Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to suffer persecution?
Yesterday, I heard a Christian talk show host field a question from his listening audience. The caller asked, “I’m afraid that if I ever had to suffer persecution like some Christians in other countries, I won’t be able to stand strong. That terrifies me! What if I fall apart? What if I can’t take it?”
For years, he rang the bells of his church as an expression of praise to God – until the city of Phoenix wrongly determined that the bells violated a local noise ordinance. As a result, a judge sentenced Bishop Painter to jail!
In Michigan, the radical group “Bash Back” invaded Mount Hope Church and disrupted a church service while showering the congregation with propaganda on homosexual behavior.
A straight-A student at Tomah High School in Wisconsin drew a picture in art class containing a cross and Scripture reference. His teacher removed the drawing from the classroom display and gave him a zero for the assignment, a formal reprimand, and two days of detention. Why? Because his art work depicted religious beliefs, which violated the school’s unconstitutional policy.
It’s tempting and hopeful to think that religious freedom is only shrinking in small aspects of life in America. Maybe it’s just in public universities. Maybe it’s only happening in extremely liberal cities. Maybe it’s not that bad. After all, our lives as Christians aren’t threatened in the United States. Praise the Lord that’s still true. But, the above stories are true. They are real cases that the Alliance Defense Fund has litigated.
During the last week of April, we discussed some terrible stories of religious persecution worldwide. What are we going to do to protect our religious freedom in America – arguably, in history, the defining characteristic of our nation?
“If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
– President Ronald Reagan
You know that question: “What were you doing on 9/11?” or: “Do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?”
What were you doing on your last birthday? I was enjoying a good, craft beer with my husband after a nice, normal morning at church. The weather was great, our windows were open, it was pure relaxation. Meanwhile, 6,599 miles away, in Nigeria, 9 members of St. Finbar’s Catholic Church were killed during a not-so-normal 10:30 a.m. church service.
What if there were youth stationed outside your church as security detail during your Sunday morning service? What if those youth had to detain a car loaded with explosives and self-proclaimed martyrs ready to detonate themselves as long as they could take you out with them?
What would you do? A growing number of Nigerian Christians are reaching their limit. They have endured unprovoked attacks against their churches, their homes and their families. “We are tired of turning the other cheek,” one man explained in 2010. That was 2 years ago! Do you hear the echo of Habakkuk 1:2?
“How long, LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’
but you do not save?”
On Easter Sunday, I was again in church. We had entertained friends over brunch. I wept in worship, lifting my hands to familiar songs and resting in familiar words from the pulpit. I know that Jesus is omnipresent, I know that He is with me at all times, everywhere, but on Easter Sunday, there was another attack on Christians in Nigeria. This one killed several more people. Why do I imagine that His eyes and heart were drawn passionately toward His hurting people. That must be the definition of filling up the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:24) He knows their pain personally.
I wonder if Christ will ask us one day, “Where were you when my people were being slaughtered because they dared to gather together and worship me?” What will I tell Him? Where was my heart? Where were my prayers? What are we doing?
Attacks Claimed by Boko Haram
July 2009: Attacks and clashes in Bauchi and Maiduguri leave 800 people dead.
December 2010: Bombings in central Nigeria and church attacks in the northeast kill 86 people.
June 26, 2011: Attack on a Maiduguri bar kills 25 people.
August 25, 2011: Attacks on police station in Gombi and two banks kill 12 people.
August 26, 2011: Suicide bomber kills 23 people at U.N. building in Abuja.
November 4, 2011: Damaturu, Potiskum bombings kill 65 people.
December 25, 2011: Christmas Day bombings across Nigeria kill 39 people.