Tuesday, 13 August 2013

No Compromise

At C3 church on Sunday, Julian preached on Daniel. He explained how Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were selected from among the Jewish exiles for a high class education, the best the Babylonians could supply. They were chosen because they were 'from the royal family and the nobility - young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace.' They were given new names, new identities*. But the story goes on to say that Daniel refused to 'defile himself' (the food and drink would not have been kosher) with the meat and wine provided by the king's servant, and he asked to be given only vegetables and water a ten day experiment. If he and his friends looked as healthy or healthier than the other men they were to be allowed their vegetarian diet. They took a stand, and resolved to continue their Jewish lives and beliefs. As I'm sure we all know, this stance eventually lead to them being thrown into the lions' den when they refused to worship the statue set up by Nebuchadnezzar.

Kazan Cathedral, St Petersburg, which was turned into a museum of atheism during the Soviet regime (it is now a place of worship once again)

In the Soviet days young people from all over the world were sent to Moscow and St. Petersburg for education. They were taught Russian, and educated in the latest Soviet propaganda, which was Communist and Atheist. They were encouraged to enjoy Russian high culture, and more subtly perhaps, how to work the system. When they went back to their home countries or Soviet States they were eligible for leadership positions. Some Christians took a stand, and suffered as a result. Many were imprisoned in gulags, or simply disappeared. Some pastors and priests managed to work within the system while continuing to believe. They, like Daniel and his friends, knew when and where to take a stand.

What would we have done, if we had been in Daniel and his friends' position? Are we willing to be different, to take a stand? I see our children fitting in with the culture of their comprehensive school, and wonder how I can support them in being Christians in such an apathetic (in terms of belief) environment. In many countries Christians are actively persecuted, and we need to stand with them, and learn to weep with them, not rejoice at their sufferings. Whether here in the West or in living as a persecuted minority, Daniel is an example we can follow.


*The names they were given, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were related to the names of Babylonian gods.

(Actually the Soviets were more enlightened than the Babylonians in that they allowed mother-tongue education up to a certain level - perhaps primary school, or the early years of secondary school, depending whether you lived in a city or a village - but for higher education Russian was considered to be the only International language required.)