Thursday, May 17, 2007

Assumptions That Conservatives Make About Persecution

A couple of weeks ago, I took a shot at liberals and I make no apology for that. I am a conservative, though not as far right as many. Hence, I am also not above critiquing fellow conservatives and tendencies that we tend to demonstrate.

Recently, a conservative reporter wrote an article based on an interview that I did with Mission Network News on the persecution facing Christians in Eritrea. I was amazed to read his story, as it had almost nothing in common with my interview. Somehow, he was under the mistaken impression that Eritrea was a Muslim country and that the Christians were being persecuted in this east African country on this basis. He claimed that the Christians had been arrested in Eritrea by Muslims and wrote, "This country used to be divided almost evenly between Muslims and Christians. Now Muslims have Islam World Rule as their prime priority; therefore infidels must be eliminated."

Frankly, this statement has absolutely no basis in fact and I was astonished by such incredibly poor journalism.

But it did get me thinking about assumptions that conservatives tend to make about persecution:

First, they tend to want to blame Muslims for most of the persecution facing Christians today. This is unfortunate because the world's greatest persecutor, as far as what impacts the greatest number of believers, is Communism. What is forgotten is that the Christian population in many Muslim countries is really quite small. This is not to minimize the growing, serious, and violent persecution facing Christians in Islamic nations, but we need to keep it in perspective. We also need to remember the growing persecution of Christians by Hindus in India and by Buddhists in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Second, conservatives tend to think that persecution must inevitably hinder the spread of the gospel and so where there is persecution the church must be struggling to survive. The corresponding assumption is that religious freedom is necessary for the church to really function properly. I am often asked by conservative reporters, "So how will this persecution impact how the church does evangelism?" To be honest, it often doesn't. Those who are active in sharing the gospel are going to whether there is opposition or not. Those who do not share the gospel, likewise, won't regardless of how much freedom they have.

Third, conservatives tend to assume that the solution to any problem facing persecuted Christians is an infusion of Western cash. The question, "What can we do to help?" often really means, "How can we send money to these people?" This approach to ministry is, I believe, extremely short-sighted, materialistic, and not particularly biblical, resulting in consequences that are proving to be detrimental to the church's witness in many restricted nations.

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