Two days after the Feast of the Transfiguration comes news of Christians and other minorities stranded on a mountain top in northern Iraq. If they had stayed in their homes, they would have surely been slaughtered by ISIS. If they leave the mountain to head to safety, again, they are likely to die. If they stay, they will perhaps die too, of starvation and thirst.
During my youth in the '70's and early '80's, people in my church groups often talked about what we'd do if we were asked to deny our faith. But we didn't envision a conversion scenario; we were likely thinking about Communists. We also thought about populations of Jews through the centuries who passed as Christians. We admired the bravery of those who continued to practice their Jewish faith in secret.
If a militant Muslim group took over my hometown, would I convert or die? The very question boggles the imagination.
Yet history shows us over and over again the presence of populations who think they're safe until the day when they're not. Again my thoughts return to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, a book which shows how quickly a country can be taken over by militants and fundamentalists and how grim life would become for so many. When Atwood wrote it in the mid-80's, she said that she didn't include any details that weren't actually happening to women somewhere in the world. I can't imagine that the situation for women has improved worldwide since the time of the book's publication.
I believe that if I renounced my faith, God would forgive me. But knowing about the lives of women under fundamentalist Islamic regimes, I might rather go ahead and be killed.
However, the human brain is a tricky thing. I also know that I would want to believe that the situation would change, that the militant Muslim group would not prevail for long. I would be tempted to hang on, to say that I would convert and then live subversively.
I treasure many freedoms that our country protects for its citizens, and I always have difficulty choosing the one that's most important to me. I often say freedom of speech. But the news from northern Iraq shows how vital our freedom of religion is too--and how rare.
feeling the feelings…
4 months ago