Use what ya got

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 18, 2004

Picture this. It’s the weekend before Christmas and you’ve just finished preparing dinner for a group of Christian friends you’ve invited over to celebrate the season.

Everything is ready. The doorbell rings and to your delight, everyone you’ve asked to come has arrived. After your guests have had a chance to take off their coats and get settled in, you direct them to sit down and join you in a delicious holiday meal.

&uot;Let us pray,&uot; one of the distinguished guests says softly, bowing his head while the others follow in quiet reverence.

Then without warning, police bust down your door, throw over the table and begin handcuffing everyone. In a confused frenzy, you manage to get past the lump in your throat enough to ask, &uot;Officer what have we done that you would place us under arrest? We weren’t bothering anybody.&uot;

&uot;You were praying,&uot; a voice uttered gruffly in a cold monotone fashion, &uot;and that’s no longer permitted here.&uot;

Although the thought of a scenario like this happening in America is scarcely imaginable, many Christians in other countries around the world are facing consequences worse than imprisonment for their faith.

Many who participate in the Bible studies and prayer gatherings we take for granted, knowingly risk torture and death to fulfill their hunger for the word of God.

It seems hard to imagine from our prosperous world power perspective that we could ever face such persecution here in this country, but as more and more Americans display attitudes of entitlement and complacency I wonder if we’re not too far from that being a possibility.

It’s amazing how much we can flaunt our rights in this country and then neglect to exercise those rights.

Take for instance our right to vote. Even though the outcome for the 2004 Presidential election was greater than originally projected, the number of registered voters making their way to the voting booth was grossly disproportioned, not including the number of people that were eligible to vote who didn’t even register.

Up until recently, people in Afganistan were not allowed to vote, yet once they were offered the opportunity to choose their future leader, they couldn’t wait to exercise their newly granted rights.

After experiencing the long history of oppression they had been subjected to, they knew the tremendous value of what they had been given and they did not delay in taking advantage of it.

In China, Christians have to meet in secret to hold prayer meetings, Bible studies and the like and are specifically marked for torment and destruction by the Chinese government because they believe in Christ.

Missionaries have even testified to smuggling Scripture into the country in pieces so they would be less conspicuous because people were so eager to learn about the freedom they could find in Jesus.

Yet, countless Americans sleep comfortably in their beds on Sunday morning instead of going to a church they are more than free to attend. Their Bibles sit on the shelf, collecting dust.

Women living in China are not even free to keep the children they conceive if their pregnancies exceed the country’s one child maximum policy. They are forced to have abortions against their will, while on the other side of the world, abortion advocates tout their &uot;rights&uot; to murder their babies and emphatically defend the savage partial-birth procedures.

In recent years, Christian beliefs and practices have come under the gun, taking heat in every arena from forbidding the teaching of creation theory or the Declaration of Independence in the classroom (because of their references to God), to placing a manger scene at town hall, playing Christmas carols on the school bus or even prohibiting students from bringing in pencils with a &uot;Merry Christmas&uot; message on them.

Although several non-profit legal organizations have taken such issues to task, the fight is getting harder.

Yet many still seem to be oblivious to what is going on around them, ignoring the warning signs that our freedoms are consistently being chipped away, because they feel that the issues don’t affect them.

But every day around the world, an average of 470 Christians are martyred for their faith while we, who are free to worship and believe as we choose, squander the gift.

It’s almost blasphemous to think about the enormous sacrifice our founding fathers made to secure our freedom, when just 228 years later, we have neglected so many of our civic responsibilities. What good are our rights if we don’t exercise them?

One day, if we’re not careful, we may wake up to realize we no longer have the freedoms once available to us because we didn’t exercise them when we had the opportunity; and when they ban our Bibles, shut down our churches and make it a crime to speak the very name of God, we will have no alternative but to hang our heads in shame and endure our consequences.