Real persecution actually exists

It is my hope that the following statement offends just about everyone who regularly reads my blog, because I have something BEYOND that to which we need our attention drawn:

For evangelical Christians and gay rights folks in America, here is the stark truth: none of us know persecution. 

The current broohaha over the Arizona bill concerning businesses and serving gays or not serving gays… nothing. 

I hope I have your attention. I truly hope I have your anger in some way. Because here is the reality:

Beirut (AFP) – A jihadist group in Syria said Wednesday that Christians in the city of Raqa will have to pay taxes and hold religious rituals behind closed doors, under a set of rules.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), listed 12 rules which made up an “agreement” with Christians in the northern city to provide “protection.”

The terms, bearing the stamp of ISIL which controls Raqa, were distributed on jihadist forums.

They include a provision that Christians must pay a “jiziyeh” tax, as imposed in early Islam on non-Muslim subjects.

It said wealthy Christians must pay up the equivalent of 13 grams (half an ounce) of pure gold, that middle-class Christians pay half that sum, while the poor pay a quarter.

The agreement also demands Christians “do not put on display a cross or anything from their book, anywhere on Muslims’ path or markets” and that they should not “use megaphones to make their prayers heard.”

The jihadist group demands that Christians follow “rules imposed by ISIL, such as those relating to modesty in clothing.”

ISIL is rooted in Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which also imposed the jiziyeh tax on Christians after the US-led invasion of 2003.

When there are truly places in this world where real people are being severely limited in their freedoms… and severely isn’t a term I would give as “in the eyes of the beholder”… we in America have issues. 

Gays and evangelicals may now scream arguments about, “Well, if we keep on this road we’re on we’ll be right there.”

I disagree.

There are deep issues we have to face and need to work out. But, we get to work them out. And work them out we should… in a free country.

Call me what you want. Anti-gay. Anti-evangelical. Anti- whatever makes you feel good about not like me. Go ahead.

I am simply pleading for perspective… and prayer. Prayer for people in places like Syria that have no voice in how they are treated. In America, we all have voices… and they are so loud right now we can’t even hear each other.

Today, let us pray. Pray for brothers and sisters in parts of the world that aren’t some “slippery slope.” They are in hell. Cut off. Persecuted. And voiceless.

God help us.


Careful, Your Inner Zealot is Showing

Scot McKnight has a good word regarding “evangelicals” and “zealotry.” We need to be mindful of what is GOOD and JUST, and not allow our own quest for “being right” get in the way of true freedom in Christ. But, overall, our zeal should be for Christ and his Kingdom and not our own particular agendas, no matter our particular theological or philosophical leanings.

One of the “fears” of zealotry Scot mentions:

A fear of what freedom in the Spirit just might create. In other words, the operative word inside the fear of freedom is control. Control of self and control of others. If we construct zealous rules, fences around the Torah to prevent anyone from getting remotely close to breaking some law, then we can control what others will do.

The Twitter Gospel

Philip Yancey will usually make me mad and glad all in one column. He does it again in his last CT column. (He says he’s taking a break.)

He adds some thoughts and cautions we REALLY need to hear! (I don’t think we will, but I can only echo his strong voice.)

Although I admire the innovation, I would caution that mimicking cultural trends has a downside. At a recent youth workers conference I attended, worship meant a DJ playing techno music at jet-engine volume while a sweaty audience crowded the stage, jumping up and down while shouting spiritual one-liners. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I couldn’t help questioning the depth of worship. Seminaries now recommend 15-minute sermons in light of shorter attention spans. Publishers want slimmer books, with simpler words and concepts. Will we soon have a 140-character Twitter gospel?

I truly get upset when some church does something like playing music at jet-engine volume and calling themselves cutting edge. Somehow equating volume or other mimicks of this world with true spirituality or “real gospel” misses the point. What are we doing? We’re reduced to bumper sticker Christianity without the bumper stickers.

We have SO MUCH NOISE! Why not have something that offered silence?

We already buy too much stuff, why do we keep marketing CDs and T-shirts? We want to confront consumerism, so we’ll make a radical T-shirt and sell it? What’s that all about?

In the name of all that is holy, will someone please stand up and say that being “counter-cultural” doesn’t mean looking like the prevailing culture? Will someone finally confront these goofy ideas and say, “The only thing ‘counter-cultural’ about you is it’s not like some other CHURCH SERVICE… BIG DEAL!!!!”  Could we please get some guts back in our Christianity?

We need to hear a clear call concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. Trouble is, we get into arguments about WHAT the gospel really is! Which is probably what makes us evangelical. Too bad.