I was scanning the news a few nights ago and ran across the name of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim. I doubt many people in our churches know the name of Ibrahim or the fact that she was sentenced to death in Sudan last week for being a Christian. There are without a doubt components of patriarchy and misogyny in Ibrahim’s case…but what about Kenneth Bae? Imprisoned for proselytizing, Bae is in declining health in a North Korean prison. Saeed Abedini sits in a tough Iranian prison for practicing his Christian faith…while his wife and two kids beg for his release from their home in Idaho. In 2013, estimates run as high as 8,000 Christians being martyred for their faith. In North Korea alone, the government is believed to have imprisoned somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians. Over 100 million Christians worldwide are believed to experience regular persecution due to their faith.* So why don’t progressive Christians get outraged about the persecution, imprisonment and martyrdom of fellow Christians? I think the answer lies in an evangelical youth camp I attended when I was about 16.
The music was thumping, hands were in the air, everyone was jumping up and down and shouting the name of Jesus over and over again. For most this sounds like a cult, for me it was the evangelical world of my youth. I remember a man running out on stage and describing his experience being imprisoned in a foreign country for his faith. The man recalled how he had set up an underground church and faced the consequences when the authorities showed up. I was enthralled and on the edge of my seat as I listened to his story. I got emotional and turned to my friend sitting next to me. I will never forget his reply to my emotion, “Why are you crying? Why did his dumbass openly live out his faith over there in the first place?”
The response of many of my fellow progressives is the same as the earlier response of my skeptical evangelical friend. Why live your faith openly in the first place? Why go? Why care? It is interesting that we encourage our LGBTQ friends to come out of the closet and we expect both our self and Christians overseas to keep faith closeted. We come out and live out our faith openly and sometimes travel to do that in foreign countries for one simple reason…to spread the love of God that we have found in the life and message of Jesus. I think it is time that we start respecting all people who choose to give their lives so that others might have life. Maybe the true dumbass Christians are the ones who fail to understand that the call of Jesus is to come out and in the loving words of Mark 16 “go into all the world.” I think the moment for outrage at the religious persecution that is being faced by fellow Christians was yesterday. When will progressive Christians wake up and see that our destiny is inextricably united with those Christians we have so often called other? Let’s take a break from deconstructing shit and love these folks. Please?