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They Are Us: Evangelicals and Middle Eastern Christians

Editor’s note: At the time this BreakPoint commentary was recorded, as Eric noted, the New York Times had not covered the assault on Syrian Christians. This article, however, appeared yesterday, Tuesday, September 10.

Seven years ago, Lawrence F. Kaplan, writing in the New Republic, asked, “Who will save Iraq’s Christians?” He wrote that “Sunni, Shia, and Kurd may agree on little else, but all have made sport of brutalizing their Christian neighbors.”

What made matters worse was the indifference of American Christians to their Iraqi brethren’s plight. The head of Open Doors, USA, which works on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world, told Kaplan that “The denominations in Iraq aren’t recognized by Americans. ... The underlying attitude is, ‘They’re not us.’”

And the consequences were tragic: an ancient Christian community driven into exile.

The good news is that we seem to have learned from our mistakes.

One example is the outpouring of concern over the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. People who, a decade or so ago, may not have been familiar with the word “Copt” and unaware of Christianity’s long history in Egypt were expressing their solidarity with this ancient community.

This identification with ancient Christian communities has really taken off in the debate over intervention in Syria. As my good friend Rod Dreher has pointed out, “Somehow, the word is getting out to American Christians that they — we — have a particular stake in Syria, in that our brothers and sisters in the faith are facing mass murder and exile.”

Dreher notes that Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has come out against U.S. intervention, specifically over concerns of the impact on Syrian Christians. Even more exciting is the fact that 62 percent of evangelical pastors polled by the National Association of Evangelicals oppose intervention. They fear that our involvement could make matters worse.

Evangelical voices have joined those of the Pope and Orthodox bishops in calling our attention to the plight of our Syrian brethren. It took a while, but we’ve finally realized that they are us.

That’s especially important because the mainstream media is doing a terrible job of telling Americans about the possible impact of U.S. intervention on Syrian Christians. As Rod pointed out, the day after Pope Francis addressed a crowd of 100,000 people during a day of fasting and prayer for Syria, the New York Times said nothing about the event. Nor have they mentioned the groundswell of American Christian opposition to intervention.

Instead, they ran a story about an all-nude gay resort in the Ozarks and another one about “elderly gay male sweethearts who reflect fondly on the days when they cruised public toilets...” I’m not making that up.

A similar pattern, albeit nowhere near as self-parodic, holds true in the rest of the media. We’re told a great deal about the push for congressional approval and the reasons for intervention. We’re even told that Americans oppose said intervention. But we rarely are told why many Americans oppose this intervention or even of the possible effects on Syrian Christians.

When the Greek Catholic (aka Melkite) Patriarch of Syria warns that an American attack would “reap more victims,” chances are the warning will go unheeded. When he says that “Salafist fundamentalist armed gangs of thugs” pose an even greater threat than chemical weapons, it will be overlooked in the mainstream media.

Thankfully, this time American Christians are listening and speaking out. Thankfully, we understand that these are our people — our brothers and sisters in Christ.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: September 11, 2013

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