Dear Evangelical Bible Smugglers and Proselytizers: Don’t Do the Crime, if You Can’t do the Time

tony baretta

Tony Baretta says, Don’t Do the Crime if You Can’t Do the Time

Many Evangelicals have a sense of entitlement. Believing that their God is the one true God, and that their religion is the one true religion, Evangelicals think they have a right to spread their beliefs to the ends of the earth. Many Evangelicals are also flag-waving, right-wing nationalists who believe the United States is a city set on a hill, shining forth the light of Christianity and democracy. Package these things together and what you have are insufferable people who arrogantly think that their beliefs and ideologies are truth and all other beliefs and ideologies are false.

With the above facts in mind, it should come as no surprise that Evangelicals are proselytizers, not only for their brand of Christianity, but also for right-wing American democracy. As people of THE Book, Evangelicals believe they have been commanded by God to take their version of the Christian gospel to every tribe, nation, and tongue. In some corners of Evangelicalism, people believe that the gospel must be preached to the whole world before Jesus can return to earth. This is why Evangelicals are known for their missionary efforts. Thousands of missionaries have spread across the globe hoping to win the lost to Jesus. While most of the missionaries serve in countries that already have established Christians sects such as Roman Catholicism, Evangelicals view non-Evangelical Christians as targets for evangelization. Their goal is not to make everyone Christian as much as it is to convert people to their brand of Christianity.

Proselytizing Evangelicals think that every nation should have the same laws and regulations as the United States. These zealots for Jesus travel to other countries, often smuggling in Bibles and tracts, with the express purpose of preaching the gospel to those they have deemed lost and in need of salvation. If a country’s laws prohibit such things, too bad, the Evangelical says. I’m on a mission for Jesus and his laws are above any earthly laws. Cultural sensitivity be damned, all that matters is spreading the good news of the Evangelical gospel to the ends of the earth.

Every so often, proselytizing Evangelicals are arrested for breaking the laws of the countries they have invaded for Jesus. Most often, these countries are non-Christian, Hindu, or Muslim, nations which have strict laws prohibiting proselytizing. These countries often have laws that prohibit conversion to another a religion. In some instances, Evangelicals find themselves behind bars in countries such as North Korea that prohibit religious worship.

When news of their arrests reach the United States, Evangelicals and their supporters in government quickly claim that the people arrested are being persecuted for their faith. Demands are made for their immediate release. Few Evangelicals seem to understand the idea behind the cliché, When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Sovereign states have a right to have their own laws, and it is the height of arrogance to demand that other countries play by our rules. Yes, North Korea is a totalitarian communist state, but they are an autonomous state, and those traveling within its borders are expected to obey the law.

Evangelicals arrested for proselytizing are not being persecuted for their faith. To quote the famous Tony Baretta, Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time. While their arrests are regrettable, their real crime is stupidity. Blinded by certainty and arrogance, Evangelicals think they can break laws and not be held accountable. The issue is not the justness of such laws. Every nation-state, including the United States, has unjust laws. What I find interesting is that many Evangelicals, thinking the United States is a Christian nation, reject the notion of separation of church and state. Yet, they say they are being persecuted for their faith when arrested in countries that don’t have separation of church and state. Since many Evangelicals want a theocracy, shouldn’t other countries have the right to have a different type of God-rule? And if atheism is a religion (and it is not), as many Evangelicals say it is, shouldn’t atheistic states have a right to bar all non-atheistic religions? Shouldn’t these countries be permitted to govern themselves according to their own religious beliefs? Shouldn’t they have the right to ban Christianity and Christian law, just as many American Evangelicals want to ban Islam and sharia law?

I have no sympathies for American Evangelicals who are arrested for breaking the laws of sovereign states. If they are found guilty and either incarcerated or executed, their punishment is not persecution. As long as Evangelicals believe that God’s law supersedes human law, then they are going to find themselves in legal trouble, not only in foreign countries, but here in the United States. Those who recently seized a government building in Oregon, were to the man, Christian.. They and their supporters believe they are being persecuted, when in fact they are being prosecuted. Break the law and you will likely be arrested, prosecuted, and punished. This is the way it works in any nation that has laws (regardless of the rightness or morality of these laws).

If proselytizing Evangelicals arrested for their “faith” want to be true to their Christian beliefs, they should quietly and resolutely bear whatever punishment comes their way. Isn’t this what the Apostle Paul did? And as with Paul, if God wants to free “persecuted” Evangelicals, he has all the power necessary to do so. But what do incarcerated American Evangelicals do? They turn to U.S. government for help, demanding the State Department get them out of prison. Why not just pray and wait on God?

There is real persecution going on in the world. Christians are being executed by ISIS and Boko Haram just because they have the wrong faith. I support our government’s efforts to stop such barbaric and senseless killing. But, this is not same as what imprisoned Evangelicals proselytizers are facing. The former, in most instances, are not trying to force their faith on others. The latter evangelize non-Evangelicals with full knowledge that they are breaking the law. Their punishment is the direct consequence of their actions.

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3 Comments

  1. Anne

    Great post, Bruce! The imprisonment and recent release of Saeed (Calvary Chapel Boise) in Iran fell into this category I believe. As I type the FBI have surrounded the last four at the Mahler refuge here in Oregon. The original ring leaders are part of a Mormon cult. Those remaining just seem bat shit crazy!

    Reply
  2. Troy

    It isn’t just Christians that have this problem, a lot of people forget when they travel abroad the U.S. constitution does not travel with them.
    Some of this is pure civic ignorance. People take rights for granted without understanding the legal framework those rights exist in.
    Before you cross a border learn the laws and customs of the country you are going to. Your freedom and in fact your very life may depend on it.
    (As for sneaking into North Korea on a Christian mission, just think of the God cred they get from that…doesn’t matter if they are caught or not!)

    Reply
  3. Angiep

    As a teen during the Jesus movement of the 70’s I heard many stories of brave missionaries who went to foreign lands to spread the gospel, but who died for their efforts. As well, I heard stories of those whom God “protected” and lived to tell miraculous stories about smuggling Bibles, etc. There was a mystique to these stories, a feeling of respect and admiration for those who were “martyred” or who manifested God’s miracles while converting the lost. I think some today go into these situations thinking God will keep them from harm. After all, they are there because the Holy Spirit persuaded them. Then when things go wrong, they fall back to the human solution of begging the state department for help. I appreciate the way your post explains the difference of current religious persecution of people just because of their faith, vs. facing legal penalties for ignoring a country’s laws.

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