By Pastor Jeff Jacobs
Unity Lutheran Parish – St. Paul, Saetersdal and St. Matthew’s, Granger
This week we recall again the story of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ coming to a new land. And a primary reason they came was religious freedom. They’d rejected the “trappings” of the Church of England and sought to live and worship in a simpler, “purer” faith.
Many early settlers sought such religious freedom here. Puritans, Catholics, Quakers, Anabaptists and others came to different colonies fleeing discrimination in Europe so they could worship as they chose. It was such history which led the first US Congress nearly 200 years later to enshrine in the Bill of Rights, Article I “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
Of course, this has been debated, legislated, ruled on and reinterpreted in the 200-plus years since, with some arguing there’s “too much” religion dominating public life and others arguing there’s “not enough,” with faith threatened to the point of persecution in American society.
I fear a bigger threat isn’t persecution from without, but indifference from within. While the US populace identifying as Christian is around 210 million, statistics suggest fewer than 30% are in worship any Sunday, a steadily declining number.
Conversely, there’s growing witness in countries where the Church is persecuted. In North Korea, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iran, China, Columbia and more, thousands of Christian men, women and children bear witness in spite of contempt, harassment and death.
Some of these have scant access to Bibles; Americans have many that are hardly read. Some take risks worshiping in their churches; many Americans find other activities to occupy Sunday. Some lose their jobs, get thrown out of school or are rejected by their families for speaking of Christ; many Americans grow quiet if conversation turns to faith.
Yes, let us give thanks for the privilege of faith in a land free of persecution. Then let us be truly thankful by worshiping in the church of our choice this Thanksgiving week.