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Blog Post

Notes from a heathen

  • s Writing
  • + laurent carrozza
  • P 3rd Mar 2018, 11:22
  • C

Last week, on Sunday, David preached. He explained that in the world there are places where people are being persecuted for being Christians, that for being followers of Christ, they risked death, imprisonment, or other kinds of pressures. There seemed to be a fairly wide spectrum of consequences. On the world map were placed little dots: red ones on countries where the punishments are most severe (North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran…), orange dots where the consequences for being a Christian are bad but not fatal, and yellow dots where, well, you get the point. The Middle-East boasted the highest density of dots. They scattered towards the East through Iran, Afghanistan, all the way to China, westwards to North Africa and some Sub-Saharan countries, and two dots in the Americas: Mexico and Colombia.
I think the sermon was recorded, so, hopefully, you’ll be able to listen to it. A time of silence was given to us so we could think of a country on which we were invited to place a candle. During that time, I couldn’t really think of a specific country. All I thought of was ‘how can Christians be persecuted? How can anyone know? I mean, it’s not like it’s written on their passport or on their foreheads. They don’t wear badges, some may wear a cross around their neck but they don’t have to. What makes a Christian? How does one recognise them?’

During the Spanish inquisition, Jewish people were forced to convert to Catholicism. It was either that or they were killed, usually by being burned to death on a stake on La Plaza Mayor, the auto-da-fé. Some fled to North Africa but a fair amount accepted to be baptised, attended mass on Sundays and followed all the festivals. They had a cross drawn on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, their kids had their Confirmations, they learnt the Pater Noster by heart. They did the whole lot. Did that make them Christians? I doubt it because being a Christian isn’t about following a set of rules and traditions, is it? In fact, a lot of these converts were caught quite easily. You see, unlike Christianity, Judaism is about following certain rules and these poor people couldn’t hide the fact that on cold winter Saturdays, they were the only ones whose chimney wasn’t smoking, they were the only ones who weren’t so keen on pork. They were easy to spot. Practising Judaism shows.

What does practising Christianity look like, then? Do going to Church, reading your Bible every day, celebrating the festivals, taking communion, reciting certain prayers, singing hymns, enjoying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not having sex before marriage make you a Christian? I’ve had many conversations with Christians and although they enjoy some of these things, people seem to agree that that’s not what it’s about. If I had to boil it down, I’d say that it’s about loving your neighbour and loving your enemy, about feeding the hungry, being a friend to the lonely and clothing the poor. I’m only a heathen, I may be utterly wrong, please let me know if I am.

I would be surprised if, in the streets of Isfahan, Pyongyang or Kartoum, when you give your coat to a cold person you get in trouble with the authorities. On the other hand, in the USA, there are 33 cities where you would get fined or threatened to be sent to jail for sharing food with a homeless person. In Las Vegas, for example, you can sing ‘How great is our God’ as many times as you want, you can wear a T-shirt that reads ‘Jesus Loves You’ and you can read your bible in the street, yet you cannot feed a hungry person. Doesn’t Vegas deserve a yellow dot? In France, councils spray water where homeless people sleep and it is forbidden to give shelter or a lift to a refugee (5 years in prison and a 30 000 euro fine). Is it really easier to be a Christian in France?

In Narnia, under the white witch, Narnians have to hide, their being Narnian is obvious. What is it that makes Christians obviously Christian? What part of Christian life is so essential that not showing it in a public place would make you cease to be one? What would make you feel persecuted?