How can it be--how can it become--that a country with so many religious people in it can be free of the religious wars that have plagued other countries?
You can't swing a dead cat in Arkansas without hitting a church--Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist; take your pick. And so far we've only mentioned some houses of worship for Christians. Synagogues, temples and mosques dot the land.
But besides a few demagogues and an infrequently seen disturbed person, we ain't at war.
Americans didn't fight for 10 decades for the gods we made. But in Europe, they had so many religious wars they had to start naming them for how many years they lasted: 80 years, 30 years. Europe even had a nice little Prayer Book Rebellion. ("Kill all the gentlemen!") How did we avoid it?
Alexis de Tocqueville tried to figure that out once, so he asked around:
"My desire to discover the causes of this phenomenon increased from day to day. In order to satisfy it I questioned the members of all the different sects . . . . To each of these men I expressed my astonishment and explained my doubts. I found that they differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point."
Amen, brother. It's amazing how peaceful a public can be with religion when everybody's is not just respected but guaranteed a place by the founding documents. It can be boiled down to this conservative reasoning: Live and let live.
It can also be lost on Americans how unusual such thoughts are. Like free speech, we might be used to it. And we don't consider that some countries--most all the other countries--don't have anything like a First Amendment to guarantee these certain unalienable rights.
You might have heard that the annual Prayer Breakfast was recently held in Washington, D.C., and some secular news came from it. Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. But there was another mention in the papers about the same breakfast and some attendees thereof. It wasn't front-page news, so you might have missed it:
A Brit and Conservative Party politician--Rehman Chishti--visited the colonies last week, and attended the Prayer Breakfast with U.S. Rep. French Hill. The central Arkansas congressman organized a discussion during the week to, as the pols say, "bring awareness" to those being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Best example: Mainland China, where the Uyghurs are being rounded up by the millions--by the millions--when the ChiComs aren't rounding up those suspected of having the coronavirus. Then there are the Coptic Christians in Egypt that French Hill has highlighted before.
Beijing isn't the only government persecuting religions, just the biggest. Iran is famous for throwing Christians in jail. (Christian proselytizing is illegal in Iran.) Pakistan keeps its collective foot on the collective necks of Hindus. Sikhs have to keep their eyes and ears open in certain places in the world. Jews in others.
Rehman Chishti, a Muslim, was appointed special envoy by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in September. According to Frank Lockwood's story on Friday, Mr. Chishti says guaranteeing religious freedom around the world should be a priority for the Free World. And, if we may add, what country better to lead that effort than this one? Along with our allies, of course. Including the one with a special relationship with the United States.
The first thing we can do is bear witness. And point to China and Pakistan and Iran and Nigeria and Burma when the news demands it.
One day, you'd think, the apparatchiks running these governments would realize they're up against an experienced foe. And the persecution of religious types rarely works. In fact, it makes many of them stronger. Call it tradition.
From Acts 16:
"And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."
Then there was an earthquake.
How many times will history repeat?
Editorial on 02/11/2020
Print Headline: Blessed assurance