Beyond Belief: The World of the Persecuted Church
Habila Adamu will never be a household name in America -- but to the millions of persecuted Christians in Eastern Africa, he is a symbol of the fierce courage it takes to live by faith in the face of death. Fourteen months ago, the Nigerian businessman was at home when two masked gunman showed up at his door and ordered his wife to leave. We're here, they said, "to do the work of Allah." Pointing their AK-47s in his direction, the shooters asked if Habila was a Christian. "Yes," he replied. They asked him why he hadn't accepted Islam, despite hearing the message of Mohammed. Again, he told them, "I am a Christian. We are also preaching the gospel of the true God to you and to other people who do not yet know God." "Are you ready to die as a Christian?" the men sneered. "I am ready to die as a Christian," he told them. They asked him one more time -- and before Habila could finish, a bullet silenced him, permanently.
How many of us, Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told his House Subcommittee, could have stared martyrdom in the face and refused to renounce Christ? And yet there are thousands of Habilas around the globe who live in fear of the brutal -- and sometimes deadly -- repercussions of their faith. "It's hard for Christians to wrap their minds around persecution that takes place around the world," testified Boston Globe Associate Editor John Allen. "Two-thirds of Christians in the world today live outside the West," he explained. "They live in Africa, in the Middle East, and other places where they're the targets of convenience for anybody who is mad at the West, mad at Europe, mad at the United States. It's tough to take that out on the American consulate. It's very easy to take it out on the Christian church down the street."
And unfortunately, that's exactly what radicals have been doing from Iran to Burma. "No one is exempt," said Elliot Abrams of the creeping trends of religious hostility. And, as many of the experts told members yesterday, the harassment is gradually making its way to the West's shores. In Pew Research Center's latest report, Christians were not only the world's largest religion -- but its most persecuted. But despite the uptick in violence, the Obama administration can't be bothered to fill the State Department's Ambassador for Religious Freedom post, which has sat empty when the world needs it most.
"It's a revelation of priorities," Congressman Smith told reporters at the hearing. "We need an ambassador at large who understands the issues, will travel, will be an intervener. We have a no-show on religious liberty." If America wants to defend the voiceless, it needs a President who sees religious freedom as more than a few throwaway lines in a prayer breakfast speech. It needs someone who will address the crisis -- not with sound bites, but sound action.
While the walls may be closing in on believers here at home, the hostility we face is just a taste of the suffering our brothers and sisters are experiencing all across the world. For them, the cost of conviction is not in dollars -- as it is here for those who reject the President's ObamaCare mandate -- but in lives. In places like Syria, China, North Korea, or Pakistan, picking up your cross is not a right but a death sentence. We tip our hats to champions like Congressman Smith, who continue to be a voice for the victims. For more of the latest statistics and what the President isn't doing about them, the piece "Religious Liberty Lip Service" by Travis Weber, the Director of FRC's Center for Religious Liberty.
On Marriage, Members Run Rings around Left
If you're looking for men and women to stand up and speak out on marriage, then last night's House "special order" was for you. Thanks to Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-Kans.), a number of conservatives took turns spelling out the benefits of man-woman marriage. The order, which coincided with National Marriage Week, was particularly significant in light of the barrage of bad news on state marriage amendments from courts and governors' mansions across the country. While some officials simply refuse to uphold the law, other judges are attempting to rewrite it from the bench.
Fortunately, there is a courageous group of Congressmen who refuse to sit idly by and let liberals trample the will of voters in Nevada, Kentucky, Utah, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and elsewhere. Marriage, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) reminded everyone, "isn't a creation of the Republican Party. Marriage isn't a creation of Western civilization or the United States of America. Marriage, as an institution, was created by none other than the Creator of mankind itself, a Holy God, the God of the Bible..."
Rep. Huelskamp, who's never shied away from defending his values, said, "This is an opportunity here in our nation, not only to talk about marriage, but talk about its impacts, talk about how its loss has hurt our society. I firmly believe that we could spend endless amounts of money up here, and occasionally we do that, but you cannot replace the daddy, you cannot replace mommy." His point was echoed by Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas), who is taking the fight for states' rights to the House floor. "A change in attitude toward marriage over the past several decades has been slowly corrupting our marriage culture. But it is important that we continue to recognize the important institution that is marriage and allow the conversation on its public policy interest to continue in the states... That is why I have introduced the State Marriage Defense Act. This act... provides that a marriage will not be recognized by the federal government if it is not recognized by the state in which the person lives... I hope enough people stand up and say enough is enough, get back to the basics and back to the Constitution."
Others, like Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), took the opportunity to point out the real and tangible benefits of marriage to society. Sounding almost like an honorary member of FRC's MARRI team, Congressman Garrett reiterated a number of our research findings. "One of the most positive influences on a society is a strong family structure. Marriage itself is essential. It is essential to society, and it is essential to our American country and the American Dream. What I say is not ideology; what I say is data-driven." Married households, he said, "are more likely to earn more money, to save more money, and are less likely to be in debt... So if you want to encourage economic growth, reduce poverty, and ensure a prosperous nation for future children, our government must encourage a strong family structure."
If a handful of state leaders think they can get away with ignoring their laws, they've got another thing coming. Last night's special order showed that conservatives aren't going to clam up -- they're going to show up on the issue of marriage.
The Fate of Indiana Marriage Depends on You!
The future of Indiana's marriage amendment (HJR 3) is hanging in the balance in the next two days! In 2011, the Indiana legislature voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment to the state constitution to do two things: 1) Define "marriage" as the union of one man and one woman; and 2) Prevent the creation of marriage counterfeits by other names (such as "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships") which would give the legal rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. The current legislature needs to pass the same amendment this year in order to put this issue on the ballot for the people of Indiana to decide on Election Day in November.
Unfortunately, two weeks ago the Indiana House of Representatives voted to remove the second sentence of the amendment, and sent only a one-sentence amendment to the Senate. There's only one way to correct this -- the Senate must vote to restore the second sentence to the marriage amendment, and send it back to the House. The vote is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, February 13. If you live in Indiana, call or email your state senator before noonon Thursday and tell him or her: "Restore the second sentence to the marriage amendment (HJR 3)." You can find the contact information for your Senator here.
Also, if you can, join us for a rally in the Rotunda of the State House in Indianapolis on Thursday, February 13 at noon. Show the senators in person that you want a strong marriage amendment -- and the right to vote on it in 2014!
** If you're longing for the days of our 40th President, FRC's Bob Morrison has just the thing, a new column on "The Faith of Ronald Reagan."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.