Luke 21:16-17 (New Living Translation)
“Even those closest to you--your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends--will betray you. And some of you will be killed. And everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me.”
The Abdul Rahman case has been resolved, at least temporarily. As reported this morning by Fox News:
“A court on Sunday dismissed the case against an Afghan man facing possible execution for converting from Islam to Christianity, officials said, paving the way for his release.”
It now appears that the prosecutors will review his case, focusing on whether or not Rahman was mentally competent when he converted from Islam to Christianity. In other words, prosecutors appear to be willing to extend grace to him because he’s a nut case. Interesting! It assumes that killing people because of their religious convictions is sane social and legal policy. Some loophole, eh?
Since I don’t know Rahman personally, I cannot speak from direct experience about his mental state. But, as an interested observer, it seems to me that Rahman may be the sanest person in this tawdry morality play. Read the following excerpts from what he has had to say over the past couple of weeks and see if you don’t agree:
“I believe in Christianity. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I am a Christian.”
“I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen. If I must die, I will die.”
“Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us.”
“I never thought it would end this way. But I am ready to face the consequences.”
If that’s insanity, then I say we need a lot more of it in the world today!
I suspect there are some schools of thought that would say that if Rahman had just kept his mouth shut things would have been okay. He could have “crossed his fingers,” renounced Christianity publicly, and then gone out to practice his religion in private, in secret. The Islamic judges would have been none the wiser, the mullahs could go on chasing women and other apostates with the audacity to show their faces in public, and Rahman could make his way surreptitiously through the pearly gates.
For those who believe that religion is nothing more than a private matter such a solution would make sense. For those being persecuted and attacked it amounts to nothing more than institutionalized insanity.
In North Korea, for example, Christians aren’t allowed to publicly practice their faith. They must practice it in secret. The authorities, not to be content with that, have been attempting to expunge Christianity, to make it non-existent, as the following excerpt from a Bill Buckley op-ed published in November, 2005 makes clear:
“The report tells, among many other accounts, of a woman in her 20s who was washing clothes in a river. A fellow washerwoman saw a small Bible fall out of her basket and reported her to the authorities. She was executed by firing squad.”
“That martyr got off lightly. Nine years ago in South Pyongan province, a unit of the North Korean army was assigned the job of widening a highway connecting Pyongyang to the nearest seaport. Demolition of a house standing in the way revealed, hidden between two bricks, a Bible and a list of 25 names: a Christian pastor, two assistant pastors, two elders and 20 parishioners. The 25 were all detained and, later that month, brought to the road construction site, where spectators had been arranged in neat rows. The parishioners were grouped off to one side while the pastor, the assistant pastors and the elders were bound hand and foot and made to lie down in front of a steamroller. As if following a script written in early Roman history, they were told they could escape death by denying their faith and pledging to serve Dear Leader Kim Jong II and Great Leader Kim Il Sung. They chose death.”
As with Abdul Rahman, I’ll let you be the judge of who and who is not insane in these cases.
This morning I read a piece by Tom Krattenmaker from USA Today. In it he asks the question “Is there a war on Christians in America?” Early on in the piece, Krattenmaker noted:
“Christians are under a constant, relentless attack — from Hollywood, the news media, activist organizations, and the cultural elite,” warned a Web page promoting the “War on Christians and the Values Voter” event, in language typical of the prevailing zeitgeist.”
“Isn’t this more than a bit overblown? And in a time when the country is caught up in a real war with religious overtones, shouldn't the word “war” be tossed around a little less recklessly?”
In the light of recent events in Afghanistan and North Korea I believe these are good questions. Again, as Krattenmaker observed:
“Christians in America are hardly being thrown to the lions. In many ways, the political and social values of conservative Christians are carrying the day. We are in the second term of the most faith-friendly, explicitly Christian presidency in many a decade. Not only has President Bush talked a good game with evangelicals, but his administration has backed it with dollars for faith-based initiatives and abstinence-education programs. Hollywood is producing more Christian-friendly movies while Christian news media, Christian music, Christian novels and other forms of Christian pop culture continue making their strong mark on society.”
One of the interesting things to come out of the ordeal of Abdul Rahman was the international outcry over the attempt by Afghan religious and legal authorities to execute a man for his faith. The whole thing would probably have never amounted to anything if Rahman had renounced Christianity and gone on his way and so would the rest of the world. But, he didn’t, and neither did the rest of the world. With a few words of affirmation he peacefully confronted injustice and intolerance. And, he has won.
I suspect that if we Christians in the United States confronted some of the injustices we face like Abdul Rahman did we’d be much better off.
In the early days of Church history, believers were confronted with the same type of choice as Rahman. Religious authorities tried to stifle the faith of Jesus’ first followers and found that they couldn’t:
Acts 4:16-20 (New Living Translation)
16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny they have done a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. 17But perhaps we can stop them from spreading their propaganda. We'll warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus' name again.” 18So they called the apostles back in and told them never again to speak or teach about Jesus.
19But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard.”
I’m not sure what some twenty-first century American Christians make of that approach. It must seem like insanity. In the light of the trial of Abdul Rahman, though, it might just be the type of insanity we need to win our culture over to our side.
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Monday, March 27, 2006
Luke 21:16-17 (New Living Translation)