January is kick-off month for the year long Social Justice Challenge. I joined because there are so many issues I care about. This month the issue is Religious Freedom.
Why does religious freedom matter to me?
I grew up in an extremely religious family. If the church was open, we were there. After supper we had family devotions – every day. Religion was a habit we practices 24/7. There were many things I couldn’t do because of my religion (dance, go to movies) that made me seem weird to my non-church friends.
Rather than be turned off by all of that, I found my own way to a personal faith that has sustained me for sixty-some years. I know on a small scale what it was like to be made fun of for my religion. I vowed to practice tolerance for the religious beliefs of others.
In my opinion, fighting for religious freedom goes hand in hand with practicing religious tolerance. Unfortunately, there are many people within my own faith who say they believe in religious freedom but what they really mean my religious freedom, not that of other religions.
A tenet of my faith is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you wish they would do to you. I believe this tenet is found in most major faiths, maybe with a different name. It’s a principle that is easy to memorize and to speak. It’s hard to put it into practice in everyday life unless we pause between an event and our actions. We must continuously ask ourselves: how would I want to be treated if I were in this situation?
Until all people are free to worship in any way they choose, with no harassment, none of us have religious freedom. People of faith are obligated to push for religious freedom and tolerance lest we all lose it.
The book I chose for this month’s reading is:
by Gracia Burnham with Dean Merrill
Tyndale House Publishing, 2003
My Rating: B-
Synopsis (from the publisher):
Soon after September 11, the news media stepped up its coverage of the plight of Martin and Gracia Burnham, the missionary couple captured and held hostage in the Philippine jungle by terrorists with ties to Osama Bin Laden. After a year of captivity, and a violent rescue that resulted in Martin’s death, the world watched Gracia Burnham return home in June 2002 with a bullet wound in the leg and amazing composure.
In this riveting personal account, Burnham tells the real story behind the news about their harrowing ordeal, about how it affected their relationship with each other and with God, about the terrorists who held them, about the actions of the U.S. and Philippine governments, and about how they were affected by the prayers of thousands of Christians throughout the world.
My thoughts: The book was a gripping read about the year-long nightmare the author endured. Although recommended as a resource for religious freedom, I didn’t see it that way. The Burnhams were not kidnapped and mistreated because of their faith. They were captured at an expensive resory where their captors believed they would be worth a big ransom.
What was superb about the book was how their faith sustained them in over a year of captivity. The author’s husband, Martin, had the most amazing confidence in his faith. Within a short time of his capture he lead all the hostages in this prayer:
“Lord, all of this doesn’t surprise you,” he began in a calming voice as we all bowed our heads. “You know where we are, even though we don’t. We know that people are worried about us. But you hold us in your hands. Give us the grace to go through this trial. We’re depending on you. Amen.”
How’s that for rock-solid faith?
[Source: The public library]