USA (MNN) — There is a growing mistrust of journalism media in the United States, partly fueled by President Donald Trump’s claims that journalists are “the enemy of the people” and attacks on what he calls “fake news”.
Rather than fostering discourse, America’s growing disgust with news outlets seems to encourage calls for censorship.
A survey earlier this month by Ipsos reveals one in four Americans (26 percent) believes “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Among Republicans, that number is even higher at 43 percent.
But what would a regulated press really look like? And what would it mean for Western Christians?
The Committee to Protect Journalists compiled a list of the 10 Most Censored Countries where governments control what messages their people have access to. Of those ten countries, nearly all are also on Open Doors’ World Watch List for Christian persecution. Half of them are part of the top 20 countries with the harshest persecution of Christians.
David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, says that’s not a coincidence.
“There are many places around the world where Christians, they don’t live in a society where there is a free press. The government controls the press [and] the government controls your religious registration. So if you are born into a certain faith, that is on your registration card. You are not allowed to go into a Christian Church. You are not allowed to have a Bible. They want to constrain the ability of people to read the Bible. And we’re not talking about just in the most extreme areas. We’re talking about many countries around the world.”
When a government has the power to control media messages, it can easily start controlling religious messages as well. And the powers given to one particular government leader are available to every leader who comes after them.
In many countries with authoritarian governments, citizens can’t even switch religious allegiances. “People don’t have a right to decide for themselves. They are born, raised, and die in the same religious sect because their government doesn’t allow them to change their mind.”
Open Doors’ focus is not necessarily political. Their ministry exists to advocate for religious freedom around the world, especially for the sake of Christians. However, this sometimes involves speaking out in the political sphere.
“What we’re trying to highlight for people is the targeted attack on Christian faith and what that says about the larger environment for freedom of speech, freedom of religious expression around the world, and for the freedom of conscience — that people…have a right to decide for themselves what they believe.”
Curry explains, “When [Open Doors] began, we started with helping people have access to smuggling Bibles into the old Soviet Union because the Soviet Union restricted it. They didn’t want people to read the Bible and we want people to read it. In a sense, that is still the question today, that people are just threatened by any idea that is not their own.”
Rather than being afraid of engaging ideas we disagree with, we as believers can pursue civil discussions with others while seeking wisdom from God’s Word.
“First of all, we’re not citizens first and foremost of whatever country we live in. We’re citizens of Heaven if we are a follower of Jesus, and our calling is to be a community that encourages and supports each other and that takes our spiritual direction from Scripture,” says Curry.
“I think what I also encourage believers to do is to understand that we have a responsibility to use wisdom and to understand that the world has its own agenda. They are going to do their own thing. But we have to form our worldview based on Scripture and on Christ.”
When we can embrace our freedoms without fear, it enables us to share with others the greatest freedom we have — freedom through salvation in Jesus Christ.