Our Christian brothers and sisters in many countries find themselves under increasingly violent attack. I feel sure that I am not the only Western Christian who is unsure about the best response.
Should they fight back? I have written already that I believe they have no choice. But this must be measured.
Earlier this year suicide bombers targeted two churches in Pakistan, killing 15 worshippers. Anguished Pakistani Christians subsequently went on a rampage through the streets of Lahore. They blocked roads, attacked police and then seized two innocent suspects who were being held in police custody, and beat them both to death.
I wrote what I thought was a highly sympathetic column, stressing that the Pakistani authorities were notorious for not helping persecuted Christians.
But I also said: “It may be difficult to condemn…the spontaneous retaliation in Pakistan, but condemn [it] we must. We might argue about when it is permissible for Christians to fight back, but we can surely agree that mob violence is never the answer.”
Now I have heard from a Christian who was upset by my words. Here is an excerpt from her email:
“I am curious – are you a martyr, have you suffered or watched your family suffer for generations? You so easily write. If you condemn these then condemn David in the Bible who went and fought to get his wife back with his whole army…do you think people died that day? Heck yes!
“I do not encourage people killing the Muslims but neither do I condemn them. Are you a martyr? I have met several martyrs – each will tell you of weaknesses they struggle with. Imagine the guilt of the Christians who actually did the killing…Here you condemn and they need forgiveness just as much as the Muslims they killed.”
No, I am not a martyr. Not even close. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to live as a Christian in a strictly Muslim country, suffering for generations. So perhaps she is right. Perhaps I should not have condemned the actions of the men who went on a rampage and ended up killing two innocent suspects.
But I feel I am correct. We cannot condone Christians who form unruly mobs, leading to out-of-control violence. We can understand it, and we might even know that under similar circumstances we could have done the same. But still we must condemn it, for the sake of our civilization.
And yes, it is true – I sit comfortably at home, writing so easily about persecution. The woman who emailed me is, apparently, nearer the front lines, dealing directly with the persecuted. In further correspondence she said that she too did not condone mob violence. But she had become upset when she witnessed my column somehow being used – I don’t know how – to condemn Christians.
We live in tumultuous times, with violence against Christians on a scale not seen in many centuries, and with a global media that beams the atrocities into our living rooms.
No wonder Christians are angry and confused about how to respond. I am too. I am beginning to think that anger and confusion are the new normal for our age.