There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
~ Galatians 3:28 (NIV)
Satan has inspired rulers to try to force Christians to return to their former folk religions or the pagan gods of their ancestors—all in the name of patriotism or nationalism. Religious nationalism is where a particular territory or culture is staked out exclusively in religious terms.
Leaders say, “Only Hindus are allowed to stay in India.” Or, “You are a true Sri Lankan only if you are a Buddhist.” In such cases where religious nationalism reigns, Christians either must accept second-class citizen status, face daily discrimination, or leave.
Research done by Open Doors indicates that to establish a “religious state” the religious nationalists require four elements: a villain, a lie, a mob, and a vacuum. They need a “villain” who can unite the people with a powerful message; a “lie” (Christians are intolerant); a “mob” to create chaos (media support helps); and a “vacuum” (absence of moderates in power to control the nation).
Some in India and Nepal argue that their country is Hindu hence other religions are foreign and imperialistic. State assistance is denied to those who convert to non-Hindu religions.
At one point, the Mongolian State Intelligence Bureau described Christianity as a “foreign religion.” And today, Mongolia’s new laws imply that Christianity is “against Mongolian customs.”
In Mexico, a mayor of a community in the southern state of Chiapas has tried to justify the ongoing persecution of evangelicals with the claim that they “attack…our culture and traditions.” In reality, tens of thousands of Christians have been expelled from their homes for not joining in the syncretistic community spiritual activities.
Christians in an area of Swaziland were told by their chief that each Christian would be fined a cow for not attending the annual cultural ceremonies at the king’s royal cattle kraal. The chief announced that he had compiled a list of all his subjects who deliberately avoided two yearly ceremonies: the umhlanga (reed dance) and the incwala (first fruit). Pastors of churches accused of preaching against Swazi culture are among those fined. Pastors in the area plan to challenge the chief’s fines in a court of law.
Christians must avoid the mistake of identifying religion with nation, and nation with religion—even in the West. To do so severely hinders the growth of the Body of Christ where there is “neither Jew nor Greek.”
RESPONSE: I will not make the mistake of identifying religion with nation…and pray for those who do.
PRAYER: Pray for Christians who struggle to survive in the midst of religious nationalism and extreme patriotism.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS), a daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks. © 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission.