A recurring theme in my small group studies is the impact of persecution to the vehemence and depth of faith. It almost always starts with someone benevolently sharing their thankfulness to live in a free society like America. I portentously interject with the question "Would you trade it for a deeper faith?"
These are the kinds of questions no one wants to answer honestly. You see, it is extremely close to the consideration of being a missionary; that is, a dutiful response to the calling competes with the irrational fear of being sent to the darkest parts of Africa in lifelong service, never to enjoy the luxuries of modern society. Not that it actually matters, but that is the haecceity of the question and its answer.
The early Christian church (as discussed in Acts) was a pretty neat church; it had normal problems and it had fantastic miracles. It grew exponentially, producing martyrs by the bushel - all in the context of intense persecution by Romans, who (by way of Emperor Nero who blamed Christians for his own burning of Rome) burned them, beat them and all around put them down.
Similar is today's church in China who, regularly suffering oppression from their Maoist government, thrives and multiplies with zeal like which today's American church isn't. What is the difference between these two churches? These two cultures? These two societies? These two canvases of freedom?
I would argue that faith should directly oppose freedom of faith (freedom of religion) which seems to inadvertently dilute, belittle and unhinge the depth and conviction that makes a faith truly meaningful and impacting. It is our misguided fear of suffering (or even discomfort), fear of fear and desire for "softness" that makes this natural disconnect blurred and misconnected.