Thanks in large part to the Republican primaries and the recent Health and Human Services contraception fiasco, we’ve been hearing a lot lately about a perceived “war on religion”.
Although religious freedoms are undeniably under attack in this country (consider, for example, the actions against Vanderbilt University student groups, or the contraception mandate mentioned above), it’s important that we keep things in perspective. Christians in countries like Somalia, Nigeria, and Indonesia are regularly beaten, beheaded, imprisoned, and intimidated with death threats and church bombings.
In the meantime, we act like we’re being persecuted whenever a nativity scene is removed from the lawn of a courthouse.
So although I think we should be gravely concerned about the increasing secularization of our culture, I’ve slowly come to the opinion that we might be approaching things the wrong way. By combating unfair treatment in the political arena, Christians sometimes adopt an “us vs. them” mentality that can gravely undermine our more important Message. Politicians mention the “war on religion” taking place in our culture, and our first response is to reach for the pitchforks.
Contrast this indignation with what we find in the book of James:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. -James 1:2-3 (NKJV)
Should our top priority really be to fight for a safe and religion-friendly government? The early church thrived under Roman persecution, but frankly it stagnated when life became “safe” under Constantine.
Not long ago, I heard a fascinating story about a missionary in China. He was talking to members of their underground church, and mentioned that a lot of Americans are praying for them, and for an end to their government’s persecution. In response, he was told that many Chinese are actually praying that Americans would experience more persecution, so that we would see the kind of explosive spiritual growth that has been occurring in their country.
To clarify: just as Christians shouldn’t let these political issues totally consume us, I’m also not trying to suggest that we completely detach ourselves from them. Rather, I would like to see us cut back a little on the whining and instead adopt an attitude of, “this is where we stand – come what may”.
(This article also appears on The Political Consortium, a newly-formed site that I contribute to.)