Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Tag

Not Living Up to the World’s Standards   1 comment

A new post on Christian Creative Nexus.

https://deliatalent.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/not-living-up-to-the-worlds-standards/

What makes a Christian creative a Christian?

I had to ask myself that question recently when someone with an axe to grind posted a review of one of my books that said, in essence, that I wasn’t a Christian because I don’t think the Army would walk on water and hand out flowers during the Apocalypse.

Sigh.

Image result for image of christian vs worldly standardsI grew up and now live in a very military town. About one-quarter of my friends and family are either in the military or were once in the military. I know some lovely military people. I also have had plenty of experience with jerks who were jacked up on the power of being in the military. There’s that dichotomy in human nature that doesn’t go away if you ignore it. The Transformation Project series focuses on how ordinary people, including military and civilian authorities, react in an apocalyptic situation where their command structure has been fractured. I don’t show all individuals with military authority acting in a heroic manner because I personally know people who wouldn’t act honorably in a situation where they’re given that kind of power and no oversight.  The news has covered some of these people. I believe there would be more of them if the command structure that is in place no longer existed. I have other military characters who do act honorably … and some of them die for that stand. That’s the only defense I’m going to offer.

Circling back to my original theme of “in the world, but not of it” … must Christian creatives stand for certain secular societal norms or be deemed “not Christian”?

Being a Christian is defined by one thing. You can discover it in Romans 10:9-10.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God, Savior of mankind and your soul and do you confess that publicly? Your lifestyle should adhere to that and your politics are part of your lifestyle. Whether you support the military, love policemen, eat apple pie, or spend Mother’s Day with your mom isn’t really addressed in the Bible, therefore, they are personal decisions that each of us make individually.

“Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction; in particular, the novel.” ~ Eudora Welty in On Writing.

Writing a novel is about addressing truth as the author sees it. A lot of Christians are very supportive of conservative political causes that I can’t find anywhere in the Bible. There’s nothing wrong with that – most of the time. We live in this world and the politics of the secular world affects us. When my taxes go up, I have less money to give to the church, which I feel spends social welfare funds much more wisely than the government does. I vote accordingly. We should all care if a politician believes it is okay to kill babies in the womb. We should pray for people caught up in the cycle of drug addiction or alcoholism, pornography or polyamory. The Bible is clear on many issues that Christians ought to have an opinion on and the Bible tells us what that opinion should be.

Image result for image of christian vs worldly standardsThe Bible is less clear on our involvement in those secular programs designed to address some of the world’s evils. I harbor doubts about how Jesus would feel about some secular programs American Christians are expected to support simply because we’re expected to support them. As a Christian creative who wants to reach a larger audience than just Christians who read religiously-oriented literature, I have given serious thought to which subjects for which I’m willing to fall on my authorial sword. I made a commitment to show Christian characters as human … with flaws, while showing their beliefs respectfully. I have every admiration for our Savior, not always the same feeling toward His followers. I try to show the world as I see it and not as I would like it to be, recognizing that it is fallen and so are the people in it. And, yet, I struggle with where the lines are because it’s not so simple as the Christian publishers make it seem. Because I’ve rejected those made-up constraints, I have to set new ones of my own – ones that I hope are Biblically-based, but not ignoring this world as it really is.

What about you? If you’re a Christian creative trying to reach a secular audience, do you find it difficult to push the “Christian” boundaries in a Christ-centric way without upsetting the “standards” people have applied to Christian creatives?

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My Empire of Dirt   Leave a comment

Johnny Cash was a reprobate saved by a forgiving Savior and he never forgot that, even while he always remembered where he’d been when Jesus lifted him out of the muck he’d made of his life. The term “my empire of dirt” SOOO typifies the life we build outside of God.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt1Pwfnh5pc
Lyrics
I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything
What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liars chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here
What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
If I could start again
A million miles away
I will keep myself
I would find a way
Songwriters: Trent Reznor
Hurt lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

It’s Not Freedom if You Can’t Exercise It, Pt 3   Leave a comment

“When the government fails to act neutrally toward the free exercise of religion, it tends to run into trouble.” Neil Gorsuch, Supreme Court justice

Gorsuch wrote a concuring opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Justice Alito joined him.

Image result for image of wedding cakeGorsuch stated that the decision hinged on the hostility of the Commission toward Phillips’ beliefs and on their failure to show that their “restriction on religion both serve(s) a compelling interest and (is) narrowly tailored” (Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v Hialeah (1993)).

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to “act neutrally toward Jack Phillips’ religious faith.” It allowed three other bakers to refuse a customer’s request that would have required them to violate their secular commitments, “yet it denied the same accommodations to Mr. Phillips when he refused a customer’s request that would have required him to violate his religious beliefs.” The Commission’s reasoning was the Phillips’ religious beliefs are “offensive”, in its judgement.

Gorsuch admits that he wrote this opinion mainly to address his two colleagues trying to suggest that the Commission could have acted neutrally toward Phillips’ faith when it treated him differently from the other bakers in a way consistent with the First Amendment.

“Respectfully, I do not see how we might rescue the Commission from its error.”

Mr. Jack argued that the cakes he requested reflected his religious beliefs and so the bakers could not refuse to make them just because they disagreed with his beliefs. The Commission ruled that the bakers didn’t refuse on the basis of his religious faith, but because his message was “offensive” to their own moral convictions.

How is that different from what Jack Phillips did when he refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding? Phillips too offered to make other baked goods, including cakes, celebrating other occasions, but he would not design a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding regardless of the sexual orientation of the customer. He subsequently refused the request from the mother of one of the partners. The undisputed factual record shows that Phillips would not make a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage for a heterosexual customer and that he was no unwilling to sell other products to a homosexual customer.

“In both cases, the effect on the customer was the same: bikers refused service to persons who bore a statutorily protected trait (religious faith or sexual orientation). But in both cases, the bakers refused service intending only to honor a personal conviction. … the bakers knew their conduct promised the effect of leaving a customer in a protected class unserved. But there’s no indication the bakers actually intended to refuse service because of a customer’s protected characteristic. … all bakers explained without contradiction that they would not sell the requested cakes to anyone, while they would sell other cakes to members of the protected class (as well as anyone else).”

Gorsuch notes that Colorado law allows that “businesses are entitled to reject orders for any number of reasons, including because they deem a particular product requested by a customer to be “offensive”.  The Commission ignored that and judged Mr. Phillips’ intentions in denying service were “inextricably tied to the sexual orientation of the parties involved” and essentially “irrational.” But, somehow, the intentions of bakers in the Jack case were not “inextricably linked”.  The Commission presumed Mr. Phillips habored an intent to discriminate against a protected class in light of the foreseeable effects of his conduct, but it didn’t presume the same intention toward the bakers’ conduct in the Jack’s case.

“The Commission cannot have it both ways. [It] cannot slide up and down the mens rea scale, picking a mental status standard that suit its tastes depending on its sympathies. Either actual proof of intent to discriminate on the basis of membership in a protected class is required … or it is sufficient to “presume” such intent from the knowing failure to serve someone in a protected class.”

But no, the Commission appeared instead to condemn Mr. Phillips for “expressing just the kind of “irrational” or “offensive” message that the bakers in the Jack’s case refused to endorse.  You can agree with the Commission and consider Mr. Phillips’ beliefs to be irrational or offensive, or consider that he has misinterpreted the teachings of his faith. The Supreme Court has ruled same-sex marriage is a matter of constitutional right and various states have enacted laws that preclude discrimination on the basis of sextual orientation, but those bureaucratic judgments do not survive strict scrutiny under the First Amendment.

“In this country, the place of secular officials isn’t to sit in judgment of religious beliefs, but only to protect their free exercise. … Just as it it is the proudest boast of our free exercise of jurisprudence that we protect speech that we hate, it must be the proudest boast of our free exercise jurisprudence that we protect religious beliefs that we find offensive (Matal v Tam (2017); United States v Schwimmer (1929).”

Gorsuch goes on to say the Commission has tried to maneuver around its failure by claiming Jack asked for a cake with text while Craig and Mullins (the plaintives) sought a decorated cake and then has insisted that the Phillips’ case involved a wedding cake like any other, suggesting there’s no substantive difference between a wedding cake celebrating a heterosexual wedding versus a homosexual one. It’s all a means to deny the neutrality Jack Phillips was due under the law.

It’s irrational to argue that a cake with words conveys a message, but a cake without words does not. Wedding cakes are symbolic baked goods, signifying approval of a “specific system, idea (or) institution.” (West Virinia Bd of Ed v Barnette (1943). “That was precisely the approval Mr. Phillips intended to withhold in keeping with his religious faith.” In denying Mr. Phillips that choice while affording the bakers in Mr. Jack’s case the same choice, the Commission displayed a gross lack of neutrality. Gorsuch insists that the only reasonable course of action is both bakers to be treated the same. To some, all wedding cakes may appear indistinguishable, but to Mr. Phillips, that is not the case — his faith teaches him otherwise “and his religious beliefs are entitled to no less respectful treatment than the [other] bakers’ secular beliefs.”

Gorsuch further relies on the case of Smith, a Jehovah’s Witness who worked in a steel mill, accepting that the sheet steel he worked on might be used in munitions, but objecting to working directly on tanks. “The Court didn’t try to suggest that making steel is just making steel [or] that to offend his religion the steel needed to be of a particular kind or shape. Instead it recognized that Mr. Thomas alone was entitled to define the nature of his religious commitments … not a bureaucrat or judge ….”

Gorsuch confirmed that it is not appropriate for the US Supreme Court to tell Mr. Phillips that a wedding cake is just like any other without regard to the religious significance his faith may attach to it than it is for the Court to suggest that “for all persons sacramental break is just bread and a kippah is just a cap.”

That leaves only one way forward. The SCOTUS will reverse the judgment and hold the Commission’s order set aside. The Commission ought to think about this and use the SCOTUS reasoning in future cases to offer neutral reasons for their rulemaking. Gorsuch also stated that Phillips is entitled to judgment for the past six years facing unlawful civil charges.

Ouch! The State of Colorado may get hit in their pocketbook. And that might be what is necessary to make it clear that government cannot do these sorts of things to law-abiding citizens they happen to disagree with.

Part 4

It’s Not Freedom If You Can’t Exercise It, Pt 1   Leave a comment

I’m a writer. Well, if you read this blog, you know that. I write a lot of non-fiction and I’ve published several novels. Writing is what I do.

I don’t write “Christian” books, but I am a Christian who writes. My faith works its way into my writing whether I mean it to or not because my faith is a part of me on a deep fundamental level. It doesn’t just dictate my surface actions on Sundays, but all of my actions, even the unthinking nouns and conjunctions.

From the moment I heard about Jack Phillips, I understood what he was going through. He was asked by a gay couple to make a custom wedding cake. Phillips explained that he would gladly make them cupcakes or cookies, but his faith teaches him that marriage is between a man and a woman and he could not participate in their wedding by making a cake that celebrated what the Bible teaches is sin.

I used to provide wedding photography as a ministry. If you couldn’t afford it or it involved hiking up a middling-sized Alaska mountain, I was up for it. People usually just reimbursed me for the film, processing, and printing. I stopped not long after I did a friend’s rock-climbing birthday. My friend is a lesbian and I had no problem celebrating her birthday. But she showed those photos to another lesbian we worked with and that woman asked me if I’d do her wedding. Fortunately, the wedding was in Hawaii so I could plead the cost. When I asked a lawyer about it, he said “You’re playing with fire. The day will come when someone is going to require you to violate your beliefs … do it for free … and take you to court if you refuse.” I let it be known that I was too busy with my writing to do photography for anyone not an official member of my church. True, but not so much that I wouldn’t have found the time for someone who needed it.

It is impossible to take pictures at a wedding or bake the cake and not be seen by others as approving that wedding. And whether you like it or not, the Bible is clear that homosexual activity is not something Christians can participate in. 1 Corinthians tells us to “Flee sexual immorality”, not put a nice set of clothes and attend a celebration to sanctify it.

Related imageThe jury is still out. Photography might be considered a passive recording of the event rather than an artistic expression. When I heard Phillips argument before the Supreme Court, I thought seriously about what would I do if someone came along and forced me to write something I truly knew would violate my beliefs.

Because I am both a non-fiction and fictional writer, I am somewhat like Jack Phllips. Sometimes I’m creating generic content for the masses and sometimes I creating a highly artistic enterprise. I would never say gay people can’t or shouldn’t buy my books. I suspect gay people have read my newspaper and magazine articles and blog posts. But what if one of my lesbian acquaintances came to me and wanted to hire me to write a narrative for her wedding? About 30 years ago, I actually did that for a couple who asked me to. I haven’t done it since, but I haven’t advertised that I would do that sort of thing. So, what would I do?

I wouldn’t decline the Christian couple who asked. I might not decline the non-Christian couple, although they might not like what I write. I would be very circumspect about doing that sort of service for a Christian couple where one or more of them were divorced from a prior spouse. It would depend on the circumstances. I would deny a Christian marrying a non-Christian because I think that is a Scriptural example of sexual immorality. And, I would decline a homosexual couple for the same reason. I should go see if my legal insurance is paid up. I just might need it.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled this week that the Colorado Human Rights Commission discriminating against Jack Phillips because it was blatantly hostile to his faith, considered it be “despicable” and “merely rhetorical and [sic] insincere”, comparing the invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. Such a sentiment “is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of … a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.”  Because no subsequent attempt was made to disavow those statements, Justice Kennedy concluded that “the Court cannot avoid the conclusion that these statements cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commissioner’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

Kennedy also noted that the Civil Rights Division had considered the refusal of other bakers to create cakes with images that conveyed disapproval of same-sex marriage, along with religious text and “found that the baker acted lawfully in refusing service.” The treatment of the conscience-based refusals in these other three cases with the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ object was built on a presupposition that any message on the wedding cake would be attributed to the customers rather than the baker, but the Division never actually addressed that issue in its findings. One of the salient points for the Colorado Commission was that the bakeries were willing to sell other items to the customers, but then they dismissed as irrelevant Phillips’ willingness to sell “birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies and brownies” to gay and lesbian couples. The Commission had treated the other bakers’ conscience-based objects as legitimate, but treated his as illegitimate, thus judging the validity of his religious beliefs themselves … deeming his beliefs to be offensive.

“The Commission was obliged under the Free Exercise Clause to proceed in a manner neutral toward and tolerant of Phillips’ religious beliefs. The Constitution ‘commits government itself to religious tolerance, and upon even slight suspicion that proposals for state intervention stem from animosity to religion or distrust of its practices, all officials must pause to remember their own high duty to the Constitution and to the rights it secures'” (citing Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye).

Kennedy, writing the majority opinion found the Commission’s hostility to Phillips’ beliefs “inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

The SCOTUS left open the door for “cases of other circumstances” to further elaborate these arguments in the courts, reminding those future courts that “these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

Contrary to popular media depiction, this was not a “narrow” decision. When fewer than a third of the justices dissented from the majority opening, it isn’t a narrow decision. 7 to 2 is practically a repudiation … especially when you consider that Elena Kagan — not exactly a conservative or constructionist juror — concurred with the majority.

 

More on that in my next post

Part 2

Christian Creatives in a Fallen World   1 comment

In case you can’t tell from the sudden drop-off of blog posts, my ordinary life got busy. I am also trying a few other things, just for variety. For example, I am posting over at Christian Creative Nexus, which this blog post comes from. I’m also thinking about asking my Facebook questions here on Aurorawater Alaska. And I’m now on MeWe. New territory helps to expand networks … I hope.

https://dyegirl1373.wixsite.com/website/single-post/2018/03/07/Lets-Talk-How-to-be-a-Christian-Creative-in-a-Fallen-World

 

I’m one of those Christian creatives who does not advertise my works as “Christian”. Historically, Christian creatives didn’t claim a territory and label themselves. We don’t think of Bach as a “Christian” musician, but rather a great composer who made his living as a church organist. Unless you’re a history geek like me, you might not know about his deep and abiding faith. Although we now think of CS Lewis as a “Christian” author, his fictional works weren’t advised as such when he was publishing because Christians of that era hadn’t decided to paint themselves into a box with a label. Back when I was a kid Elvis Presley (not an example of a “good” Christian, but a man with a church background) and Johnny Cash (by that time, a reprobate saved by Christ) were singing gospel tunes right along with their secular tunes on regular radio … and my non-believing parents didn’t find that the least bit odd.

I want modern Christian creatives to step out of the box labeled “weird” and “other” and place the products of our creativity where we can act as salt and light in the dark world around us. I think Christian creatives have a lot to give to the secular world if we’re willing. But how do we do that?

I think it starts with a conversation among Christian creatives about what it means for us and our creative works to be “in the world, but not of it.” There’s nothing wrong with being counter-cultural, but at least some of us should be speaking to the society around us without painting ourselves into a self-segregated box where our books end up in that lonely section at Barnes & Noble. The real trick is doing that while also paying respect to our Savior and the flawed human beings who follow Him.

Let’s explore that together.

Remember I Love You   Leave a comment

Make room for us in your hearts;  we have wronged no onewe have ruined no onewe have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I told you before that you are in our hearts so that we die together and live together with you. 2 Corinthians 7:2-3 

Image result for image of discipline of loveIt’s easy to forget that the church at Corinth was a troubled and young church. Paul wrote letters to them to address the various problems in the church, some of which were quite severe. The Corinthians were stiff-necked. They thought their church was doing well and they had expected Paul to praise them, not write to them in a strict manner.

Paul knew that the church members would discuss why he’d written such a letter. They’d have various explanations. Some of them probably complained about it. One popular idea was that Paul wanted to control their church. Probably many of the Corinthian Christians thought Paul no longer loved them. Like children sternly disciplined by a beloved parent, they might have felt bereft. It was hard to be a Christian in such an evil city as ancient Corinth was. Those Christians needed mature leaders like Paul to be tough with them when needed.

Knowing this, Paul mixed his rebukes with expressions of love and reminders of what he was about, as he does here. When he’d been in Corinth, he’d taught God’s message without trying to control anyone or use anyone for his advantage. The Corinthians knew that because they’d been there.

He wasn’t trying to accuse them. He wanted them to remember his love for them and to know, despite his absence of a few years, his love had not changed. He wrote those letters because he loved them and wanted them to sort out their problems for their own goods. Paul was trying to teach them how to serve God better.

Reality in the Middle East   Leave a comment

If you put your opinion out on social media, you’re bound to attract some people who disagree with you and this week, I’ve become velcro. Debating anyone on Twitter is … uh … challenging and I had this guy ask me to meet him in twitter DM for further discussion. My issue is that I would have to follow him to do that and his feed is full of anti-Trump, anti-American, we-don’t-care-about-the-Constitution posts and I’m not interested in supporting that with my follow.

So, for the record, this is what I sort of believe – subject to revision as new facts come in. The topic is Muslim persecution of Christians. Yeah, big topic … impossible at 140 characters.

The conversation started because I responded to a meme that said (I’m still looking for it, so this is a paraphrase) that Muslims have no right to demand entry into US when they come from countries that regularly persecute Christians under cover of law. The poster wanted to know if this was “fair”. I responded that it wasn’t fair, but that it made a point about the treatment of Christians in many Muslim countries. I specifically said “in many ME countries, the only rights Christians have is to die for their faith.”

He accused me of broadly condemning ALL Muslims. So, this is my attempt to make myself clear without the character limit.

My figures can be verified from Amnesty International, US State Department Research and Pew Research. These are not the strongest sources I am familiar with. I know Christians living in the Middle East who point to other websites, but since these are Christian in origin, this fellow would no doubt say they are biased. And, hey, if someone made it illegal for me to practice my faith, I might feel persecuted and be a bit biased against those who want me dead or silenced.

Apostasy and blasphemy may seem to many westerners like artifacts of history, but there still dozens of countries around the world where laws against apostasy and blasphemy remain on the books and often are still enforced.

You need examples of actual current persecution?

In December 2015, authorities in Sudan charged 25 men for apostasy – the act of abandoning one’s faith — including by converting to another religion. The men faced the death penalty for following a different interpretation of Islam than the one sanctioned by the government. I bring this up because Muslims even persecute other Muslims for converting to another type of Islam.

And, in Pakistan in summer 2016, police were pursuing a Christian accused of sending an allegedly blasphemous poem to a friend. Blasphemy – defined as speech or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine – is a capital crime in Pakistan.

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center analysis, about a quarter of the world’s countries and territories had anti-blasphemy laws or policies, and that more than 1 in 10 nations had laws or policies penalizing apostasy. The legal punishments for such transgressions vary from fines to death.

Pew’s research was the basis of a major report on restrictions on religion around the world. The report examines both government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion, relying on 17 widely cited, publicly available sources from groups such as the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group.

Pew found that laws restricting apostasy and blasphemy are most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where 18 of the region’s 20 countries criminalize blasphemy and 14 criminalize apostasy. While apostasy laws exist in only two other regions of the world – Asia-Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa – blasphemy laws can be found in all regions, including Europe and the Americas.

Some blasphemy laws have been on the books for decades, through dramatic political and social changes. In Pakistan, blasphemy statutes have their origins in the country’s colonial past, when British rulers first introduced penalties for insulting any religious beliefs. These laws remained in effect after Pakistan’s independence in 1947 and have since increased in severity.

Pakistan is one of 12 of the 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific region that had blasphemy laws in 2014. Blasphemy laws are enforced in several of those 12 nations. In 2014, Burma (Myanmar) convicted a New Zealander and two Burmese men of blasphemy after using an advertisement depicting Buddha with headphones to promote a bar. The men were sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Apostasy laws are less common worldwide – they are found in 25 countries, in only three regions of the world. By far the most countries with anti-apostasy measures were in the Middle East-North Africa region (14 out of 20).

Seven of the 50 countries (14%) in the Asia-Pacific region also had apostasy laws. In the Maldives, all citizens are required to be Muslim, and those who convert to another faith may lose their citizenship.

So, when I said that in “many Middle Eastern countries” Christians risk dying for their faith, I wasn’t over-stating the case. Pakistan still kills those who convert from Islam to Christianity. Afghanistan still has the death penalty on the books for this, but the US coalition has pressured the government to prevent recent executions. Brunei‘s Penal Code states that a Muslim who declares himself non-Muslim commits a crime that is punishable with death, or with up to 30 year imprisonment, depending on the type of evidence. Iran doesn’t list this in its Penal Code and historical Christian minorities are not directly persecuted, those who convert from Islam to Christianity are threatened, assaulted, detained without charges, and even executed. Jordan doesn’t kill Christians outright, but it monitors Christian evangelists and restricts the civil rights of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity. It also monitors Christian churches. Kuwait‘s constitution upholds the “absolute freedom” of belief, but Christians, particularly converts from Islam, face severe penalties in family courts and there is a law, frequently enforced, prohibiting non-Muslim evangelism among Muslims. In Oman, Christians are denied child custody rights and it is illegal to talk about your faith, but they don’t kill you. Qatar allowed private practice of non-Islamic faith, but there’s a 10-year sentence for talking about your faith if you’re not a Muslim. Saudi Arabia makes it illegal, punishable by flogging, imprisonment and the death penalty, but there haven’t been any recent reported executions, though supposedly, Christianity is growing secretly there. We have all heard what happens in Syria to Christians. That’s not the government, so much as ISIS. The Emirates make it illegal, but Christian churches are growing there publicly.

So that’s four ME countries where Christianity carries the death penalty and several more where it carries severe penalties. Let’s not deny reality. Some of these countries may not actually kill many Christians, but that’s mainly because there are so few there and they live mostly in secret. If they didn’t, the country would kill them.

For a broad view of this topic by a writer who has clearly done more research than I  have, check out this article.

That doesn’t make it right to “ban” Muslims from the US, but it should act as a caution that some Muslims are coming from countries where it is deemed all right to abuse and kill Christians and they bring that mindset with them. So, yes, more screening is needed. The Trump administration went about it ineptly, but there is ample evidence that the Obama administration was biased in the screening process for some immigrants. I know of Europeans who have never had a traffic violation who have had their citizenship application held up for five years and yet Muslim refugees, all through out the Obama administration, were fast-tracked into the country, often with rote acceptance of a UN waiver that turned out not to include what most Europeans or Americans would consider to be a very rigorous background check.

That system needs to be balanced and to the extent that it has not been, it should be restructured.

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