Perhaps I have always loved the idea that the world is simply at our finger tips that we just need to be brave enough to book a ticket and go on an adventure. I have had the privilege to travel to many countries, to explore many cultures, and indulge in many global delicacies. Please do not let me underestimate the word PRIVILEGE within the above sentence. I did not grow up poor, but I was by no means wealthy. However, through education and parents, who gave us a lot of confidence and encouragement, introduced me to the world and that there were many many other places I needed to discover outside of my fairly affluent Chicago suburb.
Privilege is an interesting word for me as it has become more about the responsibility, which it has bestowed upon me, rather than the "consumer" options I have had based on my parents income and eventually my own income. One could attempt to shy away from privilege and think of it as a burden or perhaps a right. However, privilege is quite complicated. We can not choose to what race, gender, country, family, socio-economic, status, etc. we are born into, we are simply born. But as we are raised and challenged and hopefully challenging our own privilege; should we also wear heavily inherited rights?
I am privileged because I am white, educated, an American, female, married, and a Christian in the USA. I could write to my responsibility in other areas and perhaps one day I may explore those, but for the purposes of this post I want to talk directly to the privilege of being an American (USA) Evangelical Christian...
Living in Scotland these past few months have reminded me that although, yes, there are times where Christians' in the USA have perhaps felt the bite of a society shifting and changing we have no idea what it means to even come close to persecution. I was challenged by the pastor of the small church we attend in St. Andrews that if an interpretation of scripture does not make sense to the poorest of the poor as it would to the wealthiest of the wealthy than it is not what was intended. Simple, if you attempt to tell a story or give an illustration or create an interpretation if that only reaches those within your USA Christian context than it is not what was intended.
Every Sunday the little church we attend takes time out to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in this world whose lives are threatened, who are murdered for their faith, who meet in underground house churches, and/or who ask and cry out for help. I feel helpless, but what hurts even more is that the majority of the evangelical churches I have attended in the USA do not take the time out to simply acknowledge the shedding of innocent Christian blood in this world. We celebrate our Missionaries (and they need to be celebrated and uplift all the time) only during our big Missions weeks. I loved mission weeks at my church, the parades, the food, the stories, the colors, etc. In fact, I would give credit to these two weeks out of every year for also opening my eyes to a much bigger world, but these were the only times when we truly heard stories of what was happening around the world. And to be honest although, there were stories of loss and hunger and starvation there was not a lot of discussion of the daily existence and grind of those living within these countries trying to desperately hold onto their faith.
What is our obligation with our privilege?!? I have had the honor to meet a Finnish couple who have shared their home and their friendship with Andrew and I. They are bold and courageous beyond anything that Andrew and I have had to experience (and I thought loving LGBTQ people and showing them they are valued by our Lord and Savior was hard). After our Finnish friend completes his PhD he and his wife are planning on moving back to Finland to help run a small bible school that every day is threatened by the Finnish government to loose its funding and standing for simply being a Christian institution. They are ridiculed by their government and society. Yes, this is a "western" civilized nation. A nation where generationally they have not heard the name of Jesus, the friend of sinners, the voice for the marginalized, the lover of all many kind. Unlike those of us in the USA they had to search out their faith; a faith that was not available, they had to experience a truth in the fullness of the meaning of faith in choosing something that their family, society and government said was not necessary, and in fact, harmful or silly. Our friends in Edinburgh, Scotland also run a small bible school and they want to become accredited so they can offer further educational options to their students, but the Scottish government believes they are not worthy of an accreditation and have put up obstacle after obstacle. Yet, the government is highlighting the "humanist" movement as being a more appropriate understanding of faith and humanity.
Yesterday, in church we heard prayers and stories from men and women in the Middle East and North Africa who on their own are discovering Christ and their vulnerable cries for help were deep, dark, and painful. As the congregation was silent and their words were read out loud all I could do was ask "God to please please hear these people they are your people. Please Lord take away their fear, a fear that I could never imagine. They have found you Lord please please find them."
I don't know what denomination any of these men and women in the Middle East and North Africa are or what denomination either of the mentioned bible schools would fall under, but does it matter? We get so caught up in the divisions and the absolute "right and wrong" in interpretations and denominations that we can't hear the cries of our brothers and sisters around the world...
What is our obligation to these cries of desperation, please friends, who are we, USA Evangelical Christians, what is our responsibility? We need to figure out how to find them and be the tangible hands and feet even if it means we risk everything because they are risking everything and shouldn't we be standing next to them?