Today is Memorial Day in the US, a day when we remember those who died fighting for the freedoms we enjoy. I went to church yesterday. We came openly without fear and left our cars in a parking lot visible from the main road where anyone who passed could see we were there. The preacher spoke freely. The adult Sunday School teacher said some things that would not be popular in Washington. Another woman and I taught our children about the armor God has given us for protection against Satan’s schemes. We were not afraid of being arrested for corrupting the young. That isn’t true everywhere.
Religious freedom has been on my mind lately. For a future historical novel I have been researching the persecution of Protestants under England’s 16th century queen, Mary Tudor, Catholic daughter of Henry VIII. Last night I read about some well-known Protestants arrested shortly after Mary ascended the throne, following the death of her teenage half-brother, the Protestant King Edward VI. These men hadn’t broken any laws, but Mary was planning to change Edward’s laws, and things these men had said or done would then be illegal. So they were arrested ahead of time and held in prison until the laws could be changed to criminalize their words and actions. She held them more than a year waiting for Parliament to bring back an old law that made heresy punishable by burning at the stake. Then they were burned alive to convince others not to follow the beliefs that had been freely preached under Edward. Nearly three hundred followed them to the stake in the next four years. Small wonder that queen was called “Bloody Mary.” (To be fair, Edward had executed a few Catholics and driven others from the land.)
So this Memorial Day I am grateful for the freedoms I have. I will not be burned for believing the bread and wine of communion are symbols of Christ’s sacrifice for my sin rather than his actual flesh and blood as I would have been in Mary’s time. I will not be imprisoned for assembling with others who want to study the word of God for themselves or tortured for daring to teach the next generation, although there are places in the world even today where those would be risky behaviors.
I prefer peaceful solutions to the world’s conflicts, but in the end, I am thankful to the men and women, including my son-in-law, who are willing to lay down their lives to defend this freedom that I enjoy. Thank you, Dan.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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