Monday, March 21, 2011

A Little Thing

Last week I was up and out of the house early to drop a couple pieces of mail in the mailbox a few blocks from my house. I was looking ahead to all I had to do that day—not much of it pleasant—and as a result I was already in a gloomy mood. I was steeling myself for the day.

I parked the car and walked to the mailbox, and as I dropped the mail through the slot, I heard a cheery “Good morning!” I turned—on the off chance this happy voice was addressing me—and saw a man, maybe in his late sixties, heading for the same mailbox. Mail in hand, arms swinging, he smiled broadly at me. I replied with my own “Good morning!” and headed back to my car. Grinning.

We didn’t have a conversation at the mailbox, nothing more than a smile and a “Good morning” passed between us. But that man made my morning. And he got me thinking. Maybe if we realized that one smile or a couple of kind words could make such a difference in someone’s day, we’d be more willing to sprinkle those smiles and words around.

There are times when we feel we have nothing to offer. We’re drained ourselves and don’t have a drop to spare, or maybe we’re just in the kind of mood I was that morning and don’t see why we should spare a drop. I wonder what kind of day that man was facing. It might not have been any better than mine. It might have been worse.

It was such a little thing, but here I am, days later, thinking and writing about it.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Christians Continue to Face Persecution

Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s only Christian
cabinet member, was assassinated on
March 2, 2011, for opposing Pakistan’s
blasphemy law, which is often used
against Christians.
After reading about mob attacks on Christians in Egypt this month—largely ignored by the media—I thought I’d research the current state of Christian persecution in Africa, India, and the Far East. What follows is a tiny sample of the persecution Christians in these parts of the world have faced in the past three months. 
  • On March 4, in the village of Soul, south of Cairo, a local imam issued a call to “kill all the Christians.” The imam said Christians had no right to live in the village. Several hours after his call, a mob attacked the local church. They brought down its walls with sledgehammers and set fire to it, nearly killing the parish priest (some reports have it that the priest and three deacons were later killed).
  • On March 5, also in the village of Soul, a mob of almost four thousand Muslim extremists attacked Coptic homes, setting fire to them. (There are an estimated twelve thousand Christians in Sol.) The mob prevented fire brigades from extinguishing the fires.
  • I’ve written about Yang Caizhen before. She was arrested in November 2009, along with other church leaders, for holding a prayer rally the day after four hundred military police raided the church she and her husband pastor in Linfen, China. Last month, for the second time since her arrest, she was admitted to a hospital. This time her condition appears to be very serious. 
  • Pastor Vijay Purusu of Bethel Church in India’s Orissa state says that Hindu extremists’ persecution of Christians in the area "has become a daily occurrence." There have been at least fifteen serious attacks on Christians between December 2010 and February 2011, including an assault on Pastor Mark Markani, who was beaten in his home by a group of thirty-five Hindu extremists, and an attack on Christmas Day in which some two hundred Hindus beat worshipers in a church and destroyed ten houses belong to Christians. 
  • In February, Pastor Hari Shankar Ninama was stripped and beaten by Hindu extremists while he was praying in a home in Ambarunda for the recovery of an eight-year-old boy suffering from an illness. He’d been asked to pray by the boy’s mother. 
  • For the ninth year in a row, North Korea is at the top of Open Doors’ World Watch List, an annual list that ranks countries by the severity of their persecution of Christians. In North Korea, Christians face torture, life in a labor camp, or execution—simply for being a Christian. Out of a population of twenty-three million, there are an estimated four hundred thousand Christians in North Korea, fifty thousand of them in labor camps.
If you want more information on the persecution of Christians, visit, Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, ChinaAid, and Help Linfen. All of these websites offer ways for you to write or email Christian prisoners.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why I Love Christian Fiction

There’s an interesting scene in the 1992 movie A Stranger Among Us, the story of Emily Eden, a tough New York City cop who briefly lives under cover in a community Hasidic Jews in order to solve the disappearance of a member of that community.

In this scene, Emily (Melanie Griffith) is introduced to the community’s rebbe (Yiddish for “rabbi”). Rather than have the sense to meet the rebbe wearing modest clothing, Emily wears what she’s used to: a short, tight skirt. Naturally, when she sits down to talk with the rebbe, her skirt rides up her thighs. In response, the rebbe’s daughter, Leah (Mia Sara), gently and without reproach drapes a blanket across Emily’s lap.

What I love about this scene, and what makes it remarkable, is that even though it occurs early in the movie, by the time the audience sees it, the tables have already been turned. It’s Emily, the perfectly nice and normal cop, who’s the outsider, not the “prudish” Leah. When Leah covers Emily’s legs, it’s not weird or intrusive—it’s just plain common sense.

And this is what love about Christian fiction. There are no apologies for characters whose actions are guided by a profound relationship with God. There are no faintly embarrassed presentations of modesty, decency, or whispered prayers—because in their modesty and decency the characters are acting out of common sense.

Christian fiction is not about unreal worlds populated by unreal people, it’s about the full reality of life, and that full reality includes millions of people who live their lives with God foremost in their thoughts. In secular fiction, just as in most movies, these people have to be explained. They’re the outsiders, the strangers. Or the lunatics and villains.

Christian fiction turns the tables.