I am reading a thought-provoking chapter, “Altars against God,” in Ravi Zacharias’s 2017 release, Jesus Among Secular Gods. I had one of those moments while reading, where something you have long sensed to be true is then articulated by someone with the words and insight to say so:
“I will never forget talking to a former Muslim who had committed his life to Jesus Christ and who gave me a fascinating word picture. He drew two circles and put a small dot in each of them. Pointing to the first, he said, ‘As a Muslim, I believed the circle to be my faith and the little dot to be my life.’ Then he pointed to the next circle and said, ‘Now, as a follower of Jesus, I have seen the difference in the cultural tension. To many Westerners, the circle is his life and the dot is his faith.’
“In other words, a Muslim believed that life was expendable, his faith paramount. The Westerner, he charged, regards his life more important than what he believes. ‘That is why,’ he added, ‘the West will ultimately be overrun. Faith, in the West, is sort of an extracurricular interest and a mere aspect of life for the sake of inner peace. But faith seldom enters the conscience as a conviction.’
. . . “Is my friend right?
“If he is right, I will go so far as to say that the West is on the verge of collapse at the hands of its own secular intellectuals. It is only a matter of time. The Christian faith brings with it convictions by which to stand and build a moral framework. The secular thinker, with his implicitly amoral assumptions, imagines that knowledge without a moral base has enough sustaining power. It simply doesn’t.
“Watch Europe cower under the heel of Islamists who have not forgotten that they were stopped from overtaking Europe and beaten back by Charles Martel thirteen centuries ago. Now, with patience and the clever control of demographics and a gullible media, they stand by, ready to one day take over the structures and edifices built by a different ethic and a different belief system. It is only a matter of time, and they are in no hurry. Thirteen centuries ago, Europe was able to stop the theocratic Islamic tidal wave because it had a faith to defend. The value-less culture of today will not be able to withstand the attack.” (end Zacharias)
My great-grandfather spent his adult life among the Hindus of India, and is buried in Gujarat–a land ruled by Muslims for nearly 500 years, later home base to Mahatma Gandhi, and even today with a population that is 10% Muslim. His son, my grandfather, is buried in Tehran, the capital city of Iran, home to around 7% of the world’s Shia Muslims. I remember the fall of 2001, speaking to my father in our Massachusetts kitchen about 9/11, which had just happened. As a man born on India’s sacred Ganges River, growing up in the context I just described, and now as a Christian minister, my father’s perspective was in such stark contrast to anything I heard American socio-religious voices saying. What he told me those 16 years ago was very similar to what Zacharias writes above: It is only a matter of time.
The great joy in my heart is this: As Tertullian once said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” There may not be many churchgoing Americans with a faith in Jesus Christ that has “entered the conscience” (to use the phrase above), but God does not require many. Even a few with true conviction can seed the revival that is God’s dream. Praise Jesus that persecution can be a torrential answer to many a heartfelt prayer.