Well, since I have taken on the gay marriage crowd, tremendously effectively I might add, I thought, “Boy howdy, I love to be maligned and to suffer. What other topic am I supposed to have only the politically correct opinion of?”
I should have a go at The Religion of Peace.
My daughter came home from church Sunday telling me that we must pray for a woman named Meriam who lives in Africa and who is going to be murdered because she is a Christian. Of course, I already knew about Mrs. Ibrahim from the Facebook frenzy that her death sentence created. This courageous woman, who was raised a Christian, who IS a Christian, is apparently considered “Muslim” according to the Koran. When your dead-beat father abandons you and happens to be Muslim, so are you. Mrs. Ibrahim is guilty of “adultery” because she married an American man. So, eight months pregnant with her second child, she is shackled to the wall in a prison cell until her death sentence can be carried out. (Oh, and her 20 month old son, who may be a US citizen, is in prison with her as well.) The judge(?) was kind enough in his sentencing to let her give birth before they beat and hang her. This, along with the abduction of the Nigerian girls and the village bombings by the Islamist terrorist cell Boko Haram, are the most recent events that have folks talking about the methods for holy living prescribed by the Koran.
Worldview and ideology are most revealed when observing its most ardent followers. A cursory glance of a religion’s “extremists” will tell you the following about Islam and Christianity.
1. Muslims impose hardship on others in obedience to their God.
2. Christians impose hardships on themselves out of love for their God.
We are all pretty fat and happy in America and thanks to our wacky founding fathers’ idea that all men are created equal (now what worldview could have created that impression?), it can be hard to really see the disparity of worldviews as greatly as one can living overseas. Most of us happy fat Americans – Christians, Muslims, New-Agers, Flying Spaghetti Moster Worshippers -are moderate. The burqua-clad mother and I nod and smile at each other (well, I assume she is smiling) as we pass in the Goodwill. There is no great need to be radical followers in fat happy land. Most of us live the way we want to live and can find a few verses of our holy book to affirm what we are already doing. But, not all of us. There are a few who are so devoted to the teachings of their God that they have chosen to live quite radically. I happen to be privileged to know several of the Christian variety. And, since you well never hear them boast about their amazingness, I decided to do it for them.
Mark was my youth pastor when I was a sauced up, cursing, self-centered hedonistic wild child. With the help of God I have knocked out four of those behaviors. I’ll let you guess which one I still tangle with. Back to Mark. I had never met a man like him before. He owned one (Ladies, O N E) pair of shoes and if he were to be given another pair, would frequently give the best of the two away to whatever needy teen walked through his door. Sometimes he was shoe-less. He and his wife Patti lived on a pittance, but welcomed the lot of us to eat them out of house (they lived in a one-bedroom apartment above the church) and home. They woke up early to disciple a motley crew of teens. They stayed up late with kids until their sideways drunk parents were asleep, thus making it “safe” to return home. Now, Mark and Patti (along with the only child that was born alive to them) live in the Philippines. They can pack everything that they own in a backpack- one for each of them. They run a home for unwanted girls, loving them and educating them in an attempt to steer their futures away from prostitution. Patti is a nurse and functions as the local doctor, midwife and school teacher. Mark is a general carpenter/laborer who ventures into the jungle to share the gospel and repair homes after typhoons. Once, when they were working in Columbia, a militia broke into the school where they were serving. A man put a gun to Mark’s head and said, “Give me all your money.” He replied, “All I have is Jesus. Seriously.”
The Theis Family is moving to a remote mountainous village in Thailand next month. Mr. and Mrs. Theis are both seminary graduates. Their five biological children are young adults now, but they will be taking the youngest three, along with their five foreign-born, special needs, adopted children with them. Two of their sons, both with significant visual impairments, were adopted from China only weeks before the 14-year-old cutoff for adoptees. They are going to minister to the Mien people, and my newsfeed is filled with pictures of their fifteen passenger van, their washing machine, and their bicycles as they sell off everything that they own to live forever among some of the poorest people of Thailand. Their two quiet-souled Chinese sons, who still speak Mandarin, will be able to communicate with many in the Mien village. They know intimately what every Christian proclaims, but few live out: their life is not their own.
The Martinez family is moving to Papua New Guinea in July to devote the remainder of their lives on earth to an isolated jungle tribe because they were invited. The tribe’s elders had heard of another tribe who had a Christian missionary live among them and requested one to come live among their people as well. Lisa, a trained linguist, will study their language, develop an alphabet, and begin to record their language for the first time in history. The tribe has been waiting years for a family to make this lifetime commitment. However, it has been difficult to find a linguist who is willing to move to this area, which is known for brutality toward women and outsiders. The risk is not lost on the Martinez’s, who have two young daughters. But they feel strongly that following Christ means sacrificing their own comfort for the sake of others.
I know several Christian couples who have chosen not to have their own biological children but instead are seeking to adopt foster children. Often older children who have already been through several homes. The system’s un-adoptables. Let me be clear, this has not been easy or fun for the parents who get attached to their sons and then watch them get stripped away by a dysfunctional system. But they continue to allow their lives to be upended for the sake of children who have faced unending rejection.
Many of my friends are deeply involved in fighting human trafficking with whatever spare time and money that they have after providing for their families. One amazing friend started the Traffic Jam campaign.
Christians make these radical sacrifices because the overwhelming message of the gospel is that we must die to ourselves and live for Christ. And the way that He wants us to serve Him is to give sacrificially to our brothers and sisters in Christ, the down trodden, the unlovely, our enemies, and the poor. To everyone, really. The reason is not to earn our salvation or to force others to “submit” to our God, but because we are called to be a picture of Christ, the Christ who left his entitlements, comforts, and heavenly abode for those who did not know Him.
I am not surprised if you have never heard of Christians such as these. The reason is two-fold: First, the powers that be have nothing to gain by highlighting the lives of genuine believers and examining how they live out their faith. Second, if these families are making the sacrifices necessary to radically alter their life’s circumstances to obey their Lord, then they have likely also mastered the directive to not boast. (I’m still working on that one.) They won’t be tooting their own horn, that is. And if A&E ever discovers one of them and they decide to do a reality show on “that bizarre Christian family,” it will probably be cancelled because GLAAD will discover that at some point these believers affirmed biblical sexuality. So believers like these are likely to remain obscure, except to those who benefit from their great sacrifice.
I am not an expert on Islam. I’ve read Infidel, Son of Hamas, and perused the Koran a few times. I do, however, avail myself to numerous news sources. When it comes to Islam, I see a whole lotta brutality toward women and children, terrorist bombings, and honor killings attributed to the will of Allah. It doesn’t take a genius to discern that violence is at the heart of their religion. There are peaceful Muslims- no doubt about it. But they must ignore great swaths of their holy book to be so.
I find it interesting that when people criticize Muslims it is because they are following the commands of their God. You know, by “beating their wives into submission” or “killing Jews and infidels.” But criticism leveled at Christians? It is for NOT following their God’s commands. For not being generous toward the poor, not loving their neighbor, not being honest. And don’t dare start with me about the abortion clinic bomber who supports his violence with an obscure bible passage. That person is condemned by Christians. The Jihadist that blew up the cafe full of Jews? They celebrate in the streets and financially support his family for life. We condemn violence. They celebrate it.
Christianity is a self-sacrificing religion, as evidenced by it’s Founder. It does so for the benefit of others, sometimes for strangers. (Who often don’t stay strangers for long.) Islam is a religion of oppression and victimization, as evidenced by it’s founder. It is a religion of forced submission. The comparison is stark. And don’t Mrs. Ibrahim know it.
It seems that the State Department greatly values #hashtags, so perhaps we could start the #letsgetoffourheinyandrescuethatwoman campaign. Please join my family in praying for the rescue of Mrs. Ibrahim and the victims of Boko Haram. And I suggest we all praise God every day that we live in fat happy land.