“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love serve one another” – Galatians 5:13
On Saturday, April 30th the White House Correspondent’s Dinner returned. For his part, comedian Trevor Noah skewered journalists and politicians from both sides of the aisle. Yet it was not his jokes but his closing remarks that have stayed with me. After twenty minutes of pointed humor, Trevor reflected on the necessity for politicians to be held to account and on the responsibility that places on journalists. He said,
“If Russian journalists, who are losing their livelihoods…and their freedom for daring to report on what their own government is doing. If they had the freedom to write any words, to show any stories, or to ask any questions. If they had, basically, what you have, would they be using it in the same way that you do? Ask yourself that question every day.”
Trevor ended his remarks with a sobering charge, “If [those who have a similar role as you but who suffer for that role] had, basically, what you have, would they be using it in the same way that you do?” He was talking to the journalists in general but I couldn’t help but think of one woman in particular, Linda.
When I was teaching English in China, my team of foreign teachers became close friends with several Chinese teachers. We all lived near each other on the school’s campus but the foreigners’ lives were very different than the Chinese nationals’ lives. While most of the foreign teachers were Christians there was only one Chinese teacher who was a Christian, Linda.
I remember the day Linda came to some of us in tears. She told us about the struggles she had as a Christian in China. She was repeatedly mocked for her faith by the other Chinese teachers (many of who were extremely nice to the foreigners). She received the most difficult assignments from the school. She told us that she had to register as a Christian with the government and that any actions that entailed government controls were always more difficult for her than for her non-Christian friends. Linda was worn down by the layers of difficulty and tired of the daily humiliations because of her faith.
I’ve had bad days. I’ve been in difficult situations because my faith led me to engage in relationships that would have been easier to avoid. But I have never lived through the kind of daily grind that Linda and other Christians around the world have faced because of their faith. This reality leads me to rephrase Trevor’s quote:
“If Christians, who are losing their livelihoods…and their freedom for daring to live their faith. If they had the freedom to talk about their faith, worship in community without fear, or practice their faith in public. If they had, basically, what you have, would they be using it in the same way that you do? Ask yourself that question every day.”
I know that religious persecution is not limited to Christianity. But as Christians in the United States we need to be mindful of the privileges we’ve inherited and the responsibility that comes with them.