Many people have shared this article recently.
I first saw it on Friday or Saturday and it has resonated with me. I didn’t even realize how concerned I am about Christians in other countries until my son pointed out that I pray for them and mentioned them every Sunday as I lead worship. That’s not a bad thing.
The main point of this article is that church leaders in the US are strangely silent about the persecution and martyrdom of their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. It wonders why this is the case, even when some leaders have been asked specifically to comment on these situations.
I think it’s three main reasons (there may be more minor or attendant reasons): selfishness (or more appropriately, self-centeredness), guilt, and politics.
The American church of the twenty-first century is, as a whole, perhaps more self-centered than at any other time North American history.
When churches are building multi-million dollar sports complexes under the guise of “reaching people,” they’ve already identified what it is they’re concerned about. If the pastor mentions Christians being persecuted in other countries you shake your head, but not too vigorously ’cause you don’t wanna spill your latte.
But it’s not all the fault of the person in the pew. The scenario I just mentioned isn’t likely to happen because it’s probably the pastor holding the latte and focusing on other things. We’re too busy empire-building and navigating church politics and budget committee meetings and other things to be bothered with people actually dying for Christ.
Unless it makes a good sermon illustration to motivate people to do something.
Think about this for a second. My pastor friends have pointed out to me the same phenomenon I myself have noticed in my own congregation. Namely, anywhere from a quarter to a third of a given church’s congregation is absent each week. Some are sick others are working or out-of-town, but many are simply doing other things.
I’m not trying to be legalistic; I understand that sometimes things happen and you have to miss. I’m not talking about that (and this should be obvious so save yourself the email).
I won’t go into the Scriptural argument about this because it should be obvious to any mature Christian that participation in the life of the community, especially the main worship gathering of the community is important, vital even, for spiritual growth.
Yet how many Christians missed church last Sunday, when 85 Pakistani Christians died, not because they were sick or working but because they just had something else they wanted to do? They couldn’t be bothered to come worship and serve, or they had something that was more fun that they could do.
When other Christians are dying for doing the very things that we take for granted, guilt is to be expected. But oftentimes, rather than letting this “good guilt” motivate us to be more committed to the cause of Christ, we stifle it, we plug our ears, so that we don’t have to hear it because if we do, then we have to confront our own lives and the way we live them as disciples and servants of Christ and his church.
Evangelical Christianity is as guilty as the mainline denominations they criticize when it comes to conflating their politics and their theology.
Our favorite talk-show hosts (to whom we devote more time than Scripture and listening to preaching) tell us that there are too many people on the welfare rolls and that these people should get a job and we begin seeing every needy person as a deadbeat who’s looking for a handout. The problem is, we can’t see someone through this political lens and see them through the lens of the Gospel at the same time.
That same talking head (or talking voice) tells us that we shouldn’t be sending aid to foreign countries and we agree. I mean, there are people starving right here in America.
While the debate over those statements is ongoing, too often American Christians allow that perspective to filter over into their theology. Why should I be concerned about people being persecuted in other countries? (We ask.) I have my own problems right here. I mean, the public school wouldn’t let my son wear his tshirt with a picture of Jesus benchpressing a cross (even though all students are not allowed to wear shirts with pictures on them, not just Christians).
We get so wrapped up in our own petty perceived abuses here that we fail to see or acknowledge the grave persecution that is going on around the world.
And we fail to see or acknowledge how good we really have it here in the USA.
Idolatry is a sin and I think each of these reasons I mentioned have idolatry at their root. Idolatry either of culture or self or something else.