Remembering the Oppressed

“And what are you? So full of hate you wanna fight everybody … ’cause you’ve been whipped and chased by hounds. That might not be livin’, but it sure ain’t dyin’. And dyin’s what these white boys been doin’ for goin’ on three years now. Dyin’ by the thousands. Dyin’ for you, fool! I know, ’cause I dug the graves. And all the time I’m diggin’, I’m asking myself, ‘When? When, O Lord, is it gonna be our time?’ Time’s comin’ when we’re gonna have to ante up. Ante up and kick in like men. Like men!” – Morgan Freeman as Sergeant Major John Rawlins’ in Glory

For those who have seen the film, you’ll recall Morgan Freemen’s impassioned plea to Denzel Washington’s character. Declaring that one day they would all have to “kick in” and put their lives on the line in the fight for freedom. It’s a great scene.

In this blog, we have taken the position that freedom and defense of human rights are not only a good limitation on government, but a responsible position for the Christian to take. That pushing for legislation of morality (whether behavioral or monetary) in the age of “popular government” is a step too far. It puts us in the position of judge of the law rather than doer of the law. These are fights that should be fought in the hearts and minds of men – not in the law books. No, let the government defend human rights, and let freedom exist in all else. We will gladly take on the challenge of convincing men of what is right – this is a rightful role of the Church as the “city on the hill” and “salt and light”.

We want to take this moment to recognize though that it is a debate about goodness in a good land. It is a debate about maintaining or resurrecting freedom in a land of freedom. There are many countries in this world where freedom does not exist for the Christian.

There’s a shirt out there, that folks of my ilk like to wear, which has a declaration of the Lordship of Christ, followed by the line “this shirt is illegal in 51 countries”. Now, I won’t undertake to list those 51 countries – they likely have changed any number of times since the first run of the shirt. We will point to a few common situations of persecution around the world.

The most oppressive regime is North Korea … and it’s not even close. Christians are routinely murdered by the government. To worship God is seen as an act of insurrection against the government. The tales of horror we get from behind the DMZ are beyond comprehension to the western mind.

After this come a string of countries under Islamic rule.

You can be a Christian in Iran, but you cannot hold services in Farsi. You see, it is held that Farsi speakers must be descendants of Muslims at some point along the line, and thus must be converts from Islam (even across generations) – which warrants a death sentence under sharia law. Christians are routinely held without trial and questioned for long periods (and Iranian “questioning” and as pleasant as you would imagine in the US).

The religious police in Saudi Arabia enforce the Wahhabist policy of Islam as the only valid religion. Non-muslims may practice alone and in private, but may not congregate and certainly may not proselytize.

Somalia is run primarily by warlords – Islamic warlords. Christians are hunted and killed for their faith.

Practice of Christianity is strictly forbidden in Maldives.

Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritania, Eritrea, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Oman … even liberated Iraq. The list doesn’t just include countries under Sharia law though.

Laos, Vietnam and Burma all have repressive regimes that attempt to squelch Christianity. The Chinese government is no friend to the Christian (though, arguably, they are much harsher on the Tibetan Buddhists).

Cuba, as a communist country, is certainly not too keen on Christianity – particularly if you’re of the protestant mold. (They will tolerate Catholicism, as it has a much more historical and traditional role in the country.)

My point in all of this? Well, let me make two quick ones. First, there is Christian persecution in the world. It is alive and vibrant. We have brothers and sisters around the world whose lives are threatened (not to mention the lives of their children) for their faith in Jesus. We ought to pray for these.

The second, more minor point, is that this should cast our debate over policies in great relief. I certainly am concerned about the rise of statism in this country. Some call it fascism, or socialism, or communism … or progressivism, it’s all the same: rule by the state to help you live a better life (you incontrovertible dolt) and spread equality and justice no matter who has to suffer. However, I still live in a country where I can discuss openly and freely my relationship with Jesus Christ – and this is a good thing. Further, when I hear left-wing Christian brothers decrying something silly; like the horrid lack of a “living wage” law and how unfair it is, I actually take great comfort. If these are the issues that we rail against, if this is the last bastion of injustice, then we have it pretty darn good.

So remember the oppressed today. Perhaps even pray for them, if you’re the praying sort. Let us also pray for continued freedom in our country. Lest someday we too have to “ante up and kick in like men.”

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