Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Perpetua and Felicity

This is not my happiest blog, but it's a topic that must be addressed.

Being a Christian during the first centuries of the early Church was illegal; oftentimes the authorities turned a blind eye, but occasionally there were persecution such as the Servan Persecution of 202-3. You never knew when a persecution might break out.

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity were executed in 203 A.D. during the Servan Persecution. Perpetua, a noblewoman and young mother, decided to become a Christian in 203; Felicity was her pregnant slave. The legend of their martyrdom states that the prisoners (three additional Christians were martyred) were commanded to put on different clothes that would honor the Roman gods. Perpetua responded by saying, "We came to die out of our own free will so we wouldn't lose our freedom to worship our God. We gave you our lives so that we wouldn't have to worship your gods."

Why am I going on about martyrdom? Since the election I've read several disturbing things about the healthcare mandate and exemptions. It sounds like the administration is going full-steam ahead with the mandate. It's as if the administration is saying, "Too bad if you're a Christian who lives by a moral standard different from ours. Do what we say or else." At this point, the "or else" is you're going to pay one way or the other: pay for abortions, birth control, etc. or pay a fine.

What do we do as Christians? Do we pay up or do we take a stand? At what point are we pushed too far and have to say like Perpetua, we will worship our God, not your gods?

It seems like the time for taking a stand is coming. Twelve years ago I wrote a paper on the early persecutions for a grad school class, I never thought I would actually have to entertain the questions I posed in the United States of America.

[The early Christians] were willing to be baptized in water while running the risk of being baptized in their own blood. The road to becoming a Christian in Tertullian’s time was a long and potentially dangerous endeavor. Christianity was an illegal religion, and as the story of Perpetua and Felicity illustrates, the Empire did not take kindly to those who refused to comply with the law. And so I wonder, would I, do I have the courage and depth of faith to chance public torture and execution for Christ Jesus? If Congress were to pass a law tomorrow outlawing the practice of Christianity upon penalty of death, what would I do? I would like to think that I am that strong enough to look death in the eye. However, under scrutiny I might discover that I am far too attached to this life and would not be willing to give it up, even for God. 

Today, we do not face the death penalty for being Christian, but don't be fooled. Christianity is being coerced into paying for immorality and evil. If we comply, then it will be a death knell for Christianity in America.

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