America is facing a number of significant problems today. The threat of terrorism, social unrest, children living in poverty, a growing national deficit and other ills fill the news each day. But one of the most serious problems facing America today continues to go unnoticed: apathy.
When we are faced with tragic global events one right after another, we often develop apathy toward the problems that don’t directly affect our daily lives. While this coping mechanism might be natural, it is dangerous and the risks of global apathy can have dire consequences.
When bad news seems to come in waves, it may be tempting to tune out. We become overwhelmed with news of terrorist attacks, the wars and refugee crises in Syria and Iraq, the turmoil in Turkey, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, and nuclear testing in North Korea. We decide to ignore that which doesn’t directly affect us.
As tempting as it may be to just go numb to all the tragedy, we need to resist the urge to do so.
Involvement in great moral issues is actually an antidote to cynicism and apathy. Caring about the timeless issues that affect peoples’ lives and the generations to come brings a new and invigorating sense of purpose in this senseless world we live in.
Freedom of faith, the ability for each individual to decide what he or she believes and to practice that chosen faith, is just such a timeless issue. Freedom of faith is something that many of us here it the United States take for granted. We fail to realize that it is a freedom denied to a large percentage of the world today. Those who deny this fundamental freedom subjugate hundreds of millions of people groups around the globe – the largest group of whom are Christians.
If you live in Salem, Oregon or Salem, Maine or anywhere in between, you take as a birthright your freedom to attend the place of worship of your choice, or perhaps not to attend anyplace at all. Tens of millions of podcasts are downloaded monthly of famous preachers, services are streamed online, books are read on spiritual growth and formation. You can buy your Bibles online, read it on a Bible app, or actually pick up the Holy Scriptures, any time and place you choose. It rarely crosses our minds that this freedom is not universally enjoyed.
The sad reality is that it is not only in totalitarian regimes that people are forbidden from reading the Bible or attending the church of their choice. Most of the Middle East and large parts of Asia forbid people from switching from the religious category they were born into. In other words, there is a religious caste system that forbids individuals from deciding that they do not agree with the religious choices of their ancestors. The Bible that we in the West take for granted is still considered to be the most dangerous book ever written in more than 60 countries in the world. You cannot print, sell, read or possess the Bible without fear of a fine, imprisonment or even death.
For people of faith, and I would argue for anyone who believes in freedom of expression regardless of whether he or she has any faith at all, advocating on behalf of the hundreds of millions who are harassed for their faith would be the perfect antidote to the cynical tone of today.
There are so many ways in which we can shake off the apathy that faces us today and get involved in advocating for those being denied religious freedom. You can sign the Open Doors petition asking presidential nominees Clinton and Trump to create a plan to help persecuted Christians. You can sign-up to receive weekly prayer points to pray for those who are denied their right to religious freedom. You can share news about Christian persecution with others on your social media accounts.
It takes work to fight against apathy, but the results are very much worth the effort—not only for those who have been affected by persecution or another crisis, but for ourselves as well.