Tag Archives: freedom

What Does Religious Freedom Look Like?

It is a tenet of this blog to avoid current events. This post will push the limit, since there are current events that inspired it and will be mentioned; however the purpose is for more persistent.

Christian persecution is again making world headlines. A woman in the Sudan has been sentenced to death for refusing to convert from Christianity to Islam. Amnesty International and other human rights groups are calling for intervention to protect religious freedom.

It seems good to hear that these secular organizations are stepping up and speaking out against this injustice, but what does religious freedom actually look like?

This sort of persecution is not uncommon, is not a relic of the past, but a reality that has faced Christians throughout our history, in one region of the world or another. Wherever you are, this choice of your faith or your inalienable right to life could be face by you, your children, or your children’s children.

Here in America, we hold that it is self-evident that we are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The first right enumerated in the Bill of Rights was written to ensure for freedom of religion.

But what does freedom of religion look like?

As of yet, we are not denied life, as Americans, for our religious beliefs. But what about those other two self-evident, inalienable rights?

Consider the following:

  • Brendan Eich, co-founder of Mozilla, resigned under public pressure over a $1,000 contribution made years ago in opposition to same-sex marriage. Regardless of whether his support of Proposition 8 was motivated by a Christian worldview, this is a position many Christians hold, and with a lot less status in the companies for which they work.
  • The state of the Health Care Mandate forcing conscientious objectors to pay for insurance that covers contraception, including religious institutions for which such things are considered gravely wrong.
  • Numerous anecdotes from elementary students punished for praying to people being fired or asked to resign for their beliefs.

To these I can even add personal experience. Once when inquiring about a job in computer repair, the owner looked me up online and  noticed my writings for LifeNews.com and other websites. With a smirk he said, “You are quite the activist, aren’t you?” And with that, any chance of working there died.

What does religious freedom look like? I don’t know. I know we haven’t got it, and I know Sudan does not have it. I’m not sure anywhere in world has it or will ever have it.

Religious freedom is an ideal that is impossible in a world to which the power of the kingdoms of God are in the hands of our Enemy (Matthew 4:9). Religious persecution is the reality we will face – from the Roman Empire, to the modern world, and ever after until kingdom come.

Do not be afraid if your life is asked of you; do not be afraid if your career, your employment, your livelihood is threatened. It may be your boss, your governor, your family – or as Brendan Eich experienced, a mob of sodomites (see also Genesis 19:5  and Judges 19:22).

Our Lord said: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19) James writes in his epistle: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

We should not expect religious freedom, nor should we conform to the world’s expectations. Our Lord’s expectation is that we persevere in spite of the injustices we are to suffer for His sake. 

And if that were not radical enough, He taught and set the example that we are to love, forgive, and do good to those who wrong us, persecute us, and hate us. To do otherwise is to fail to live up to the standards you profess to defend.

 

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 6, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Deciding in Seven Breaths

 

One of the first sayings of the samurai that caught my attention was this one:

“In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. Lord Takandobu said, “If discrimination is long, it will spoil.” Lord Naoshige said, “When matters are done leisurely, seven out of ten will turn out badly. A warrior is a person who does things quickly.

When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.” From the Hagakure

Decision making is not my strong suit. If you’ve been following my work for the past few years, you’ve probably seen me go back and forth on site designs a few times. Perhaps that is why a quote about making decisions in just seven breaths was appealing.

One of the burdens of free will is the ability to make choices. As humanity has developed more involved processes, more entertainment choices, and more opportunities the number of choices we make on a daily basis can be overwhelming.

Lingering too long on a decision leads to a state called “analysis paralysis” – the inability to act due to an inability to make a decision. Such as state can complicate a small issue, and turn it into a big issue; if you are afraid of making a mistake, often not acting is an even bigger mistake.

Naoshige’s counsel on decision making was explained a bit further elsewhere in the Hagakure, the book of the samurai:

Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall there was this one: ‘Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.’ …Among one’s affairs there should not be more than two or three matters of what one would call great concern. If these are deliberated upon during ordinary times, they can be understood.
Thinking about things previously and then handling them lightly when the time comes is what this is all about. To face and event and solve it lightly is difficult if you are not resolved beforehand, and there will always be uncertainty in hitting your mark. However, if the foundation is laid previously, you can think of the saying, ‘Matters of great concern should be treated lightly,’ as your own basis for action.”

Many of our little decisions – what movie to see, what to eat for breakfast, are pretty insignificant. The big questions of our lives – what job to take, should I move or stay put, who to marry – these should be based first and foremost on principles we ponder every day.

As Christians, that means putting God and His will first. Considering what kind of company we keep, what kind of life He wants us to live, and what things are contrary to living our life to best serve God and our neighbor should make big decisions easier. When we forget those principles, when we doubt His plan for our lives, we get mired in indecision for those big things.

We too should be able to make decisions within the space of seven breaths. However, that requires being resolved ahead of time to follow a certain path.

Unfortunately, following God’s will has little to do with the singular choice of what to eat for a particular meal. For decisions so small, it is best not to waste time, and to remind yourself that the impact of such a choice is minimal.

Reflect every day, and pray for knowledge of God’s will for you. On that foundation of faith, you can make your decisions as quickly as a samurai.

Photo courtesy Anne-Lise Heinrichs on Flickr.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 6, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.