If you spent your teens years in an evangelical youth group, you know about the 10/40 window. As I have very poor spacial awareness, maps and globes never meant much to me, but I knew that the box between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator with huge amounts of poverty and no access to Jesus. At least, that is what I learned when I was being implored to pray for these people. And I did pray for these people.
In stadiums full of other kids learning about Jesus and just how sold out we had to be for him, I learned about muslim countries and how going there for Jesus might just be the death of us. I learned we should do it anyway. I was told that the gospel was worth my life, that Jesus may call me into dangerous places. I was told that I should follow Jesus no matter the cost. I pledged that I would and I meant it.
I went to college and majored in English education so that I would have a skill to rely on and a good cover to get into countries closed to christians. I joined bible studies that also had a 10/40 bent. I heard stories of people praying on the sly in restaurants while pretending they were commenting on the pictures on the walls. I read emails and updates where everyone’s names had been changed to the names of candy bars and I spent weeks and months faithfully praying for “Kit Kat” and “Reese Cup” to know the grace of God.
I was told that God could and would change the hearts of these people, if we were only willing to follow Jesus no matter the cost, God promised that it would be worth it. God would make a way when there seeme to be no way. I believed it. I still do.
The same churches that taught me to love my global muslim neighbors as myself, before myself, are the same churches who categorically voted for a president who has made good on the campaign promise of a muslim ban. He said he would ban muslims from entering this country and he has. Many who sent me to my knees, weeping on behalf of the 10/40 window are complicit in sending those same people to die in the very places we begged God for access to.
The muslim people that we knew only God could reach are in our airports, and the church is complicit in turning them away. You asked me to give my life. You told me it would be worth it eternally, and now you cry SAFETRY FIRST to mostly women and children who are desperately looking for safety.
The same church that told me that people were dying eternally damned because no one was willing to risk their life to tell these people about Jesus, is the same church that is telling me it isn’t safe for these women and children to be in our neighborhoods. I thought following Jesus was worth the risk.
You wonder why the millenials, even those raised in your churches, are exiting your pews en masse. It isn’t because we didn’t believe what you were saying. It is because we did. We believed you. You said, go do something dangerous for God and we said YES! But when it was your turn to welcome these people you said it was too dangerous. We still want a Jesus who is worth following no matter the cost.
The evangelical church told us that souls were on the line, that eternal life was at stake. But the evangelical church was willing to elect a president who staked his claim on banning muslims. The church voted for that. You with your big T Truth and your make Godly choices, you decided that refugee banning was worth it.
My theology has moved quite a bit since those days. I am now a proud member of a mainline liberal congregation. I go to a liberal seminary and find my current beliefs well represented there.
But I will never forget my theological mother tongue. I know the evangelical message well. It introduced me to God and the power of Jesus Christ, and for that I will always be grateful.
As a daughter of the evangelical church I am asking: What do you really believe? If you really believe that anyone who hasn’t accepted Jesus Christ as their savior is eternally damned, wouldn’t you demand that any muslim who wants to can come in? Wouldn’t it be worth whatever risk there may be for the chance to introduce this muslim to Jesus? This is what you told me. I believed it. My question now is, do you?