My last morning at home before heading back to school didn’t start gently. I woke up and was soon on Facebook. But as I scrolled through my friends’ updates, I encountered an article about Coptic Christians and the persecution those women in particular face in Egypt (read it here). The article was written by one of my peers, and I was struck by her articulation of my Egyptian sisters’ plight. I was angry that the US government would ignore such tragic happenings. Yet more of my frustration was directed at the Church. These are our brothers and sisters suffering. These men and women–both in Egypt and around the world–are intimately connected with us through the blood of Jesus Christ. Why do we stand by and point our fingers at the US government and insist that THEY do something? Why do we not stand up and fight for our brothers? How dare we moan about Christian persecution but not lift a finger to help the men, women, and children who are bleeding now? I condemn myself here. I read the article, felt my frustration level skyrocket, and a few minutes later, returned to my normal routine. Then my roommate, who had seen the same article, sent me the link. I poured my frustrations out to her.
A more level-headed person than myself, she listened to my concerns and calmly pointed out the one thing that always catches me. She asked what the Church should do. Every time, it’s always there. The government has money and influence and armies. What does the Church have? Certainly she didn’t mean to drain hope from my position. In fact, after spending so much time with her, I was certain that she was genuinely seeking my suggestion. After all, she said, “Sometimes it seems that all we could really do is go die with them.” How uncomfortably accurate… So I responded to her.
I don’t know what the Church should do in all of it–because it’s true… there are so many suffering. Maybe I feel this way more because of the book I just finished reading (Passport through Darkness), but the US Church would much rather not even know what’s going on. Too often, we don’t want to think about, pray for, or send money to missionaries who are dying with our brothers, much less go ourselves. Maybe some of us need to die with them. Maybe more suffering is the only way to wake up the rest of the Church. I don’t have answers at all, but I firmly believe that we are trying so hard to cover our eyes, block out the screams of our brothers, flee their slightest touch. The least we could do is be willing to listen.
She heard me out but still voiced concerns. Christ’s Body is atrophying here. People aren’t hearing the truth, or if they are, many don’t want to hear. We’ve softened the Gospel, marred the Truth, and the Church just doesn’t look good… “We are given the choice between right and easy, and we choose easy over and over and over again.” To be honest, her words shook me. I know there are issues with the Church here… but I didn’t want to deem it hopeless. I couldn’t. As long as God is God, I will hold out hope for every failing church, every broken heart, every strained congregation. Angrily, trying to answer her in love, I wrote:
But if we fought, if the small pockets of truth kept standing up and speaking out, things could change. On the day of Pentecost (which, granted, was the beginning of the Church and an unusual and miraculous day), there were a small number of believers. But the number exploded. Truth was preached to every nation. Things changed. The world turned around. I refuse to give up hope on the Church in the United States simply because she is dying. God has brought the dead back to life. The Church can make a difference. The Church here can change. I’m not about to give up on that. I live here. Therefore, I will make a difference here, by the grace of God. And whoever comes with me, great. Whoever stays sleeping in the pews, it is their decision. The more we talk about the truth and the more people hear it, the more likely it is that the Church turns around. The more likely it is that our brothers around the world have a chance at living.
I saw a documentary about Christian persecution (info here) last summer. If more people saw those images and heard those stories, things would change. The faithful that remain have a difficult time finding the truth about the persecuted Church. But if they could see it, they could do SOMETHING. Not everyone will stand. Not everyone will cry out. Not everyone will mourn the deaths of innocents. Some days, there will only be a handful of people to bear witness to a bloody handprint on a wall, hovering above the body of a murdered Christian. All too often only the victim’s shattered family and close friends comes to beg God for strength to stand through the injustice. There will be times when a young boy is the only one who remains to cry out. But Jesus has used a young boy before. If that one voice–young or old, male or female–will only cry out, seek mercy and justice and love, do something, there is potential for healing. Something is better than nothing. Even if it only changes one heart.
This time that one heart was my own. As I conversed with my roommate, she encouraged me to put my thoughts somewhere that others could read them. I gave her a noncommittal response at first. I really didn’t want to display these thoughts for the world to see. I was almost ashamed to have voiced them in the first place. But as I considered what I had said and what my roommate wanted me to do, I realized something terribly uncomfortable. For me not to say something, for me not to write and share… well, I couldn’t. After all I had just said about the Church doing something, anything, to help her persecuted brothers, I was compelled to rework my scattered thoughts and share them here. From the safety of my St. Louis home or the comfort of my college dorm, far from the persecution that my brothers around the world suffer, I can speak on their behalf. My audience may not be large, my words are far from perfect, but the least I can do is cry out. So I am. I cannot turn away from their bloody hands, their beaten bodies, their tear-stained faces. I am their sister, redeemed by the same Lord. To stand aside or to deny them a voice is to abandon my family as others torture them. I can no longer do so. I must speak.