Monday, January 14, 2008

What is a Christian? - 2

It's not just people in America who misunderstand what a Christian is, as I talked about in my last post. People in other parts of the world also have misunderstandings about what a Christian is.

I know a family who lived in Pakistan for several years back in the 90's. When they came home, I learned a lot from the wife and Mom.

She explained to me that in predominantly Muslim countries, there is a close association with where you're born to what religion you are. People born in a Muslim country are automatically assumed to be of the Muslim religion (Islam)...I supposed until they act affirmatively to change that. But you can't do that.

When I made a comment to my friend about it being "illegal" to be a Christian there, she corrected me and said it was not illegal to be a Christian in Pakistan. What is illegal, however, (as I understand it) is to change religions. If you're a Muslim, it is not legal to change to Christianity. The punishment for such a change is pretty severe--threat of death. Actual death.

She also told me that the Christians in that country get the lowliest jobs, the jobs nobody else wants. The dirty jobs. So Christians are looked down upon, considered lower than "good" Muslim people. There's a lot of societal pressure to be Muslim.

At the same time, because these people associate a person's religion with where a person is born, and because the United States is known (or at least has been known in the past--some would argue this now) as a "Christian" country, they automatically place the label of "Christian" on Americans.

I have to wonder how this strikes people like those I mentioned in my last post--those like Matthew Murray and Rosie O'Donnell, or all the people in the United States who are from other faiths or are atheist or agnostic. I can imagine it might tick them off to be assumed to be a Christian simply because they are an American. That gives many another great reason to hate America being seen as a Christian country. Which splashes over to not wanting American to be seen as a Christian country any longer. Which drips into blaming Christians for all the problems in the world. Which oozes into a hatred toward Christians.

Being born in America does not automatically make a person a Christian. To become a Christian, you have to choose it. You can't be included automatically. You must opt-in.

Actually, this assumption that every American is a Christian is part of what gives the Muslim people a very dim view of Christianity. This understanding spills over into the entertainment industry...and politics...and more. I'll talk more about that next time.

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