As you probably haven't heard, Islamic State in Libya released a video a few days ago showing the brutal execution of dozens of Ethiopian Christians. Some of the victims were decapitated, others were shot in the head. All were butchered by bloodthirsty Muslim thugs for the crime of believing in Christ.
It might be hard to believe this kind of persecution happens in the world, especially when the American version of "persecution" includes not having access to gender neutral bathrooms. Out there, people face the very real threat of death and dismemberment if they practice the wrong religion. Here, we whine if a toilet stall feels too exclusionary.
Talk about privilege.
Islamic State, of course, has wreaked havoc on Christians all over the region. Just a month or two before this latest video, footage surfaced depicting the mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. These barbarians have spread like malignant tumors throughout the Middle East, killing thousands of Christians and almost singlehandedly eradicating the faith from places where it has existed for 2,000 years.
Although you wouldn't know it if you relied solely on mainstream media for your information, Christians are in fact the world's most persecuted people with 100 million facing the daily prospect of violence, intimidation, coercion, oppression, imprisonment and martyrdom. The situation is worse now than it's ever been.
Did you catch that?
Worse than it's ever been. We were crucified, burned, stoned, and fed to lions under Roman rule, and still it wasn't as bad then as it is now.
Believers are being blown up, incinerated, shot, and beheaded in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, and many other nations. And this isn't relegated solely to Islamic State-controlled countries, or even to Muslim ones. Although nine of the top 10 worst persecutors of Christians are Islamic, the worst of all is godless, communist North Korea. The faith has also long been criminalized in godless, communist China.
Christ followers who might wish to flee to a safer part of the world have increasingly fewer options. If they do set out for a more tolerant land, they might be drowned and murdered by Muslim bigots before they reach their destination.
They certainly can't look to the U.S. government for help. Our foreign policy has contributed enormously to the problem, despite what you may hear about our dedication to helping "oppressed people" around the world. Our government sent weapons and money to Muslim "rebels" in Egypt, Libya, and Syria, and in each case those dear friends and allies of the U.S. turned around and murdered Christians in droves. Instead of holding the killers accountable, our country invites them to meetings at the State Department.
Before you think this is just President Barack Obama's fault (although it is his fault, in large part), understand that Christians in Iraq have been on the verge of extinction ever since we invaded the country in 2003. Our actions in the Middle East have, for decades, meant carnage and martyrdom for the faithful in the region.
We are in a seemingly endless process of installing regimes, turning on them, killing the leader we previously supported, and then putting someone else in charge. Each time, the new guys are even less accepting of religious diversity than the old ones. Each time, wholesale slaughter occurs, and Christianity disappears faster and faster from the place where it was born.
This is the reality of the world.
It is a travesty. A crisis. A holocaust.
And nobody cares.
Well, I can't say nobody. Some people do. Some of us are at least aware and concerned. Upset, even. Perturbed. But we all know, whether we admit it or not, that we don't react to the mass murder of Ethiopian Christians like we would to the mass murder of Baptists in Alabama or Catholics in Maryland. If Muslim goons attacked a church in Ohio, burned it to the ground, and killed the people inside, like they've done in Kenya, it would be the only thing any of us talked about for days on end.
If Christians in this country experienced in a full year the sort of violence that Christians elsewhere in the world encounter in a day, I'm betting many of us would be screaming for a new Crusade. We wouldn't just be "concerned," we'd be furious. We'd be enraged about it. We'd be obsessed with it.
Let's face it: that's not how any of us are reacting to the very real and very current and very bloody persecution of our brothers and sisters a few thousand miles away.
Well, certainly the media isn't giving it much coverage. We've been conditioned, you might say, to care about things only to the extent that the media tells us to. They don't care about this -- or else they're afraid to report it for fear of upsetting Muslims -- so we don't pay attention.
There might be some truth to that theory, but it's a cop out.
What's the real reason?
I ask that not as a rhetorical question. I truly don't know the answer. I don't think it's racism because I'm sure there would be outrage of epic proportions if over 100 black Christians in Georgia were gunned down for their faith like they were in Africa just a few weeks ago. I'm sure that if black American Christians were persecuted, we would care. If Chinese Americans or Korean Americans or Arab Americans or any other kind of American Christians were killed for their beliefs, there would be marches in the street and candle light vigils outside their homes.
But for the ones dying and suffering in silence far away from our borders? We have concern, yes. But do we have that deep, seething, righteous anger at the pit of our souls? Do we cry out for justice? Do we shed tears?
It doesn't seem like it, and I don't know why.
Are we so selfish and dumb that something needs to happen within driving distance for us to pay attention? Do we need celebrities to make a PSA about it before we can decide on our own to give the slightest crap? Is it the media? Do we actually need the media to frame this for us, make it "relatable" and "relevant"?
I'm not sure. I know people will respond and tell me I'm being too hard on us. They'll get defensive and insist they do care and are outraged. Maybe, for some of them, that will be true. I'm speaking in broad strokes here. But the fact remains -- and I dare one person to tell me differently -- that, by and large, we would be far more focused on the persecution of Christians if the Christians in question were being slaughtered here in America. There's just no doubt about that.
Maybe this isn't the most important question, anyway. I suppose the most important thing to ask is this: what can we do about it?
[sharequote align="center"]We forget that prayer isn't some kumbaya exercise in sending good vibes in someone's direction. [/sharequote]
Well, we can pray. Sometimes we forget that prayer isn't some kumbaya exercise in sending good vibes in someone's direction. It is, instead, a supernatural weapon for good. Prayer works. We should pray.
We can also lend material support to organizations that are out there trying to help these people. Here's a link to one such organization.
Outside of those two important steps, I can think of only one other thing:
We can honor their courage and sacrifice by not being such lazy, selfish, apathetic, cowards.
In dozens of countries around the planet, Christians go to church, read their Bibles, and profess their faith fully aware that these decisions might get them killed. In many cases, they convert to the faith knowing their conversion may well cost them their lives. These are men and women ready to give up everything -- their very existence, if necessary -- for what they believe.
And what about us? With church attendance on the decline, many of us can't be bothered to drive a few minutes to an air conditioned building to worship with our brothers and sisters for an hour or two on a Sunday. And why? Because it means sacrificing a relaxing morning. It means having to get up and get dressed before noon. It means maybe missing the first quarter of the afternoon games in the fall.
And if we can't be hassled to praise the Lord at church once a week, we certainly won't worry about standing by the more difficult and challenging aspects of our faith. Here, many Christians frantically skim through the Bible discarding every piece and part that doesn't suit the modern lifestyle. We sit up on a perch like gods and construct a new religion for ourselves; one that permits abortion, pornography, premarital sex, adultery, gay marriage, and whatever other sin we feel like indulging in.
While our fellow believers many miles away are marched out into the desert and massacred for believing in the Word, we abandon the Word entirely if it threatens to put a damper on our sex lives.
Egyptian Copts carry coffins down the aisle of the Virgin Mary Coptic Christian church in Cairo's working class neighbourhood of Al-Warrak, on October 21, 2013, as thousands attend the funeral of the four victims, gunned down as they attended a wedding the previous evening at the same church. The victims, two of whom were girls aged eight and 12, belonged to one family, according to relatives. Seventeen others were wounded the attack. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI
In America, many Christians stand down. They cower. They whimper. They won't even declare their faith on Facebook for fear that it might prompt a mean Facebook message and an unfriending. Christians in the Middle East will give up their lives to keep their souls while we give up our souls to keep our reputations and our social media reach.
This isn't true across the board, of course. But it might be more true about you than you want it to be. I certainly am not hoisting myself up as a perfect example of a courageous American Christian.
What I know is that over 80 percent of the people in this country still call themselves Christian, yet we are far from a reverent, God-fearing culture. Indeed, we are a culture of abortion, of fornication, of materialism, of rationalizing and equivocating and compromising. Can you look around you and say that most Christians you know are truly on fire with the faith? Do American churches fight tooth and nail against progressivism and secularism? When religious freedom is threatened here at home, do all Christians stand in solidarity against it?
No. No to all of the above.
I get emails all the time from people who tell me they're too afraid to speak out against the gay agenda or the pro-choice agenda or the secular agenda because they don't want to deal with the blow back. This blow back, in our case, pretty much exclusively involves angry internet comments and frowny face emojis. This differs slightly from anti-Christian blowback in the Middle East, which often involves being dragged out of your home, beaten, burned alive, and hung from a bridge.
We are pathetic.
One day soon, we better wake up and realize that Jesus is talking directly to us in Revelation when He says:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
We are comfortable and insulated, but spiritually, as Christ said, we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
This is what we can do for the martyrs. We can try to change that. We can be inspired. We can make a sacrifice. We can make an effort. We can take a stand. We can take a risk. We can run hot, not lukewarm.
We can ask ourselves how many of us would still profess the faith if we knew it would put our lives in danger. Would it still be 80 percent? Or more like 20? Or 5? Or 1? Or even fewer?
Would you be in that group, however small? Do you believe in Christ so deeply that you'd give up everything for Him? Do you believe enough to give up anything for Him?
That's a question you have to answer for yourself, just as I have to answer it for myself.
And if you want to do something about the persecution of Christians, this is a good place to start.
You might not be able to end it, but are you willing to endure it? If so, pick up your cross and follow Him up that hill.
That's what we can do about it.
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