On this week's Pew & The Pulpit, the weekly radio show my producer and I do for broadcast at 9 AM Sunday mornings on 730 AM (KYYA) in Billings, Montana, we were talking about not being ashamed of the gospel (the sermon text for this week) and the conviction and prison sentence for Pastor Saeed Abedini by the authorities in Iran.
Pastor Saeed is accused of evangelism and helping a network of house churches in Iran, charges he and his legal defense team deny. I, along with the Iranian authorities, am skeptical of this denial. The difference being, of course, that I give Saeed three, four, five, or six cheers for proclaiming the gospel of Christ in the heart of the Muslim Mullocracy, and the Muslim Mullocracy gives Saeed...well, eight years in a hellhole prison known as "Evin.
I am struck, however, at the official explanation from Iran regarding Saeed's imprisonment:
Abedini was verbally sentenced in Tehran by Judge Pir-Abassi, known as the “hanging judge,” to eight years in prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches.
The exact crimes he is accused of only became public on Monday, when the prosecutor outlined charges that Abedini undermined the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and that he was attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.
Threatening the national security of Iran? Undermining the Iranian government?
On this point I could not agree more with the Ayatollah. Nothing threatens the national security of a Muslim state than the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the establishment of Christian churches. Evangelicals who scoff at the "national security" explanation, as though this were just a ruse, are being incredibly short-sighted.
Christians were fed to lions, crucified, and burned as oil lamps in ancient Rome precisely because the gospel of Christ and the existence of the church threatened the national security of the officially pagan Roman Empire.
While I pray fervently for Saeed and his release, I am actually very heartened at Iran's explanation. It means they are conscious of the threat. And that means Christians must be doing something very, very right. When the gospel gets the attention of political tyrants, the gospel is working.
Because Christianity is, and always has been, political.
Christos Kurios. Christ is Lord!