In the midst of everything that has been happening in the last week it is forgivable that you might have not noticed that yesterday the US blacklisted two Siberian officials and placed them on a travel ban. Why did the US do this? Because the two were alleged to have stripped, suffocated, doused with water and applied stun guns on at least seven Jehovah’s Witnesses who were detained on extremism charges in February in the city of Surugut. In 2017 Russia declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization and, thus, membership in it is illegal.
Theologically I have nothing but problems with the Witnesses. They do have some pretty extreme beliefs when talking about the spectrum of Christian ideology. To my knowledge, however, they have never been engaged in particularly extreme actions toward outsiders, in fact they are noted for being pacifists.
So why the excuse to torture? Several reasons. The Russian Orthodox church has heavy influence in Russian society and they consider the JWs to be a cult. Following the court order the Witnesses were commanded to turn all property and funds over to the state, so wealth is an issue. However, the most damning quality in the minds of the Russians is the fact that the JWs are an American based faith, and thus represent outside influences.
Why do I bring this up? Because this is what happens when one version of one faith has sway over the politics of a country. Far too many Christians I know want there to be a closer relationship between the Church and Government. My question is: which church?
Prayer in Schools? Whose prayers? Christian prayers, would be the answer, and yet I suspect the average Protestant would be very unhappy about little Karen learning prayers to Mary, even though the majority of Christians in the world learn and say such prayers. I trust teachers to educate, not indoctrinate.
There are those who want to tax churches. They fail to see that the power to tax is the power to destroy and rather than diminishing the role religion plays in society it will actually increase the influence of the majority religious movements and suppress the freedoms of the minority.
There must be an impenetrable wall between the Church and the State if anyone is to have any religious freedom. When the two mix both become corrupted.
“But what happened in Russia cannot happen here!”
Yes it can. It has before. There are signs of it happening now. Discussions of bans on specific faiths from entering the country. Zoning laws that prevent certain kinds of worship centers. Political and judicial power being closely associated with a particular religion.
All of these things are dangerous. They are dangerous for everyone. Those who fear sharia law should not want the 10 Commandments in front of the court house. The moment there is a precedent for government support of a religion or visa versa then that precedent can be used to do almost anything in the name of religion.
What happens when the religion in charge is not yours?