Sunday, May 31, 2009

Religious Persecution – It’s Not Just For Third-World Countries Anymore

In San Diego county this week, there is news of a pastor and his wife being threatened by county authorities for holding a 15-member Bible study at their home each week. It appears that the authorities got wind of the Bible study and approached the pastor’s wife with some specific questions.

"The county asked, 'Do you have a regular meeting in your home?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Do you say amen?' 'Yes.' 'Do you pray?' ' Yes.' 'Do you say praise the Lord?' ' Yes.'"

As a result, the couple was told that they were in violation of land-use regulations, and that they should "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit". I am not making this up – click the link above to see the San Diego news article.

Now, it’s my prediction that this event will go away quietly. There is certainly a lot of blog traffic on this article, and some higher-up at City Hall will see that the best thing for everyone is to write a note of apology to the couple and move on. They certainly will not pursue this any further, for fear of the firestorm that it would bring down.

But here’s what bothers me. It’s the first step toward a future where this kind of religious persecution could happen in our country. The fact that this event got as far as it did is just one more hammer blow for state-mandated control of individual rights. This incident may go away for a year or two, but then another will occur. And then another. And each one may go a little further down the path, until one day, it will be illegal to hold a Bible study in your own home. You think it can’t happen in this country? That may be what the Russian people thought at the beginning of the twentieth century – when they were a Christian nation. But look what happened when the likes of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev came to power. People began dying for their faith, and the Russian nation became known as a godless people.

What should we do? Well, it might be nice to say we should put more Christian leaders into politics and combat the anti-Christian culture. And that may be what God has in mind for some people. But I’m coming to see that God can use evil events for His good purposes. I have no doubt that my own faith would become much stronger if I were told to cease preaching Christ. Indeed, that may be the very thing required to break the mold of mediocrity that I glimpse in our nation. God has used religious persecution to do great things for His kingdom in the past.

And so I choose not to go into politics – but to pray for God’s will to be done in whatever happens in this country over the next few years. In a brilliant article last November, Cal Thomas wrote about this very thing. He advised, rather than continue to pound our heads against the moral corruption that exists in our political system, that we should try something fresh and transformational. We should emulate Christ and “’love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and care for widows and orphans,’ not as ends, as so many liberals do by using government, but as a means of demonstrating God’s love for the whole person in order that people might seek Him.” I encourage you to read the article.

I like that. It is the very thing that Christ did when he was here on earth. He didn’t seek power, or election to public office in order to change the culture. Instead, he went about displaying God’s love and truth amongst the world of everyday people.

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