Mindy Belz on What American Christians Can Learn from Middle Eastern Christians & Emily Belz on Qanon in the Church

Mindy Belz has been with World Magazine since its founding in 1986. It’s a publication aimed at evangelical Christians, started by her brother in law, Joel Belz. Emily Belz, Mindy’s daughter, is also at World now, and has worked at the New York Daily News and The Indianapolis Star.


Mindy has spent 20 years covering the plight of Christians in Iraq and Syria. This is a story that truly did get overlooked: before the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, there were about 1 million Christians in Iraq, living out a version of the faith with incredibly ancient roots. Many Christians in that region still speak Aramaic, the tongue that Christ himself spoke. 


But 17 years later, the Christian community in Iraq has been decimated by violence and intimidation. Only about 100,000 Christians remain there. The faith there has almost become extinct in terms of sheer population size. Mindy and I discuss a little bit how much decisions made, or not made, by the Bush administration, are responsible for that. 


Mindy’s book on this topic, “They Say We are Infidels: On the Run from from ISIS With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East,” came out in 2015. I recommend it. The suffering of this community there, and in Syria, is tough to comprehend. 


I first thought of interviewing Mindy when I saw her tweet something last May. It was in response to protests against COVID restrictions. "For 6 yrs I've reported on Christians chased from their homes & churches by ISIS, seen their testimony, steadiness, care for one another. How utterly disheartening to watch the American church come apart in a 10-wk shutdown. They shall be known by their demand for their rights,” she wrote. 


So, I read her book, we talked about that issue, and then we discussed why her experience in the Middle East led her to make the comment. And we get into the contrasts she sees between Christians who have truly endured suffering and persecution, and those in America who claim to be persecuted because of restrictions on church gatherings, and in the article I wrote for Yahoo News, I get more into that, and there’s some very relevant commentary from David French, who says that religious liberty is up for debate in this. But he has some interesting criticisms of people who have charged out and disregarded public health guidance, like the gatherings organized by Sean Feucht, and contrasts it with churches who have gone out of their way to comply with public health guidance and have sued, and won, only when that was their last option, like Capitol Hill Baptist in DC. 


Mindy’s bigger critique of American Christians is two fold: they have no idea what real religious persecution looks like is one part of it. But she also notes the narrowness of demanding rights to do whatever one wants while disregarding the impact of not wearing masks and distancing on those who are most vulnerable — which is not just the older but also people who are poor and on the margins, those without health insurance who are going to avoid going to the doctor or ER if they get sick until it’s too late. And she contrasts this with a vision of the common good that characterizes Middle East Christians. 


Now, part of the reason people dismiss masks and distancing is because they are following Trump’s lead, but also because they are listening to those who dismiss scientific consensus. And this gets to the matter of critical thinking, and that’s where Emily comes in. Emily wrote http://supporter.acast.com/thelonggame.


 

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