The attack on Christianity everywhere

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.
By Maramis

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune

While attacks on those who adhere to or practice a religion that is not in keeping with the generally accepted religion — be it “state,” country, culture, or the predominant religion of any group or region — have apparently been going on (without that much significant fanfare) for ages, we can all relate to it in today’s world, if even the only signs of such religious oppression that pops into one’s mind is that of the Jews during WWII.
But we do not have to go back to WWII to understand religious oppression; today, right in this country — to use just one example — there are those who lump all Muslims together for the religion they profess and practice, and because they are different from themselves and follow a different book and set of beliefs, they are often spurned in the community, and we have seen or heard about their places of worship — Islamic mosques — and even their places of business being attacked in some way, including being bombed. And of course, there are others.
So much for freedom of religion, as we all claim to want for ourselves. If we do not allow for others what we want for ourselves, how can we expect those others to accept and allow for us the very freedoms they are being denied?
True, there may be some religions that suggest or even demand that it is necessary to kill — or in some way punish — those who do not adhere to their god’s admonitions of how to gain conformity to their beliefs.
And such actions are not just being experienced in recent times. It should go without saying that one cannot force a set of religious beliefs on anyone since all beliefs go through one’s mind, and hence, what we would be doing in trying to force those beliefs on others would be, in essence, trying to control their thoughts and “brainwashing” them to have the thoughts we prefer them to have.
Those who are exposed to the religious beliefs of others may sometimes come to see or believe that those new thoughts may be better, superior, or make more sense than the ones they previously entertained, and they may choose to examine them more closely and finally accept them as their new religion. In that case, they would be converting to the new religion of their own free will. Yet often, such exposure may be forced upon them by family, government, or some individual who has made it their life’s work to become a so-called spiritual/religious leader and develop a following to their own glory, such as the Jim Jones of this world. Without total freedom of thought and freedom to change one’s mind — no matter how far into the “religion” one has gotten, or has become enmeshed — one is not a true believer and one is not the better for being such a “believer.”
Some religions today still hold their adherents or members of their congregation as virtual prisoners, not allowing them to peacefully and lovingly follow their own thoughts. Without condemning the religions, which may well have some good in them, we have probably all seen such documentaries of sorts that exposed aspects of one religion or another that was not “freedom-of-thought” friendly and kept its members from leaving its church (or whatever its body of believers or place of worship is called). How does one demand another to have only the thoughts they require them to have? Even in normal everyday homes, children grow up to have their own thoughts; and while parents or guardians do try to persuade (to use a gentle word) their children to
follow the family religion — even if it’s one of anti-religion — we all know that teenagers often rebel, maybe not knowing what they are “running” toward, but knowing what they are running away from.
Again, if we want our own freedom of thought and freedom of religion, it must follow that we want the freedom of expression that goes with those other freedoms. Worshiping — or even just being there — in the house of worship of our choice ought not to be considered as an affront to those in a different house of worship. Unless it is known and proven that what is going on in some other house of worship is really a meeting to rally the attendees into a frenzy to attack those other houses of prayer or worship; to harm or kill; to appease “their god,” we must leave them to their own worship just as we want to be
left to ours. I cannot say how we should deal with those in such a house of gathered would-be attackers or murderers other than to suggest you tell the authorities what you know, but I would not suggest attacking them first. If that were to be the case, all the public would get to know is that XXX attacked XXXX and that now gives XXXX a reason to attack XXX right back. And that may well be the start of a war.
Jesus suffered much at the hands of those who did not understand him. He suffered in general and in particular from those who mistakenly thought he was out to gain prominence over Caesar’s rule. They never “got it” that his kingdom was not of this world, but their insecurity and misperceptions gave rise to a fear that could not be overcome; hence, they did the only thing they thought would help their cause — using their power and military might to bring Jesus under their control and eventually eliminate him according to their law at the time.
Today, an attack on Christians generally means an attack on Jesus. All Christians do not think alike, but all Christians—even just by virtue of being a Christian — have Jesus at their core. Jesus, as we know, was Jewish, but did not agree with all the Jewish dogmas and such, and was even reprimanded by the rabbis for not conforming. Jesus, as we know, was also not Christian; he was simply a teacher of the truth.
Those who followed him, later on, took up the label of being Christian, but we must also know that many followers of Jesus do not call themselves Christians. It ought not to be about what we call ourselves, or where we worship. Others may not know what we think or what we believe, but we do. And it is not their business unless we choose to share.
Jesus made it clear that he wants us to share, but not by force. When you’ve got something worth sharing, it’s a pity to keep it all to yourself. Yet if those with whom you wish to share are not in the accepting mode, think of how you would feel if someone on another side kept after you against your will. We cannot even force such things as food or money on some people; why should we think that we could force religion or thoughts on them?
It was a good idea not to mix religion with politics, yet religion of sorts is still there, in politics, in a subtle yet integral way, but it is only the “God” part of religion, as a word symbol, not any of the dogma of any particular religion that we include. Jesus God is not “owned” by any religion and if any religion calls its God by some other name, we have done our best to make it clear that the symbol word “God” is very definitely meant to be all-inclusive. At least that
should be the understanding we all share.
We can never go forward in political beliefs, religious beliefs, or in life in general, without allowing for everyone what we want to have for ourselves: freedom of thought, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. We must stop targeting and attacking the houses of worship of those who believe or worship differently from ourselves.
And if we were knowledgeable enough, we would know that out of all the great teachers or religious leaders of the world, ever, Jesus was the one of whom one not ever be afraid, since he taught and espoused love for all, even for our enemies and those who would harm us.
His teaching, even at the end, was to forgive those who had tortured him and were responsible for his death by praying from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And we are to interpret that as extending his words (his prayer) to all.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at maramis@lasvegastribune.com.

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