put ones life at risk. Yet, brave Christians are doing this daily in places where praying to Christ is a joy because it is an act of defiance, a stolen forbidden moment of Christian light and peace in a dark world.

In Malaysia, Christians are permitted to exist. But often violent crime directed toward Christian homes and individuals is not even prosecuted. Malaysia, being primarily Muslim, recognizes the tenets of Islamic Shariah law that dictate that while Muslims should allow Jews and Christians to live amongst them, they are not to enjoy the same privileges as the Muslims do. To be screaming in the streets over who has the right to use an Arabic word is not so unusual, when you consider that Christians under Shariah law are often denied rights such as holding public office, voting, building churches, praying in a public place. (In many Muslim countries, under Muslim governmental structures, Christians pay a tax to the government simply for being Christian.) For further information on current conditions for Christians around the world who live in persecution, visit Persecution.org.

Lord, thank you for the freedom to worship you as I wish to. Help me remember this freedom at those times I'm too tired to go to church, too lazy to pray, too rushed and busy to consider those who are dying for our faith. Surely these martyrs hold a special place in Heaven for their courage and sacrifice.
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