Living Behind the Veil

I'm often asked what I wear in Afghanistan and what it's like to wear a veil. It's freedom. Freedom to have a bad hair day, freedom to arrange my chadar to conceal the curve of my breasts and backside, freedom to not be an expatriate for a little while. It means freedom to hide even on the street from the Afghan men's eyes which seem to strip me naked.
When I relax my shoulders and walk less purposefully, less confidently, my eyes downcast and covered by sunglasses, I pass for an Afghan woman. I hear the men whisper in Dari, "Is she a foreigner or local woman?" I chuckle but am silent. On the street, I'm also a free target....freely exposed to groping, sexual innuendos whispered to me as a man bicycles by, free to have stones thrown at me, freely seen as no one's wife, daughter, sister, mother, friend, or boss. I step inside my gate, and remove my chapan and chadar. Now I'm someone's boss, motherhood returns to me as little steps run to greet me, and I receive a kiss from my adoring husband. Now I'm free to his loving and gentle eyes which know and enjoy my curves, free to once again be under the protective umbrella of being a wife, mother, friend, colleague, boss, niece, sister, daughter, woman.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Unhelpful Things People Say in Risk #8

This series is based on real statements said to the author.

#8 "We need more martyrs." 


This statement was said without qualification, and since it was said by a sending church leader, it is concerning.

Anyone going to do cross-cultural work in unreached/least evangelized area is already accepting a level of risk.  Any worker in such area can go out tomorrow and distribute Gospel tracks and be minimally jailed and possibly executed or lynched on the street. So in one sense, it is quite an easy path to martyrdom "for the sake of Christ." 

But in both Jewish thought and Biblical thought, the sanctity of human life is high.  The principle is called Pikuach Nefesh (1). Because of the strict rules on the saving of a human life, there are also strict rules on becoming a martyr.

One can only become a martyr if the option is between death and performing acts of idolatry, illegitimate sexual intercourse, or murder (Sanhedrin 74a-b).
Of course, Christ-followers jump to the statement in John 12:24 by Jesus Christ:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
He was speaking in terms of his own imminent crucifixion, but also telling his disciples that those who follow Him should expect nothing less.  However, as is plainly seen by Jesus' life, he chose "the big death" not the little one. Numerous times he walked out of danger or simply disappeared.

To tell workers that "we need more martyrs" especially coming from a sending church leader, and said without qualification is irresponsible. A church leader that hasn't actually faced this level of risk is really not in a good position to make such a cavalier statement when men, women, and children's lives are at stake.

People willing to go to dangerous places not only usually recognize the potential dangers, often they have to make legal and moral choices on a daily basis that impact the church back home. They need help knowing when to expose themselves to "the big death" as opposed to "the little death."

On the other hand, I recognize there is value to what this church leader said. I think of how little the American Church herself understands true suffering and persecution. I appreciated what Johnnie Moore said: (1)
...freedom can be harmful to our theology and our actual commitment to our faith because it costs us so little to be Christians. Christianity has always been, for 2,000 years, a faith that costs something.
When my pastor friend's quote "We need more martyrs" is spoken to a Western Church that carries the addictive disease of producing Sunday after Sunday the "Entertainment-Driven-Worship American-Church experience, perhaps his shocking phrase is valuable.

A religion that does not offend is not really worth anything.

I think my main concern is with religious leaders who do not differentiate their preaching from the American Church to those who have already made the decision to go and die, and need help in making decisions in high-risk situations. They need pastoring and wise counsel on how to choose the big death.

It's much easier to die for Christ than to live day in, and day out, in high risk and daily threats of kidnap and murder, and still carry on with church planting, translation, and building relationships with locals who know we can leave and wonder why we don't carry on with our middle class existence in our home countries.

Because by remaining in a place "with our necks on the guillotine" like Priscilla and Aquilla, (that's the meaning of Paul's use of the Greek word in Romans 16.4), that's when our faith bears much fruit in our lives and in those watching.

We do need more people willing to be a martyr, if Christ asks them to do so.

In the meantime, let's learn how to help folks in front-line situations endure well and thrive-with-joy, not just guilt them into martyrdom.

(1) Pikuach Nefesh
(2) Johnnie Moore quote

Go to: 
Unhelpful things people say in risk #7

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