Social Justice Challenge: Religious Freedom

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]

This entry was posted in 100+ Book Challenge, B- Book, Book Challenges, Books, Library Challenge, Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Social Justice Challenge: Religious Freedom

  1. Beth F says:

    Wow. Sounds like a powerful testimony of faith. I have never understood the killing and hate that has and continues to go on in the name of a deity.

  2. Well when you say “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” it isn’t just your religion, whatever that may be! Our first colonists of a variety of religions were so bad about it the first amendment was written to ensure freedom FROM rather than freedom TO. It’s sort of odd that so many religions have been (and continue to be) so inimical to tolerance! You would think it would be the opposite…

  3. WordLily says:

    Thanks so much for posting! I enjoyed reading this. I’ve read that book, and I really did find it valuable; what did you think of it?

  4. cerrin says:

    Let me just add that I am so greatful to have parents that not only have amazing faith. BUT who also let their children search and find their own faith and believe in what they decided.

    I am very lucky to have parents that did not force their beliefs of me. So THANKS MOM! and Dad

  5. Kathy says:

    Such a nice post, Margot. I think you’re right – a lot of people preach religious tolerance and fail to practice it.

  6. Molly says:

    What I wonderful post. I love hearing about your own faith – and how it has evolved over time.

    Gracia Burnham spoke at our church shortly after her book was released. I immediately bought it – and then life took over and I have yet to read it. I know that I will someday.

  7. kaye says:

    very insightful

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your faith. It is sad and strangely ironic that a country that was founded by people willing to suffer and fight for religious freedom has become so intolerant – not just to “other” faiths but to the very faith on which it was established. The idea of “tolerance” has been mutated to mean no religion at all rather than the kindness and understanding of differing views that you talk about. We should all reach for a genuine tolerance. We appreciate your review of this book – I will put it on my TBR list.

  9. Staci says:

    I grew up without much religion and so I have had to go out there and do it on my own. I believe in religious tolerance too but I’ve experienced hypocrites within a church that I was attending which totally turned me off. I don’t go to church but I still believe in God and have read the Bible. I’m so glad that they had their rock solid faith to help through that harrowing experience.

  10. Stacy says:

    Great post. Margot. I am a Christian and it upsets me when other Christians fail to recognize the Golden Rule in their own lives. I know it’s not just Christians, but it is the religion I know best and for some to choose intolerance and call it God’s will is absurd to me.
    I remember reading about this event at the time, but haven’t thought about it since. Great review.

  11. Belle says:

    I really enjoyed this post, Margot. It was interesting to see how your childhood experiences helped you to develop your own personal faith, one that has been so powerful in your life. I think, too, that there can often be such a world of difference between faith itself and religion in general.

  12. christopherpeck says:

    Great post Mom, I look forward to reading more about social justice issues in the year ahead. It’s funny, I was just realizing recently that in a way I live where I do because of religious freedom. Sonoma County, CA (the whole Bay Area really) is very tolerant of Buddhism: there are numerous Zen (my preference), Theravadan, and Tibetan groups here, among many others. I take it for granted that I will have access to like-minded folks and teachers, and won’t have to hide what I’m doing. Thank God-goodness-Spirit-Buddha for that!

  13. jim says:

    Great attitude. I think religious freedom and the continued separation of church and state is one of the most important issues we face as a country and for the world as well. Thanks for this.

  14. Stephanie says:

    Excellent post! I especially enjoyed reading about the evolution of your own faith, and how it felt, as a child, to be a believer who is seen as being out of the mainstream. And you had some powerful things to say about religious freedom and following the Golden Rule. Such a simple, beautiful rule — reflected in virtually all religions and philosophies — and so hard for humans to follow! 🙂

  15. I read this book several years ago and really found it to be fantastic. When you mention Martin’s prayer I had to smile – I had forgotten how strong he was in his faith. An amazing read!

  16. Pingback: Review Round-up for Religious Freedom Month | Social Justice Challenge

  17. Wendy says:

    Wonderful review…this sounds like a powerful read.

  18. Geralyn says:

    Reading your article has allowed me to take my plans and change them with ideas I have never seen prior to this. Now I can make what I had already plaednn, and make it better.

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