“Christians top the list for countries where they face either governmental or social hostility,” according to an article in National Catholic Reporter covering the results of a recent Pew Research Center study. The article went on to state that Christians face government harassment in a staggering 124 nations.
If you live in America you might find this hard to believe. Most people here and in Western countries are accustomed to Christians being “the norm,” with religious bigotry and scorn reserved for newer or less “mainstream” faiths. But that analysis would be missing one critical element: almost all religions are a minority somewhere.
Try being a Christian in China. Try spreading the gospel of Christ in certain Middle Eastern countries. You will discover very quickly that your efforts are not only not appreciated, but may result in far worse than ridicule—in some places and cases imprisonment and even death.
We are fortunate to have in America the First Amendment which guarantees us the ability to worship or not as we please. Implicit in that right is the notion that we should respect equally the decisions of every American.
But bigots have, in some cases, seized on the idea that it is okay to ridicule a religion that is in the minority. Ironically, in a sad twist of fate, that same rationale is used in certain countries to ridicule the “mainstream” religions like Christianity.
Almost all religions are a minority somewhere.
The problem is that once one adopts the belief that it is okay to ridicule a particular minority religion, that same belief can metastasize to other parts of the world—where it may be an entirely different religion (perhaps the majority where one comes from) that plays the part of “minority” and is thus open to ridicule, persecution and even death.
Unlike other countries, the United States is incredibly fortunate to have a Constitution that established a framework for guidelines respecting religious choice. That framework for religious freedom is one that should be exported across the globe.
Can you imagine a world where the essence of the First Amendment is put into practice everywhere? Could you see a large Catholic Church in Saudi Arabia or a huge mosque in Tel Aviv? Wouldn’t our society as a whole improve with mutual respect of all religions? I think the answer is obvious.
It starts with us giving more than a passing nod to the intent of the American Founders. They envisioned a country where people were free to pursue happiness, and to worship or not as they pleased, enjoying the respect of their fellow citizens.
If we ourselves don’t embrace and apply these principles, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that they are wildly violated, sometimes with tragic consequences, around the world.