Not Welcome Here
After spending American treasure and blood to root out terrorists and improve security in Iraq, life has become much more difficult for some Iraqis. In fact, it’s shocking to realize that Christians in Iraq were more secure under Saddam than now. After murders of Christians by church bombings, beheadings, and crucifixions, the Christian population in Iraq is reduced from 1.5 million to 0.5 million. Similarly, the so-called Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya, encouraged by the American government, unleashed the burning, bombing, pillaging fury of the Islamists against Christians. The expansion of Islam by the sword is not unfamiliar to history, and continues also in Syria, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Bosnia to name a few. The trend is clear: Christians aren’t welcome where Muslims are in power.
Lest you take too much satisfaction in our American freedoms, the same sentiment is picking up steam here as well. Don’t believe it? Consider that New York Governor Cuomo said, after lambasting the morals held by evangelical Christians and Catholics, that these kinds of people “have no place in the state of New York.” A wedding cake business in Oregon, owned by Christians who believe in the sanctity of Biblical marriage, were told by a judge they have to provide their services for a gay couple. It seems that if their private beliefs affect their public actions, they no longer have religious freedom. Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage are not welcome in Oregon. New York and Oregon are considered “blue states.” These are but two examples from this month’s headlines, but it is not hard to find that similar stories have increased in number in the last few years. The trend is alarming: Christians aren’t welcome in America’s states or courts where liberal Democrats are in power.
Throughout history, Christians start hospitals and schools, help the poor, and generally work for better communities to live in. Why drive us out?
In Islamic nations, the reason is clearly intolerance for Christians and our Savior. Some of that may be true in America as well, i.e. God has made some exclusive truth claims in the Bible, which rankles the post-modern, all-truths-are-equally-valid illogic. Our gospel holds that everyone is broken and needs fixing (lost and need a Savior), contradicting the popular notion that people are basically good, and must improve with self-help since there’s no One out there.
Christians hold to a set of values, like sex is designed for heterosexual marriage, babies in the womb are innocent persons made in the image of God, healthy people should be encouraged to work, and the environment is for stewardship, not worship. How hypocritical we are if values like those are just discussed in our homes and houses of worship, and not lived and promoted? Therein is the rub against popular culture, which may be the main reason for the accelerating Christian pogram. Christians dare live and express values that are politically incorrect and counter cultural.
The Apostle Paul called the cross an “offense” or “stumbling block” (Gal 5:11). For the message of Christ to be effective, a person must know he is in need, even if that means being offended. And that message of offense is often transferred to the message-bearer, regardless of whether the message is conveyed by action or word. Jesus saw that coming. “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you,” he warned. How are we to respond? Well, the One we follow says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
We are “Citizens of heaven,” but hoping to bring heaven to earth. “Live life God’s way,” is our call to our culture, “and there will be more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” Faith in Christ Jesus is life transforming, not just a religious activity inside a building on Sunday. It takes courage to be salt and light in a tasteless and dark world, especially when that makes us not welcome here.