I hope you are as disturbed as I am about the case involving Abdul Raman, the 41-year old former Afghan aid worker who recently converted to Christianity. Raman is currently facing the death penalty in Afghanistan for his conversion to Christianity. Apparently, converting to Christianity–or anything other than Islam–is against Islamic law!
“Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die,” said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hard-line regime was ousted in 2001.
There’s been a lot in the media about Raman this week. Some say he is crazy and needs psychological attention (he admitted to his conversion on TV, knowing where it would get him). Others say that the Western presence in the region is the cause for his conversion and insanity. Still others say that if Raman is not sentenced to death, then someone–either in prison or on the streets–would kill him anyway!
The situation reminds me of the threatening and terrible circumstances those early Christians we read about in the New Testament lived under. Time and time again, the apostle Paul and others were being stoned, chased out of town, being lowered out of windows in baskets, and having to lace up their Nike sandals to try to outrun the gathering mob–made of both Jews and Greeks.
It’s funny how we forget that, isn’t it? It’s easy to glaze over the fact that Jesus was killed in the most horrifying way for what He believed, and His disciples didn’t fare much better. Christianity has never known a day when there wasn’t somebody somewhere who wanted to kill Christians. Here’s the crazy part: If you read the letters of the apostle Paul–check out 2 Corinthians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians–you will discover that Paul thinks that the more Christians suffer, then the closer they are to being like Jesus!
Though I am horrified by Abdul Rahman’s situation, it is a reminder to me of what Christianity is: a radical, world-defying way of life that has always been threatening to all systems and people who would harbor visions of power and dominion.
That’s why I think it’s important for American Christians to be very careful before they bemoan the loss of their “Christian Nation” or protest the loss of “prayer in schools” or even people choosing to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Afghanistan is an Islamic Nation. That means that anyone who comes to alternative conclusions about how, why, or who to worship must be killed. There’s plenty of prayer in Afghan schools. It’s all to Allah–or else!
Is that really what we want, only substituting ‘Christian’ for ‘Islamic’? Do we think that’s what God wants? A nation populated with people who worship and pray to God because if they don’t they won’t live to regret it. Do we really want a national religion? I don’t think many of us realize what we are asking for when we are asking for it. If congress passed a law tomorrow allowing prayer in school, but it had to be to Allah or Buddha, so many Christians would be livid. But at the end of the day, it would be prayer in schools.
It’s important to remember that though God wishes none be lost, that some likely will. It’s important to know that the Bible tells this beautiful story of a God that goes to pretty incredible lengths to give His creation freedom, and that means the freedom to disregard Him. It’s important to recognize that Christianity is a faith intended to be embraced by individuals and communities then lived out in the world. It is not a system of religious propositions by which all people must submit as if it were an imperial edict.
Because when a faith becomes a law, it becomes something that doesn’t bring life, as Jesus promised, but rather something that brings death. You can ask Adbul Raman about that.