Sunday, March 2, 2014

Persecuted Christians and Christian Political Involvement

What is the calling of the church? How should we show off Christ to this world? Should we become political and speak out against injustice, namely the genocide against Christians? The jacket of The Global War on Christians by CNN writer John L. Allen Jr. gives us some idea of its extensiveness:

  •  From Iraq and Egypt to Sudan and Nigeria, from Indonesia to the Indian subcontinent, Christians in the early twenty-first century are the world’s most persecuted religious group. According to the secular International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of violations of religious freedom in the world today are directed against Christians.
  •  The Open Doors Estimate, based on decades of tracking the realities of persecution in some of the darkest corners of the earth, is that roughly one hundred million Christians today suffer interrogation, arrest, and even death for their faith, with the bulk located in Asia and the Middle East. The overall total makes Christians the most at-risk group for violations of religious freedom. (37)

I don’t think that we can turn our back on such suffering, even if it is taking place over-seas. However, many evangelicals teach that any form of political engagement represents a betrayal of the Gospel. One wrote that:

  • [Political engagement] is culturally impotent in dealing with the depraved hearts, minds and souls of a pagan world. Satan is pleased when any discourse designed for Christ and His gospel is turned into a political rally to pacify unsaved people in their sin while at the same time creating a superficial morality that is not based upon the salvific work of Christ alone! The tragic result is unredeemed people are left to feel comfortable and safe in a ‘Christian morality’—yet they are still lost, still dead in their sins.”

While many evangelicals would agree with these sentiments, others regard this stance as extreme, arguing that turning our back on our brothers, when we can do good, is sin (James 4:17). Instead of the model of “Gospel-in-opposition-to-politics,” they argue that the Gospel requires our involvement, even in politics – that the light of Christ should be reflected in all areas of life. At the least, we are called upon to be a light on a hill, exposing all forms of evil and oppression:

  • Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the court (Amos 5:14-15)
  • Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16-17)
  • Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Eph. 5:11)

Will this activity change the heart of the oppressor? Perhaps not, but this should not be our only concern. It is not God’s only concern. He is also concerned about restraining evil (Rom. 13:1-4), and so should we be!

Meanwhile, others claim, “You can’t legislate morality.” Perhaps not, but legislation can restrain evil, as Martin Luther King poignantly argued:

  • “It may be true that a law can’t make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

In essence, the argument against engagement goes like this: “We have to trust in God and not political involvement.” However, this argument is neither biblical nor logical. It sets up an unbiblical distinction between God’s workings and ours. For instance, no one would say:

  •  I am not going to see the doctor for my broken arm; I will just trust in God… I will not attempt to fix my toilet; I will just trust God to fix it… I will not dress my open wound; God will do it for me.

Instead of our efforts contradicting God’s efforts, they often work together. We trust that God will work through our efforts and the doctor’s medicine. The two are not in opposition! We therefore can entrust the welfare of the persecuted Christians to the Lord as we attempt to raise an outcry against the persecution.

Similarly, others argue:

  • God prophesied that the Christians would be martyred. It’s also according to His will. Therefore, we should not oppose this martyrdom.

However, appealing this argument might be, this too it is neither logical nor biblical. Let’s demonstrate the incoherence of this argument:

  • Everything that happens, our omnipotent God either causes or allows – even the evil. Consequently, everything that happens, is according to His knowledge and will, even those things that grieve Him (Eph. 1:11).  Therefore, we should never oppose anything – genocide, rape, kidnapping…

Of course, this is logically and biblically absurd! The Bible requires that we oppose many things, even knowing that God allows them to happen.

Evangelical, Michael Spencer, criticized his fellow evangelicals for neglecting the Gospel in pursuit of political activity:

  • Christians have been so wrapped up in the political process and especially over the last couple of years…that we have ignored our number one mission, which is to tell the world about a loving and merciful God.

Of course, the political arena is filled with dangers. However, we cannot draw an impassable line between politics – the greater arena – and the rest of life. Politics and evangelism are not in opposition! It is possible to show Christ to the world through political involvement. William Wilberforce did this through his 30 year struggle in the British Parliament to abolish the evil of slavery. And he still speaks today of the Gospel!

Political involvement can be an expression of Christian love and oneness – one of the most potent forms of evangelism. Jesus prayed that all believers would be one in love:

  • “I pray… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

The world will be more inclined to believe when they see the reality of Christ in our midst. How are we to express this love for the brethren? Not through our silence regarding their genocide! In the Times of Israel, Michael Lumish writes:

  •  One of the great tragedies and hypocrisies of the current moment is the Christian and western-left failure to speak out against the persecution of Christians throughout Muslim lands… What I find absolutely flabbergasting is the fact that while western progressives claim to care about universal human rights they show virtually no interest in the human rights of Christian minorities in the Middle East and much of Africa.  Western-left moral hypocrisy is, of course, nothing new to those of us who concern ourselves with such things.  I expect the progressive-left not to care when Muslims attack and murder other Muslims or when they attack and murder Christians or Jews.  What surprises me a tad, I suppose, is the fact that so few western Christians care either.

Lumish understandably interprets our silence as a lack of concern - a lack of love and unity. What kind of Christian witness is this?

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