Dominating my Facebook feed is the story of Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk, refusing marriage licenses to homosexual couples and subsequently going to jail for contempt of court. It seems everyone both liberal and conservative (at least among my friends) has fierce opinions on this subject matter.
Somewhat known, but not as covered, is the disturbing photo of Aylan Kurdi, the drowned 3 year old Syrian refugee who’s body washed ashore in Turkey. I do not think it an understatement to say it is at both one of the most powerful and gut wrenching photos in the history of photography. It’s nearly impossible for a functional human being to look at the picture and not feel some sense of anger or disgust. The photo of the man holding little Aylan’s body is eerily reminiscent of the photo of the firefighter holding the dead child from the Oklahoma City bombing. The loss of life is startling, but the loss of a child’s life is more than devastating, no matter the cause.
While both Muslims and Christians are fleeing Syria, both have faced immense persecution. They did not seek to be martyrs, they did not seek persecution, they didn’t draw some defiant line in the sand; they merely followed Christ and refused to abandon him. The point is, they didn’t try to make it to the spotlight, and it’s a good thing, because the American outcry against the murders of our brothers and sisters has been near nothing. The humanitarian crisis for the entirety of the population is on a level not seen since World War II (ironically when Europeans – the same people hesitant to take in refugees – were the refugees). This is actual persecution.
What Kim Davis is doing is not persecution. In the early days of Christianity, priests and bishops forbade Christians from joining the Roman military as well as other jobs. The reason (other than early Christians almost unanimously being pacifists) is that such jobs required them to perform duties that went against Christian beliefs. In other words, if the job required them to violate their religion, then they left the job. While in the United States we do have the freedom of religion, Mrs. Davis could certainly have quit her job and then proceeded to press her rights in court. If the court sided with her, then good on her. And if they sided against her, then at least she’d already work somewhere else. As it is, from an early Christian standpoint, it would have been better for her to quit. Either way, it’s not persecution when you’re seeking to make a political statement.
Regardless of where one falls politically on such an issue, the fact remains that even if you think Davis is in the right, why is she receiving your praise and not those who died for the faith? Why does she receive your prayers, but the millions of refugees barely receive your thoughts?
Real tragedy is occurring in this world and the body of Aylan is merely us peeking into the abyss of evil engulfing the Middle East. I’m not saying we can’t stand up for social issues, but we must put equal, if not greater, effort into stopping actual evils as they are in this world. If we’re willing to stand up for a self-made “martyr,” then shouldn’t we stand up for actual martyrs and victims of war? In the end, what honors Christ more: Refusing to hand out a marriage license, or taking in a family from Syria (Christian or Muslim) because they have no where else to go?
How quickly we forget that our Lord and Savior was a refugee into Egypt, escaping the bloody persecution and bloodshed of Herod. And today we have those made in his image escaping the same lands for similar reasons. But we choose to prop up a Kentucky county clerk over the lives of the innocent? No, I refuse to partake in such a system. The Gospel is for those without hope. The Gospel is for those who are desperate for a savior. The Gospel is meant to save man, not beat him into submission. We should petition our government to bring over these refugees; God knows churches (and many members) have the resources and the space needed to house them. Not every Christian in America can house a family from Syria, but many can. So instead of wasting so much time and energy into a battle we shouldn’t be fighting, let’s put it into serving those who are suffering. Put down the protest signs and placards, drop the petitions, turn off the news, and serve. In silent service is when the Gospel is loudest.
In between these two stories there is a theme that Christians need to observe, and that’s that we ought not exaggerate our suffering and persecution lest we compare ourselves to true martyrs and victims of violence. It is also a reminder to be happy of what we have, for while both Kim Davis and a homosexual couple might go home angry at their changing world (or at a violation of their rights), the fact is they get to go home. At the end of the day they still draw breath, they still have a place to lay their head, and they aren’t fleeing for their lives. They have no worry that tomorrow morning their bodies will wash ashore from drowning while fleeing to find a safer place to live.