(From Huw's blog)
In Communist countries the persecution is as bad as it ever was. In the Arab countries, where permission is needed to celebrate the Eucharist, Melkite, Orthodox, Baptist and Anglican communities fellowship freely because there is so much hatred that any priest will do – much to the scandal of Americans who want a “pure” church. Christians in Israel put up with Islamist suicide bombers on the one hand and Jewish people stealing their homes on the other, Jewish Soldiers and Islamists shoot at them. Muslims own the holy sites and adjacent land and Israelis can and do close them at will. And we worry about Christmas trees and manger scenes.
We’re distracted with what Wal*Mart employees get to say or do not say in the “holiday season”, yet we forget to feed the poor, visit the prisoner, to offer hospitality in God’s name. We’re terrified of a new mosque being built in out town or city, yet we put more import on rebuilding “touchdown Jesus” than we do on learning how to love like Jesus. We put more concern behind rebuilding a destroyed Church than evangelizing to fill our empty, but already existing Churches.
We confuse ethnic and political battles (both present, and in recent or ancient history – Byzantium, Russia, Turkey) with God’s promises that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. And while we daily relive our resentment about those secular battles, we forget to turn the tables ourselves, asking how, as Americans, we benefit from enslaved Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in China and Indonesia and India or how we’ve been stealing land from Natives – and continue to harvest profit form the theft.
We confuse our drive for revenge for wrongs imagined against us – or against our recent and ancient ancestors – with preaching the Gospel in our actions, with our very lives. We forget to forgive, pray for and love those we imagine to be our enemies. Instead of forgiving them, we castigate them in the press and on our blogs. We file lawsuits against them. We demand our RIGHTS! We demand JUSTICE! So we call it but what we want is REVENGE.
We confuse attacks against the country in which we accidentally live with attacks against our God. We confuse secular policy with Christian conduct (ie, same-sex marriage, prayer in schools), yet we only do so when it makes us happy (ie, divorce laws) or gives us pride of place – no one seems to want to begin a football game with the Shahada. We don’t want our baseball players yelling “Allahu AKbar” even if they’re Arab-speaking Christians.
Martyrs had their tongues cut out, their intestines spooled on the masts of ships. Martyrs lost their eyes and their hands and their feet. Martyrs were pierced and stoned and shot at. Martyrs were taken from their families, imprisoned, enslaved. We lament the loss of “freedoms” which do nothing for us but distract us from the Gospel.
We have the freedom to do pretty much anything we want, including to hate our neighbour, to despise our fellow Christians, to abandon the historic faith to the left or right (and still call ourselves Christian) and even the freedom to inflict our moral judgement on our neighbours with, in most cases, the blessing of civil authorities so long as it furthers their own political agenda.
Yet we call this persecution.
Let us assume it is, just for a moment. The evolution of marriage laws actually is an attack on our faith. The inability to wear a cross to work actually is a martyrdom. The taking down of manger scenes on public land actually is a state-sponsored oppression. OK, lets say all of this and more is true.
Which of the martyrs ever filed a lawsuit for their rights?
Which of the martyrs ever organised a protest march for their freedoms?
Which of the martyrs ever had petition drives?
Which of the martyrs ever demanded anything of the country in which she happened to live other than the chance to glorify God with the loss of her life?
None of them.
Every one of them “made Eucharist in all things” even the bad things. Every one of them gave glory to God for the chance to glorify God in their life or in their death. Even if all they could do was sit quietly and wait for the soldiers to come and kill them. Some of them – perhaps insane to our eyes – even went out and actively sought persecution to make up for their sins.
But we have no sins here.
We’re afraid, pure and simple.
We’re afraid of losing the one thing Jesus never offered us: power.
We’re afraid of giving up the one thing Satan has distracted the Church with for 1600 years: civic position.
We’re afraid that we won’t be special any more in the eyes of the world. Listen to the Pope and the Orthodox bishops talk about Europe – we do the same thing in the USA. We’re whinging over the loss of the one thing we were never to have – a kingdom in this world. We’re the bullies on the block that suddenly has all the kids in the neighborhood fighting back and we’re scared because maybe we deserve it all.
Sadly, like bullies everywhere, we probably won’t learn our lesson and join the human community as equals: we still want to be special.