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American Christians are increasingly being pressured to give up, or at least water down, their faith. For instance, during the pandemic, some states specifically targeted churches and forced them to close. Then there are the numerous cases where business owners have been brought to court and severely fined because they refused to violate their religious beliefs in the process of doing business. Some states have tried to force Christian family ministry organizations to offer adoption services to homosexual couples against their religious convictions – even forcing them to close down if they refused. And there are countless reports of hit jobs, in all kinds of media outlets, accusing Christians of being homophobic, anti-woman, white nationalists, and the list could go on.
But as bad as that is, there is even worse persecution of Christians in other parts of the world. In Iran, Christians are rounded up and put in prison. In Pakistan, Christians are sometimes charged with crimes that involve prison time or even death – just because they want to practice their faith. In several African countries, Christians are actually hunted down by gangs and killed. There are several Muslim countries where it is actually illegal to be a Christian – along with North Korea. In parts of India, Hindu militants track down and beat Christians, and even burn down their houses. And, of course, China has been well known for a while for being a persecutor of Christians.
Well, China is in the news again. Over the last several years, the Chinese government has begun a new, stronger, crack-down of Christians. Not only are they bulldozing buildings, jailing pastors, and harassing church members, they are now pursuing them even outside of the country.
Because of the increased persecution of Christians in China, there have been many who have actually decided to leave the country in order to flee the oppression. But as they have done this, they’ve found themselves tracked down by Chinese authorities and pressured, using various tactics, to return to China. The government is determined to tighten controls on religion, and have particularly committed to “root out foreign influence and bolster national security.” They are even going so far as to call in and question the relatives of those who have fled (even people who have nothing to do with religion)., They actually threaten these relatives with confiscation of state benefits and closure of their businesses to get them to pressure their Christian relatives to return.
In truth, the Bible tells us that Christians will face persecution, and history has born that out. There is something about religious beliefs that are so compelling that those who stand in power positions have a strong tendency to persecute (and actually try to eliminate) those not conforming to their beliefs.
Traditionally, and generally speaking, America has been the exception to the rule because of our belief in the rule of law, and religious freedom being written into our founding documents. It needs to be understood, though, that the simple fact of religious freedom being written into law is not, by itself, a safeguard. Interestingly, there are numerous countries, including China, Russia, and Pakistan, that have religious freedom guaranteed in their constitutions. In fact, even Iran recognizes Christianity as a protected religion. But that means absolutely nothing if the laws are interpreted in ways that don’t really allow freedom of conscience.
The real difference is in the worldview underpinning of the laws in the various countries. The worldview underpinning of society in China and Russia is atheistic Naturalism – which is a religious point of view – and the leaders are determined that their atheistic religious faith will have priority. The worldview foundation in Pakistan and Iran is Islamic Theism – which interprets the very concept of freedom of religion through the lens of Islamic law. It is pretty much only American law where the idea of freedom of religion was truly based on a belief in individual freedom of conscience.
But now, even that is being challenged as we see increasing attempts to suppress Christian beliefs in society. And that is going to continue unless Christians begin to take seriously God’s calling on their lives. Ultimately, the solution to the problem of persecution is not to be found in laws, but in changed hearts and minds. And that will not happen unless and until Christians begin to actively bring the gospel to society.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
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