Culture Friday: Christian persecution

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday, the 26th of April, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up today, Culture Friday.

It’s time to welcome John Stonestreet now. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John, good morning.

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning, Nick.

EICHER: My colleague Mindy Belz put out a Tweet last Sunday saying, “Sadly, we knew it would happen somewhere.” And I had a sick feeling, because she was so right, I knew immediately, without having read any news, what “it” meant: the Easter Sunday attack in Sri Lanka.

As the death toll grew, it became the deadliest single attack pulled off by ISIS.

Compared to the 2015 attack in Paris that killed 130, this attack is almost three times that attack as measured by death toll.

Let me read from an opinion piece written by a journalist with Al Jazeera, the headline, “When Christians Are Under Attack, Muslims and the Left Need to Defend Them.”

“I am a Muslim,” he says, “and I consider myself to be on the left, but I’m embarrassed to admit that in both Muslim and left circles, the issue of Christian persecution has been downplayed and even ignored for far too long.”

Skipping ahead, he quotes the World Watch List of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted. It’s a list put together by the ministry Open Doors. Here’s what he says:

“While communist North Korea [ranked 1st] is far and away the worst place in the world to live as a Christian, and while anti-Christian attacks are rising fast in Hindu-majority India [ranked 10th], seven of the top 10 countries in the world where Christians face ‘extreme persecution’ are Muslim-majority countries.”

Let me say it again, seven of the top 10 countries in the world where Christians face “extreme persecution” are Muslim-majority countries.

To this writer’s enormous credit, that’s the fact, he says, “that bothers me so much.”

Your thoughts on that, John.

STONESTREET: I’m praying. Just as I hear you read his quote that it “bothers me so much,” I’m praying that this a Saul to Paul-like conversion for him where the scales are falling off his eyes and he can kinda see that this is at some level baked into kind of an authentic, fundamentalist Muslim view of life in the world. I’m not saying that all Muslims are violent. This guy clearly isn’t. But he’s a Muslim on the left. And when you put those two things together, what you realize is that he’s what you might call a moderate or probably more progressive than he is Muslim, at least in his worldview.

So, again, none of this is new and as Mindy sadly and rightly put it, this isn’t the first Easter we’ve seen an attack like this. This is every Easter and it almost always is at the hands of Muslim militants to Christian worshippers.

This is happening and I really commend this journalist because his article—in Al Jazeera, no less—is coming in a reaction at the same time that we just had this really weird and strange resistance from American, at least leftist and even some press, to not identify Christians as the target.

I couldn’t figure out, Nick, whether this kind of “Easter worshipper” controversy that was exploded on Twitter the next day was kind of like this year’s equivalent of the Starbucks red cups where you had all these people that talked about the attack in Sri Lanka being against “Easter worshippers,” and it’s just a weird phrase to begin with.

And I’m thinking, I don’t know if this is coordinated. It doesn’t even make any sense. I don’t know what the benefit would be. It’s just weird. But there clearly is a hesitancy to identify those who are attacked—particularly on Easter, particularly year after year after year on that day. And not only that, but as Open Doors has documented, year after year after year across the world, that there is a problem. And that needs to be identified and, yes, often it’s at the hands of Muslim radicals and Muslim militants.

EICHER: Well, John, a dramatic shift in gears here. I want to talk about something completely different. I don’t know whether you saw this story about the Uber driver in upstate New York. But this is a man who had been summoned to drive a 20-year-old college student to an abortion appointment and he decided he couldn’t do it.

Basically, by the woman’s telling, the driver tried dissuading her, said there are many things the abortion clinic won’t tell you, said she’d regret the decision, and ultimately he said, I can’t do this. I can’t take you. I’ll take you back, but I can’t drive you to that clinic.

Yahoo News carried the story. Turns out she got another cab ride and got to the clinic an hour late, but apparently got there.

She reported the driver to Uber, which promptly fired him, and she’s trying to figure out now how to sue the driver.

How do you think this one through? Suppose you’re in this situation, you’re deeply pro-life and your conscience is troubled, what’s the right thing to do here?

STONESTREET: Exactly what that driver did. Kudos. When I saw this story, here’s what I thought: We often talk about how the claim that the Supreme Court settled the issue of abortion was clearly not true. The idea that the younger generation will be increasingly pro-abortion and so therefore the pro-life position will go into the dustbin of history. All that’s been proven false.

I mean, the pro-life position in many ways is in a stronger position than it was 30 years ago and yet we still have abortion. And, really, what’s behind that, I’ve argued on a number of occasions, is that we’re having this abortion debate in a cultural milieu of cultural relativism. In other words, this is a generation that may poll pro-life personally than their parents and grandparents, but are more likely as many have said, to drive their friends to an abortion clinic if they felt like that would be a way to help them, just because there’s this deeply embedded cultural idea of moral relativism in our hearts and in our minds, particularly among the millennials and the younger generations.

So I heard this story and I said, “Praise God.” Praise God that here’s a guy like so many younger generations that they’re starting to realize the inconsistency there. And I know for some of us, we’re just like how can you not see that inconsistency between being personally pro-life and “helping your friend” or whatever. But this is an issue where many young people are moving away from that and this young Uber driver, apparently, is one of them. And I appreciate the fact that he tried to persuade. I appreciate the fact that he—by all indications, we don’t know, we don’t have any indication that he did it cruelly or meanly or anything like that. I hope that’s not the case. But it seems like he basically acted out from his conscience.

Now, the other thing, too, that’s worth mentioning is that this is the gig economy. What rights do people have in the gig economy to live out their own beliefs? We’ve heard about whether AirBnB folks have to rent out their places to gay and lesbian couples. And AirB&B has already definitively decided that one. It sounds like Uber has decided this one as well. But there’s going to be a growing number of people that are going to refuse to do something like this and, you know, what are they going to do about that? And it’s not just going to be a right or a left issue or a Christian or a non-Christian issue. So this is going to be a really interesting thing to watch.

And as state by state—in fact, the New York Times did a piece with the impending uncertainty about where Roe v. Wade would — whether it survives another Supreme Court challenge or not, what’s happening is state-by-state you’re going to have lockdowns. Pro-life states are going to lockdown to try to be states that basically ban abortion in case Roe v. Wade is weakened or overturned. Pro-abortion states, obviously, like we’ve seen in New York and Vermont, they’re going to lockdown. This happened in New York so this is going to trickle down and threaten the conscience protections of individuals who have these beliefs.

But I go back to something else we’ve said here, right? Which is we need a theology of getting fired. This guy did the right thing and I hope his church comes around him and defends him. And I appreciate the religious liberty organizations that will stand up for him. But his church needs to come around and replace his income as a show of saying “you did the right thing and we’re with you.”

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday. John, thanks so much.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.

(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, file) In this Sunday, April 21, 2019, Sri Lankan Army soldiers secure the area around St. Anthony’s Shrine after a blast in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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