I conclude my series on thankfulness with a couple of thoughts about it.
Sunday night the Burmese refugees gathered in their apartment complex to celebrate the coming of the month in which Christ was born. They gathered, sang hymns, watched Christian videos, and similar activities starting at 6:00 PM. Then at midnight they gathered in prayer. I am deeply touched by this expression of gratitude for their Savior. I reflect on my own situation. Here are people who were driven from their homeland (they were forced out of Burma into refugee camps in Thailand) because of their religion (Christianity is an unpopular minority religion in Burma) and the fact that they are different in other ways. But I wonder if I would have that same fortitude. Of course, America is corrupting many of them even now. Some are beginning to struggle with problems that they could hardly have imagined in Burma or Thailand, i. e. drugs, alcohol, pornography and the like, but I suspect that most of them will raise above those things. What will assist them in that struggle is that they also must struggle with something that many Americans never experience--poverty. None of us wants to be poor, but poverty does often--not always--make us more humble and that is a good thing. Better, of course, is to have plenty and still be humble, but that is very difficult. Christianity is dying worldwide, because its adherents refuse to make the sacrifices necessary to keep humble.
I read much conservative literature and in that literature there is much brow beating about the raise of "evil Islam" and the decline of Christianity. They predict that in just a few years, Europe will be more Islam than Christian. It is not hard to see why. The daily practice of prayer and the regular practice of fasting have all but disappeared in the lives of most Christians. I am reminded of something I saw in a video by John McDougal--a man I greatly admire. He went to his church (he is a Methodist) and heard a sermon about the plight of starving people somewhere and decided that it would help him to understand their plight if he fasted a couple of meals. He did that and then, in the video, describes the absolute agony he went through with this experience and the joy he had in finally--after missing two meals--being able to eat again. He concludes the section on the video by stating that he decided that missing meals was not a good way to appreciate the plight of the poor--too much of a sacrifice. My own reaction was different. I was amazed. Here is a man, presumbably a Christian, who apparently goes to church at least occaisionally, has probably a passing familiarity with the Bible, and yet, has gone his whole life and fasted once for two meals? The devout follower of Islam, of whom I have known a few, carry on such fasts for an entire month out of every year. They pray at least five times every day, and we wonder why Christianity is losing out to them? When I was in Germany, the population was 90% Christian, the churches--on a typical Sunday, not Easter or Christmas--were 99% empty. Most Germans had never in their lives offered up a formal prayer, much less fasted on a regular basis. As I contemplate my Burmese friends, I am grateful for the reminder that there are Christians who care about Christ.