Persecution in Iran, and Straining for Policy Outcomes

“Global equations undergo changes, this is their nature” – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Fox News is reporting that Youcef Nadarkhani has been convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death in Iran. His crime, of course, is being a Christian. To be more precise, he was born to a Muslim family and then converted to Christianity and became a pastor. He claims that he was never a Muslim after the age of adulthood, defined as 15 in Islamic law. The courts responded with “it doesn’t matter – he was born into a Muslim family” so he now faces a death sentence.

Imagine that in America. Imagine a religion gaining such power that it can put non-adherents to death.

Youcef Nadarkhani is 34, and has a wife and two children:

This is my brother. We’ve never met, and I suppose we never will on this side of eternity. But he is my brother just the same. My brother faces the death penalty “at any time” because he dared to believe in the Lord, and those dangerous ideas in the Bible. Make no mistake, they are dangerous ideas. They are a great danger to evil, sin, and all who would oppress the people. These ideas are dangerous to the rule of the Islamic republic in Iran. (The collapse of that regime cannot come soon enough.)

To be honest, foreign policy is a point of contention as I wrestle with my policy preferences. I hold in all of these policy preferences that it is not OK to violate principle to achieve a desirable outcome. It is not OK to forcibly take the resources of one and give to the other to achieve the desirable outcome of caring for the poor. Why? Because principles such as the Golden Rule say otherwise. “But the poor will suffer” – maybe, and maybe not, but I’m not interested in the forcible transference of suffering from one to another.

Similarly, I say that it is not OK to invade every country under the sun just because bringing “freedom” to the people of the world is a desirable outcome. Our military policy should be based on our own defense, and not imperial “world police” aims. I’m willing to accept far reaching arguments that tie military action to national defense, but “far reaching” is not the same as “any”.

Does Iran constitute a national security threat? Perhaps. They are pursuing nuclear weapons and have made any number of statements about America the “great satan” and world domination of the Islamic revolution.

I do agree with Ron Paul that our foreign policy has impacted their foreign policy, and that had we stayed out of their business we may not find ourselves at this crossroad. This does not equate to “blaming America” as some conservative pundits (e.g. Sean Hannity) would claim. It is absurd to believe that (a) American foreign policy has no impact on the foreign policy of other nations and (b) American foreign policy has always been just and true. If any of these pundits believed these things they wouldn’t debate them so rigorously … we’d have a sort of “papal infallibility” on the foreign policy front. But we clearly don’t.

So we find ourselves in an interesting situation. An oppressive and evil regime, perhaps coupled with some U.S. foreign policy mistakes decades in the making, have lead us to a possible conflagration. If it truly is a national security issue, then I suspect we will be going, though I would hate the notion that it has come to that.

And yet, in the background, I find that military action could possibly bring about the downfall of the regime, which I would greatly welcome. Will it happen in time to save Youcef? Perhaps not. We got to Flossenburg two weeks too late to save Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But Bonhoeffer was not the only Christian in the camps, and Nadarkhani is not the only Christian held by the Iranians on charges of being a Christian.

So we pray for our brother today. We pray for his family. We pray that there would be a way of freedom for Youcef. We will pray and we will believe. And yet we also know that history is replete with oppressed Christians, who the Lord delivered through death into a better place, His eternal kingdom. Consider Hebrews 11:32-38 … I’m especially taken by the first part of verse 38 – “the world was not worthy of them” …

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

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