Real Persecution or, Being Kicked Off a TV Show Doesn’t Count

syrian christiansIn my last post, I pointed out that while what Phil Robertson is facing isn’t persecution, it does betray that our nation cannot handle disagreement and has bought full-force into the secular/sacred divide, believing that Christians ought to just shut up and keep their religion confined to Sunday mornings.

What Phil is facing is hardly persecution; he is suspended by the network for a moral teaching of Christianity, not the heart of the Gospel itself. Likewise, the Network hasn’t said if it’s what he said or how he said it (specifically the crude manner). After all, The Advocate, a magazine dedicated to homosexual views and issues, named Pope Francis as the “person of the year.” Phil essentially said the same thing the Pope did, albeit in a much less tactful manner. In other words, how Phil stated his opinion is as much to blame for the outcry as is that he said it.

What is more troubling, however, is how Christians are up in a firestorm over this, going out and purchasing “Duck Dynasty” merchandise and creating a multitude of “I support Phil groups.” In fact, there are already a multitude of such groups, one numbering nearly 800,000 and another numbering 300,000, with smaller ones well into 50-60,000. Yet, if you look for groups that “stand with Syrian Christians” or even pay attention to the massacres occurring over in Christianity’s homeland, the biggest group has around 4,000 followers.

Of course, Facebook “likes” and followers hardly account for actions. Consider, however, that Walmart sold out of Duck Dynasty merchandise shortly after the controversy began. Christians turned their outrage into action and are continuing to do so, threatening boycotts, “buycotts,” and all sorts of things. Yet, when it comes to the actual persecution faced by Christians overseas, persecution caused at the hands of the US tax payer-backed rebels in Syria, there’s nothing. Christians have not taken to the streets in protest. They have not embarked upon a campaign of writing to congressmen and the President. They are not preaching from the pulpit this Sunday, as most certainly the Duck Dynasty fiasco will be the centerpiece of at least a few sermons.

Syrian Christians face extinction. When we read about Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, we must note that he was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians who were already there. Within the first few months of Christ’s resurrection, Christianity made its way to Damascus. Many of the earliest Church Fathers, writers, and even New Testament characters took place or were from modern Syria. One cannot think of Christianity is a proper historical sense without also thinking of Syria. Yet, after 2,000 years of existence, Christianity faces its greatest threat in that region. Think, for a moment, of what persecutions Christians have faced in that area. The Roman persecutions, the Islamic persecutions, even persecutions caused by the Crusaders; yet, more Christians have faced death, Christianity has faced its greatest regional threat in the modern day than in 2,000 years of almost continuous persecution. Our brothers and sisters in Syria are facing their greatest threat ever, yet the Church in the West remains silent.

Perhaps we should have Patriarch John X of Antioch interviewed by GQ wherein he can state his opinion on homosexuality. Perhaps GLAAD will be kind enough as to raise an objection, causing Christians to turn their attention to someone who is really persecuted. While blood is not necessary for persecution, blood always signals that persecution is occurring in full-swing, and Syrian Christians have spilled blood. They haven’t lost lucrative television contracts, they haven’t had nasty articles written about them, they haven’t been called names; they’ve been murdered, placed in mass graves, and beaten until forced to leave.

Where is the Christian outrage over their deaths, especially when these deaths are backed, supported, and paid for with our money? If the US government helped pay for A&E to cut ties with the Robertson clan, I assume there would be protests in the streets and cries for senators and even the president to step out. The backlash would be beyond comparison. Yet, for Christians facing real persecution there is relative silence. It is a shame and betrays how ethnocentric and selfish Christians in America have become.

For those who do feel like they want to help, for those who truly desire to help Syrian Christians outlast this persecution, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Pray – prayer is not overrated or outdated. For those who cannot give, for those who cannot help, for those who cannot write, prayer is the option. It is the giving of time, of thoughts, of actions. It is what united us to God and with others who pray for a common cause. Pray for the persecuted, but also pray for their persecutors that they might find Life and repent of their ways. Overall, pray for peace.
  2. Donate – for those that can afford it, you can always donate to the IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) who are helping both with those who stay and with refugees.
  3. Write – write to your representatives and encourage them to cease supporting the Syrian rebels. The civil war in Syria continues because the rebels have an endless supply of cash coming their way. Without money, there’s only so much damage they can do.
  4. Protest – if the persecution continues and our involvement increases in support of the persecutors, Christians should engage in peaceful protests. Nothing that mocks our leaders, nothing that spews hatred, but rather to show our bafflement at why we are supporting those who persecute our brothers and sisters.

Never forget that when one is a Christian, one is a part of the family of believers. You have more in common with the suffering Syrian who is a Christian than you do with your neighbor who is a nonbeliever. If you can show outrage over a man who simply will not suffer from his crude opinion, certainly you can exert as much effort towards those who suffer on a daily basis and could lose their lives for a faith we have taken for granted.

Go Therefore and Wage a Political Cultural War, Legislating In the Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

The Battle for Chick-fil-AIt is time for Christians to stop thinking like politicians, to stop attempting to effect change in our culture through political legislation and activism, and to start loving people.  If the values in American society are crumbling it is because people have turned away from God and embraced Secular Humanism—and this problem, the hardening of man’s heart against God, will not be solved through polemics and legislation.  We can rally together at Chick-fil-A, draw a line in the sand, and fight for our rights to free speech; but even if we “win” this battle, it is only a temporary solution.  We are dealing with a deep sickness and attacking the problem with political activism is as ineffective as trying to heal cancer with a band-aid.  The real problem is not a political one but a spiritual one.  The real problem is that people are lost and, in consequence, held captive by vain, irrational, dehumanizing forms of worldly thinking.  While we puff ourselves up, stomp our feet, and scream about our “rights’ as American citizens, lost souls are desperately searching for meaning and love and finding it in all of the wrong places.

The truth of the matter is:  we have lost our youth.  They do not accept objective moral values, they don’t understand what truth is, and they are not interested in the Christian worldview.  They are impulsive, emotionally driven, materialistic, superficial, and have absorbed Secular Humanistic, nihilistic, thinking without even realizing it.  In about twenty years, when these kids in our illustrious high schools are doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians and entertainers, we will find that all or our political grandstanding was ultimately a waste of time.  The very democratic system that we are currently relying on to fight the “cultural war” will be turned against us in the end; because this was never a political battle in the first place—and, more to the point, truth is not determined by a vote.  So, we are faced with a choice: we can drum up huge crowds of evangelicals to eat at Chick-fil-A, to fight for our right to free speech and “take a stand for marriage;” or, we can start focusing our efforts on loving people.

When I speak of loving people I don’t mean having a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.  I mean loving them with the same self-giving, sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross.  I mean that we start truly caring for the left out, down hearted, misunderstood, people in our society.  That we stand against hate crimes against homosexuals and alongside hurting families who have had loved ones commit suicide because they were gay; that we stop drawing a line in the sand and start opening our arms.

This is not to say that we give up our values or compromise our beliefs.  It is to say that we value people more than our own right to free speech.  The fact is, Christians in America are simply scared of persecution.  Much of the political posturing we participate in is simply done out of fear:  fear of losing our right to free speech, fear of Secular Humanistic ethics dominating our legal system.  Fear, however, is contrary to the teaching of Jesus who explicitly told us not to fear and who said shocking things like: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

How many of you considered it a blessing when the media lashed out at Dan Cathy for simply making the statement that he believed in the Biblical definition of marriage?  How many of you rejoiced and were exceedingly glad when the mayor of Boston stated that Chick-fill-A was not welcome in his city?  Or, were you simply indignant, angry, and fearful?  It’s difficult for us to wrap our heads around Jesus’ teaching on persecution because, quite frankly, we have it so easy.  We are not really persecuted in America; but one day we might be if we continue waging a hopeless political battle.

A culture is made up of people; we, therefore, only effect change within a culture if the people who give life to a culture have a change of heart and mind.  People are changed by Christ, not legislation, and this only happens when Christ’s people die to themselves, start demonstrating His love to the world, and make true disciples.  Jesus said it best: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).  Please note how non political sounding Jesus’ final command to his followers was.  The kingdom of God is brought about through His people bringing the gospel to the world in a tangible way; not through manipulating the democratic political system.  Only love, the self-giving, self-sacrificial, love of the cross can change hearts, renew minds, and ultimately revive a culture.

Dear American Christians: Stop Diminishing Actual Persecution

Pictured Above: Actual persecution, not in the US.

The healthcare mandate concerning birth control is still in the news and it has a few American Christians jumping on the hyperbole train. Now, make no mistake, I’m absolutely against forcing those with religious convictions against birth control (especially abortifacients) having to pay for said birth control (whether it’s directly or through the insurance company). Thus, I think civil disobedience is in order when it comes to this mandate (and civil disobedience is possible; if one’s money is required to enact a certain action, witholding said money is an act of civil disobedience). At the same time, the rhetoric surrounding this issue has simply gotten absurd.

Rick Warren has stated that he’s willing to go to jail for his convictions on this issue. Fr. Jonathan Morris has said he’s willing to die over this issue. Now I am not naive enough to believe that persecution will never come to the United States; simply looking at the rhetoric of those who are adamantly against conservative Christians merely confirms suspicions. At the same time, there’s absolutely no need for the rhetoric of persecution when it comes to this healthcare mandate. The reason is because it’s not persecution, it’s simply a stupid mistake by an administration that’s full of stupid mistakes.

Likewise, though some secularists in America would support the idea of throwing Christians in jail, it simply isn’t going to happen in the near future. What president would want Christians thrown in jail? All this talk of the coming persecution in the immediate future is simply fantasy. Could persecution of Christians occur at some point? Absolutely it could and in fact I honestly believe that the West is heading in that direction. But that’s decades, if not a century down the road; not a few months.

That’s not to say that religious persecution doesn’t exist in America. For instance, imagine if a city did everything it could to block you from building your church, taking your church nearly 10 years to be rebuilt. Or imagine a nation rising up in protest to you building a mosque on your private property. But even these forms of persecution pale in comparison to the actual persecution suffered by Christians around the globe. If America’s religious leaders feel so bold while sitting under the protection of the First Amendment, perhaps they should head over to Cairo and help serve the poor there while receiving death threats from Muslims, or go to Pakistan and start a church. One wonders how successful a ‘purpose driven church’ would be in Saudi Arabia.  Perhaps the first purpose would be, “Don’t get yourself killed.”

It’s very easy to use the talk of persecution while living in the United States, where Christians are still very free. The biggest debate we’re having is over the healthcare mandate. Yes, it does infringe upon our religious liberty, but we’re able to petition our Congress to change it as well as our president (and both are certainly working on a change). The leaders who spoke out against this mandate were not thrown in jail and will not be thrown in jail. Their daughters were not raped in an attempt to silence them. Their churches have not been shut down nor will they be shut down. They were able and are able to express their discontent without any fear of a reprisal. Essentially, these religious leaders have all the boldness of a child who makes faces at the lion through the plexiglass window at the zoo.

Thus, I offer an open invitation to these leaders – if you believe yourself so bold concerning the Gospel and your religious convictions, go to Cairo and help with Christian organizations there. Go to Iran and start a church. Go to Pakistan and hold a rally. As for myself, I am not bold. Were I to face actual persecution, I fear how I would respond. That’s why you won’t see me in Cairo, Sudan, or Gaza anytime soon. If all this rhetoric about our government were true, I’m not sure how I would deal with the persecution. I’m not foolish enough to think that highly of myself. But for those that are, they can certainly prove their mettle by heading to China or Indonesia or North Korea and spreading the Gospel there. In the mean time, let’s tone down the persecution rhetoric so that we’re not taking away from those who are actually persecuted.

A Reformed Roman Orthodox Catholic?

There is little doubt to both insiders and outsiders of the Christian faith that the Christian faith is undergoing a significant event. That is, after almost one thousand years of a sharp divide between Christians (leading to war in some cases), the divide is no longer between “Presbyterian” and “Methodist,” but between theologically orthodox and theologically heterodox. This divide has arisen over the last twenty years, with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants aligning themselves more closely together on issues of politics and theology. Such unification has occurred for both theological conservatives and theological liberals, with each respective group seeking out like-minded believers in other denominations.

But what is truly interesting is the direction many young evangelicals are heading and that is where we see a distinct change occurring. It seems that many evangelicals are making drastic changes in their belief systems and heading in one of five directions: they’re becoming Reformed, they’re becoming Roman Catholic, they’re becoming Eastern Orthodox, they’re becoming “spiritual,” or they’re leaving the faith.

The last two are almost one in the same for very little differs between one who says there is no God and one who has no idea about God (or creates a god of the mind and subsequently worships him/her/it). Evangelicals are becoming discouraged with the action – or lack of action – found within their churches in caring for the poor, showing love for nonbelievers, or building a Christ-centered community and therefore apply their disenchantment to the Church itself. Others, unfortunately, cannot accept God as He revealed by the prophets and reject the God of the Bible and opt for a version of God mixed with pagan ideas of God. Either way, some evangelicals move towards a more pluralistic outlook on the world where all religions are essentially equal and God saves everyone regardless of their beliefs. In other words, the only criteria for salvation is simply to exist. This is a very postmodern faith that doesn’t have any absolutes other than to deny all absolutes and conservatives. Some do leave the faith, but many opt for a more “open spirituality,” where their relationship with God is on their terms and in fact, the attributes of God are the attributes they love. Rather than conform to God, they conform God to them, who is then no God at all. For many, they lack the moral fortitude to be orthodox, but also lack the intestinal fortitude to be atheists.

To combat this massive exodus from the evangelical community, many churches are attempting to become “relevant.” They offer better worship bands, more atmospheric auditoriums (even changing the title of the auditorium from “sanctuary” to “worship center,” as though worship is produced in a factory), and shy away from the absolutism that so may young people seem to be fleeing. While they still believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, they won’t openly admit that and instead water down the Gospel into something that is nice and applicable; instead of offering a life-changing force that turns princes into paupers, they offer a life accessory, something that enhances the life you already lead, but doesn’t really interfere too much with your day-to-day interactions. Is it any wonder why such events are failing? Continue reading

UK persecutes Christians

There are times that I just don’t understand the reasoning of those in power. Over in the United Kingdom, a foster mom allowed a Muslim girl to convert to Christianity while the girl was under the foster mom’s tutelage. What’s weird is that the foster mother even attempts to prevent the girl from converting, but the girl persisted in going to church. She was eventually baptized.

The girl was put in the foster mother’s care because a family member assaulted the girl. After her conversion, however, the foster service took the girl away from the foster mother and put her back with her family – the one she had been taken away from because of assault. They did all of this after advising the girl to convert back to Islam.

This is government-sanctioned persecution. I’m not trying instill fear into people – because I don’t think the threat of persecution should make us fearful – just letting everyone know how far the West has fallen. When the government tells you to convert back to your religion and, when you refuse, they put you back in an abusive family, that’s called persecution.

What are we, as Christians, to do in order to help our brothers and sisters over in the UK who are bound to face more and more persecution as time progresses?