Public Displays of Religion. Two situations. Two different countries. Same principles applied.
In a situation many of you are familiar with, a Christian pastor in an Islamic country, Iran, is incarcerated for most of the last four years under an Islamic court’s death sentence for a multitude of crimes. Rape–he being a Christian made love to his wife, who once worshipped Allah but converted to Christianity–the Islamic court using this conversion as grounds for this accusation. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was also accused of Apostasy against Islam and blaspheming their prophet Muhammad by declaring Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation by God.
He was freed under international pressure a few weeks ago but now his attorney in the case is incarcerated for defending him. Specifically, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah stands accused of “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime”, and for keeping banned books in his home. He has also been disbarred in Iran. Some justice that.
In the second country, a group of high school cheerleaders is being brought under court pressure to cease and desist displays of verses from the Holy Bible on their Friday night football games. In this case the American Atheists, the late Madeline Murray O’ Hare’s creation in Dallas, claims that an anonymous person called in to complain about it and they decided that a court injunction was the only way to stop this P. D. R..
Interestingly enough, the courts and Attorney General in Texas have come out, for now, in defense of the cheerleader’s First Amendment rights to express their faith publicly, thus defeating the measures to silence them at this time. Curiously, the school superintendent in the county in question felt compelled to declare his Christian faith under the lights and camera glare in the courthouse where the injunction was being argued. How’s that for standing your moral ground? He looked as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
More to come in both countries to be sure.
Both situations immediately remind me of the greeting that Jesus received when He made His entrance into Jerusalem on what now is called Palm Sunday:
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives,the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you. Luke 19:37-44
I must say that I am proud of both Nadarkhani and those cheerleaders. They stood their ground and have said they will continue their Public Displays of Religion no matter what.
We should do so, also. No matter what. Let’s take the Texas situation further and imagine the possibilities of a successful injunction. A conversation in jail, for example:
“Why are you in?”
“I flew a banner at a football game.”
“Must have been some banner. Did you threaten someone? Use filthy language maybe?”
“Yeah. I said I believed in Jesus Christ.”