I Think We Are Confused

Okay… at times I people say things that are strange. Nothing wrong with that. I say strange things at times. But some things really confuse me… and I think that my confusion stems from the presumption on my part that others are NOT confused. So here are a couple of things

  1.  People will talk to me something like this.  “Wow… I was walking around ________ and I saw Muslims there. They are growing!!” Well, Islam is growing. Actually, so are many other religions… and secular ideologies. At the moment, Islam is the fastest numerical grower among explicitly religious entities. However, in the United States and the Philippines (where the people I speak to live) this is not situation at all. What they are experiencing is mobility. People move around more now that transporation is becoming relatively cheaper and job opportuninities and political struggles drive migration. We see this here in Baguio City, Philippines. I live on the campus of a Baptist seminary. However, within a short walk of where I live is an Islamic mosque, a Sikh Temple, a Hindu temple, a Buddhist temple, a Bahai Center, a Brahman meditation center, a Christian Science reading room and church, a Mormon church, a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, and more. While many of these are driven partly by missionary fervor, much of their existence is owed to migration. For the world religions, this is especially true.  Around 1 out of 5 humans on earth are self-identified Muslims. So if the worldwide stats were true everywhere, 1 out of 5 people we would see walking down the street here would be Muslims. What is NOT surprising is that there are so many Muslims (or Hindus, Buddhists, or more) in Baguio City,. What is surprising is that there are so few. Migration is likely to continue (xenophobic nationalism notwithstanding) so the important thing as Christians is to figure out how to deal with people of other faiths as neighbors. Of course, it should not be that complicated. Jesus already told us how we are to treat neighbors.
  2. I have had so many people express shock and anger that Christians are being persecuted. In some cases that persecution being noted is true persecution.  “True persecution” in my view involves physical abuse or death, outlawing Christianity or Christian practices of private individuals. For many, however, persecution includes taking away preferential treatment. Others seem to mix Christian beliefs with secular political ideologies so that challenging such ideologies is seen as attacking Christian beliefs. Instead of fighting about what is legitimate persecution and what is not, I would rather avoid that mess and simply note that Jesus said that we are to expect persecution if we are following Jesus. It is understandable to be angry about persecution. Some people truly suffer for their beliefs. But after the anger… what do you do about it. Do you feed the anger? How do you treat those who are persecutors? Curiously, Jesus answered that one as well.

The Safest Place?


Many of you may have seen the news about Randy Hentzel and Harold Nichols. They were American missionaries killed in Jamaica within the last few hours.  An article on this is HERE. I never met either of them, but Harold was a friend of a friend. It is a pretty early article. Hopefully, by the time you read this, you will be able to find an updated article with motive, suspects, and perhaps some modicum of justice.

Of course, they are not alone. Two years before my family and I arrived in the Philippines Martin Burnham died due to a kidnapping for ransom activity of a semi-religious gang. A year before we arrived Bill Hyde, mentor of a minister friend of mine, was killed by a bomb set by a similar group.  I teach students here who, in some cases, are from countries where mistreatment of Christian workers is tolerated, and occasionally supported, by regional officials. An acquaintance of mine this last weekend was showing me a picture of a friend and fellow worker who was recovering from having throat slashed by an individual driven by religious animosity. This man survived the attack by biting the hand of his attacker.

Of course, this is a drop in the bucket. Our former church in the States has just finished hosting a “Voice of the Martyrs” conference. We weren’t there, living presently 9000 miles away. That organization tracks the religious killings, tortures, and such perpetrated against Christians. The numbers are disturbing… but should they be surprising?

What does one do with this information. For some, it is to hide. For others it is to share and sensationalize these activities so as to engender more hate. FB is full of such painfully misguided reports.

For me, I am not sure how to respond. I serve in a relatively safe place, although no place is ultimately safe this side of heaven. But it gets me thinking about one of the great “bumper sticker” lies in Christianity. I would not be surprised if you have heard this one a few times:


There really is no obvious truth to this. One could make it correct by saying something like, “The BEST place to be is in the center of God’s will” but that really changes the message. Perhaps one could mean “safest” in some eternal other-worldly sense, but that seems abusive to the term  (An example, one of many, of such deceptive misuse is in a CBN devotional “The Safest Place to Be.” Of course, CBN is never a place for solid theological insight.)

Being in God’s will (though I am not so sure God’s will has a “center”) doesn’t necessarily guarantee persecution or danger, but it should certainly be anticipated. Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith” lists those who lived according to God’s will. It is an inspiring and sobering description of great victories, and horrible ends.

We pray for our own family, and for friends in ministry, especially those in dangerous places due to dangerous people.Yes we pray that God will keep them safe. I hope you do the same.

But the Good Shepherd leads His faithful followers to green pastures and still waters via the valley of the shadow of death. Sadly, the risks are, for many, far more than mere shadows.