By John Pierce
Recently, Nikolai Novikov has been repeatedly fined, jailed, and restricted in his freedom to travel, according to Forum18. His crime: Holding worship services in West Kazakhstan without government permission.
Like Novikov, Maksim Volikov is also a Baptist Christian in Kazakhstan. He was fined the equivalent of one’s month’s average salary according to the news service.
His crime: Talking to people about his faith and distributing religious literature without state permission.
These examples — and worse — of real religious discrimination and persecution occurring around the world (to people of various faiths) need to be contrasted with the silly claims that flow from many American Christian leaders who love to play victim.
Franklin Graham is such an example with his continual thoughtless commentaries — which, thankfully, he is free to express in this great country.
Graham the Younger’s reaction to a private university in North Carolina seeking to accommodate the religious freedom of its diverse student body is at best silly. His words are both misleading and unhelpful — revealing either ignorance of religious freedom in America or an intentional attempt to rile those ignorant enough to take him seriously.
In one sentence Graham associates Duke University’s Muslim students with Islamic terrorism and makes alarmist claims of Christianity “being excluded from the public square” in America.
That is misleading nonsense. The situation at Duke, while open for proper debate, is vastly different from the government endorsing or excluding a particular religious expression in “the public square.” This is a private university’s chapel, not the courthouse bell tower.
Such fear-mongering and misleading statements, as Graham and other silly American Christians are prone to offer, do absolutely noting to defend religious liberty — because they distract attention from actual religious discrimination. And please take note that their focus of concern is ALWAYS on “my rights” rather than those of the powerless.
True advocates of religious liberty stand up for those in the minority who face real discrimination and persecution.
Thank God for those early Americans who saw the abuses that a state religion caused for those belonging to smaller, powerless and suspect religious groups like Quakers and, yep, Baptists. And did something about it!
Today the long-held, hard-earned, Baptist-influenced, essential American commitment to religious liberty for ALL sometimes faces a rub or two. There is room for spirited, thoughtful debate around particular issues.
However, nothing does greater damage to this American treasure of religious freedom for all — or trivialize the real discrimination and persecution happening around the world — than the fearful, shrill voices of American Christians who claim to be victims at every opportunity and spread their manufactured fears among the gullible masses whenever their cultural dominance is threatened by religious diversity.
One must have a very fragile faith to be so threatened and self-focused.