Religious Freedom and Persecution
You may have been following the news surrounding the UN Summit, our President’s posture toward climate change activists and his speech about religious freedom. I have never fit neatly into a climate change discussion. I love the earth as a living example of God’s creative genius and my home, as well as the home my children and grandchildren will inhabit should Christ tarry. Scientific research supports the fact that climate change is occurring, though I recognize there is disagreement about man’s role in the process.
At the same time, I know people from all sides of any national or international debate will exploit people and circumstances to make their point. Therefore, I have learned to view protests, news reports and public speeches with suspicion.
With this said, I do appreciate the President’s words regarding religious freedom and persecution, regardless of any political motivations that might have been behind the timing of his comments. We live in a “freedom bubble” and have a hard time understanding what it is like to live in a country where people are persecuted for their faith. I am, obviously, very concerned for those who are persecuted for following Christ, but I don’t want anyone to be hurt because of their spiritual beliefs. Religious freedom is a basic human right.
You may never have thought about how persecution takes place, even in countries that advertise religious freedom. While I am not an expert on the subject, I will share some basics regarding the problem here:
Religious persecution begins with the ideology of those in power. The American system presumably protects Christians from persecution, regardless of who is in control of our government. This doesn’t mean persecution doesn’t take place, but if it does, it is unlawful and can be prosecuted. However, in a country where an atheistic ideology or national religion is claimed, the government can become an arm of persecution.
Religious legality does not equal religious freedom. The claim of “religious freedom” in a nation can be misleading. For example, in India, it is legal to worship Christ. But if one is found sharing his faith with another person, he can be arrested. If someone becomes a Christian, and was not raised in a Christian home, there will probably be an investigation. If it can be proved that a Christian influenced someone from a non-Christian home to accept Christ as Lord, the one who shared his faith can be imprisoned.
The law is used to entrap people of faith. When a government is intent on persecuting the church, laws are enacted that make it next to impossible to follow Christ. I read recently where some churches in a region of China have been told to replace the 10 Commandments with quotes from a Chinese leader. If this is true, then churches that refuse to comply can be accused of a crime against the state. Church buildings can be confiscated, preachers can be put in prison and entire congregations labeled as outlaws.
Once a climate of intolerance and persecution is created, the general population feels free to persecute Christians on its own. The government turns a blind eye to thugs who use allegiance to their own religion or their country as an excuse to persecute others. Authorities might step in and prosecute those who murder or main Christians, but only in high profile cases where it is politically expedient to do so.
Can this happen in America? I pray not, under our current Constitution. But as you may be able to see, governments can play games with laws, and a Constitution is only as good as the will of the people to carry out its wishes.
I encourage you to pray for the persecuted church, and while it might seem strange for me to say, even for people of different faiths who are living in countries where they are mistreated for their beliefs. I don’t have to agree with what people believe to hold to the conviction of religious freedom. Everyone is created by God, and no one deserves to be unjustly harmed for their faith. My highest hope would be that everyone would come to know my Savior Jesus, so their souls would be secure for eternity. But I don’t want to live in a world where people are persecuted, hated and killed if they don’t.