Iran's Supreme Court says an evangelical pastor charged with apostasy can be executed if he does not recant his faith, according to a copy of the verdict obtained by a religious rights activist group.
Christian Solidarity World says Iranian-born Yousef Nadarkhani, who was arrested in 2009 and given the death sentence late last year, could have his sentence suspended on the grounds that he renounce his faith.
Those who know him say he is not likely to do that, for if he were disposed to giving it up, he would have done it long ago.
Alright, before I extrapolate any larger, ideological points from this disturbing story, let me first say that my prayers are with this brave soul. He is suffering for his faith, and in a way that I (and millions of Christians) may never know. Scripture teaches that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ, but it is hard for a sheltered, pampered panny-waist like me to wrap my mind around all that this entails for Believers around the globe (and on a daily basis, no less). For more on the religious angle, you can read Rob Schwarzwalder's blog-post at Family Research Council.org here.
But what the average American citizen must not lose in all of this is the obvious, but easily under-scored, point that different values lead to different societies and cultures. We're all God's children, but like any parent can confirm: not all of your kids make the same decisions, or end up in the same places in life.
We hear often about how "Westernized" the Middle East and Central Asia are becoming. The case for this seems to be entirely based upon the fact that they have cable news networks and rickety semblances of democracies of their own. We tend to think that as a society's technological capabilities increase, so does its understanding and appreciation for things like rule of law, human rights, and civic-mindedness.
We hear the words "Recent elections in Egypt..." and breath a sigh of relief and hope against hope that countries in such a tumultuous part of the world are getting their act together.
Meanwhile, the politically correct-minded folks here in the U.S. continue to perpetuate the asinine idea that A) We cannot have anything but a positive, nostalgic view of developing countries and cultures, because B) No culture is superior to any other. Plus, they would say, we've done our "fair share" of reprehensible things.
Who are we to comment on the murder of Christians, the execution of gays, and the lynching of women who were raped but don't have the necessary "witnesses" to back up her claim? We had slavery (which so many Americans hated that we were willing to fight a Civil War to end). We had Jim Crow laws (which the religious, compassionate strain of American consciousness helped bring an end to a half-century ago).
We elected George W. Bush, for Pete's sake! Where do we get off complaining about other nations' leaders and societies, right?
Well, the truth of the matter is that we most certainly have made mistakes. We're a collection of 300 million fallen individuals, all trying to live our lives, raise our families, and pursue vocations that will put food on the table. We are hoping to find ways to satisfy that "pursuit of happiness" TJ wrote about roughly 235 years ago.
But there can be no doubt that the United States of America has different ideas, ideals, and values than a place like Iran or Saudi Arabia. We are communal creatures and are, to one extent or another, influenced by the environment we find ourselves in. Being taught from birth that man/woman is "endowed by his/her Creator" with rights, dignity, and purpose leads one to approach life, love, and politics from a very different perspective than growing up around ideas like "Jews drink the blood of Muslim children," "The Holocaust was made up," and "Infidels deserve to die."
Pray for Yousef Nadarkhani, but also spend some time reflecting on the points I've raised here. I believe them to be self-evident, and completely devoid of any racist motivations. My beef is with the ideas and values, not the individuals (especially those brave souls who reject the madness of the Sharia-run, totalitarian regimes they live under).
People swim through shark-infested waters to come to America, they immigrate to Western Europe, and are willing to up-root their families to move to Canada.
No one is sneaking into Iran...other than Christians bringing Bibles and the Gospel message.