Archive for the ‘persecution’ Tag

Priceless Treasure in Cheap Storage   Leave a comment

Archivists take great care with historical documents as do those of us who want to preserve vintage clothing or antique furniture. So this passage Paul wrote to the Corinthians should have resonance with us in that context, but it also has deep theological meaning and practical application to the Christian life.

But we have this treasure in clay jarsso that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushedwe are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecutedbut not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in our body the death of Jesusso that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body. For we who are alive are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sakeso that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal body. 

As a resultdeath is at work in usbut life is at work in you. But since we have the same spirit of faith as that shown in what has been written, “I believedtherefore I spoke,” we also believetherefore we also speak. We do so because we know that the one who raised up Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence. For all these things are for your sakeso that the grace that is including more and more people may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God. Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing awayour inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seenFor what can be seen is temporarybut what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

Image result for image of treasures in clay jarsIn the 1st century, earthen (pottery) vessels were commonplace. They were used for everything from storing water and treasures, to the base for oil lamps. On the one hand, they were sturdy and durable, but on the other hand, fragile. Drop a clay pot and it shatters. It was an inexpensive vessel for storage.

Paul clearly wrote that his own sufferings, and his attitude toward them, were an instructive example for the afflictions that the Corinthian Christians also experienced. Our weakness shows that the power comes from God. A similar lesson is stated in 2 Corinthians 12:9: God’s power is made perfect in human weakness. And in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29: God calls the weak and foolish, so no one can boast.

As Paul persevered in preaching the gospel despite the persecutions that came, he demonstrated that he was motivated not by selfish benefit but by devotion, and he was empowered not by human power or reasoning, but by God working in and through him. The lesson is still valid as Christians in some nations suffer overt persecution for preaching Christianity or for converting to Christianity.

In most of Western society today, persecution is more subtle. The academic world may sneer at faith; the economic world may ridicule those who have scruples; group-identity advocates may not want to associate with people who do not accept homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, those who have been married multiple times may find the monogamy of Christianity to be stifling and there are those who will overtly state that Christians should not be allowed to vote as they see fit or raise our children according to our values. Non-Christians may have more employment options and may make more money. When we face such discrepancies in society, our lack of anxiety about our disadvantages testifies to our belief that the things of this world are passing away, and our faith that a far greater reward is at stake. When we face trials that strike believer and unbeliever alike, our calmness and positive approach can likewise show we have knowledge and hope of life and reward in a new aeon. People can see that we have hope in a situation that appears hopeless, and such contrast may lead them to inquire about our faith and to give it credence because its value is demonstrated.

In our afflictions, our life follows the pattern of Jesus. In our current state, especially in our day-to-day trials, our bodies manifest mortality, such as Jesus Himself had. Yet we also manifest eternal life, the life of Jesus in us. His life is shown in the message we share and in the lifestyle decisions we make. We have life evident in us, and that life is energized by faith (4:10-11, 18) — faith that our life will continue to follow the pattern of Jesus, that we will also be raised into glory (4:14, 17). Our determination comes not from human stubbornness or grit, but from God, and the life of Jesus, and the Spirit of faith. We of course have nothing to boast of, for it is all done for the glory of God.

Our life illustrates the “not yet” paradox of Christianity: The consequences of mortality are evident in our bodies, and our faith in eternal life is evident in the way we respond to that mortal weakness. We worship a Being Who had a life of suffering and a death of shame Who also had a triumphant resurrection and now has a life of glory. We, in this “not yet” phase of the kingdom of God, are given opportunity to follow this pattern. Few of us actually have a shameful death, but all Christians should be willing to endure it if necessary for the kingdom of God. Most of us escape overt persecution, but all of us should be faithful if it comes. Why? Because we believe and trust that God will give us glorious, spiritual, eternal life. We believe, and therefore we do whatever God calls us to do. Our afflictions will be followed by glory.

Modern Christian Persecution   Leave a comment

This last week, several Christian friends with Middle-Eastern connections asked me if I would write something about the persecution of Christians in the birthplace of Christianity.

Image result for image of coptic christian martyrsWhatever questionable benefit they were for democracy, the U.S. interventions in the Middle East and the Arab Spring have become pure hell for Arab Christians. In 2016, an estimated 90,000 Christians worldwide died for their faith.

Copts are among the earliest Christians, dating to the first century A.D., when John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas and writer of one of the four Gospels, became bishop in Alexandria and established the first church outside the Holy Land.

Copts make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population. They have been especially targeted for terrorist attacks since the 2013 overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, who had been elected president after the ouster of longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak. In the subsequent struggle between Egypt’s Islamists and the regime of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (who was welcomed to the Trump White House in March) the Copts are seen as soft-target allies of Gen. el-Sissi’s though they’ve long been hated for their faith.

On Palm Sunday, 44 Copts were martyred in Egypt while celebrating Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Over 100 were injured in the blasts at St. George’s Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s in Alexandria.

The Islamic State group claims credit for the murders, which were given only cursory coverage by the media which was far more concerned with the dead children from the Syrian gas attacks. I’m not rating either one as more horrible than the other. I’m saying the persecution and murder of Christians by Islamists deserves as much coverage as the killing of Muslims by Islamists. I do not buy  that Assad, on the eve of a peace treaty, would have gassed his own people. It defies logic and if you watch Baraba Walters’ interview with Assad, he does not come off as insane.

In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Christians were left alone if they did not interfere in politics. Iraqi Christians prospered as doctors, lawyers, journalists, academics, engineers, businessmen. A Christian, Tariq Aziz, was Saddam’s foreign minister who negotiated with Secretary of State James Baker to try to prevent what became the Gulf War.

Before 2003, there were still 800,000 Christians in Iraq. But after a decade of church bombings and murders of priests, their numbers have plummeted. When the Islamic State seized a third of Iraq, Christians under the group’s rule had to convert to Islam and pay a crushing tax or face beheading.

Under Syria’s dictator Hafez al-Assad and son Bashar, Christians have been 10 percent of the population and protected by the regime. They thus have sided with Assad against the terrorists of the Islamic State and al-Qaida, whose victory would mean their expulsion or death.

Of the 10 nations deemed by Christianity Today to be the most hateful and hostile toward Christianity, eight are majority-Muslim nations, with the Middle East being the site of the worst of today’s persecutions.

Afghanistan, which the US “liberated” in 2001, is listed as the third-most hostile nation toward Christians. Christian baptism there is punishable by death. A decade ago, a Christian convert had to flee his country to avoid beheading.

A decade and a half after we launched invasions and occupations of the Muslim world in Afghanistan and then Iraq to bring the “blessings” of “democracy”, the people there who profess the Christian faith are being persecuted as horribly as they were under the Romans in Nero’s time. I’m still waiting for the promised gains for religious freedom and human rights that will justify the bombings, invasions and wars we have conducted from Libya to Pakistan, the death and suffering the US military has inflicted, and the losses US citizens have endured.

Property as Foundation for Freedom of Religion   1 comment

“Shame on you! As a Christian, you shouldn’t be for private property! Read your Bible!”

This was the reply to a comment I made in an Alaskan newspaper.

Don’t challenge me if you don’t want to hear my full opinion.

Many Christians, while they cherish religious liberty, are uncomfortable with the concept of property rights, and the commerce that arises from the establishment of property rights. They feel it is somehow un-Christlike to want to own land and stuff or to make a profit in business. This is contrasted with some of the agnostic free marketers I know who insist that all we need is property rights and the rest will take care of itself.

Pope Francis is often held up as an example of a Christian who reads the New Testament as a treatise on socialism. He views commerce as grubby business purely based on self-interest, tending inevitably toward exploitation, and the opposite of charity. This flawed reading of the New Testament is similar to Karl Marx. Marx was militantly opposed to religion, but praised Christianity in what he saw as its declamation against private property in the name of an otherworldly denial of self.

Christians had a hand in founding both the Fabian socialists in the United Kingdom and the Progressive Movement in the United States. Why? Well, a couple of reasons. Some of these future socialists took their inspiration from Jesus’s insistence that Christians should take care of the poor. That was an admirable basis. The second strain of Christian progressivism held that since Jesus came down to earth, our task as Christians is to build a heaven on earth. Many early Quakers believed that, although there is absolutely no Biblical basis for that teaching. Although many socialists were atheists, many Christians allied with them for either or both of these reasons.

In today’s America we can see the heart of the leftward movement in our government is a claim against property that insists that the divisions among us are as deep as they are because of economic inequality, and if we do not address that inequality today, it will worsen tomorrow. Many well-meaning and misguided Christians think this way.

The most formidable enemies of property rights are formidable precisely because they know better than to separate the issue of property rights from the issue of other freedoms, including freedom of conscience and religious liberty. They recognize human beings are an odd integrity of soul and body. Marx understood clearly that if you like the way the human being is organized then you are going to have to protect it all. If you do not like that integrity, then you are going to have to uproot it all. Thus he made clear in the Communist Manifesto that overthrowing the age-old institution of property will involve “the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.” If private property is going to be abolished, everything will have to be abolished. Marriage and religion are two prominent targets for elimination in Marx’s writings.

Several decades later, in the Fabian Essays in Socialism that led to the founding of the British Labour Party, George Bernard Shaw and others tried to downplay that side of Marxism. They claimed that they intended only to destroy property rights—that socialism is not about getting rid of the family or religion. They weren’t entirely convincing because they didn’t really believe their obfuscations. Shaw, for instance, wrote that “a married woman is a female slave chained to a male one; and a girl is a prisoner in the house and in the hands of her parents.” Graham Wallas, co-founder of the London School of Economics, argued that it is inefficient for families to eat their meals separately in their houses, and lamented that it would be a long time “before we cease to feel that an Englishman’s home [is] his castle, with free entrance and free egress alike forbidden.”

Clearly, the Fabians’ ideal society involved more than the redistribution of wealth.

There are obvious parallels in our own time and country. In 2008, President Obama campaigned on the idea that we should “spread the wealth around,” and had little to say about the family and religious liberty. Money wasn’t the only thing he and his allies wanted to change, however. After he was elected, the President altered his position about the nature of marriage, and now the enforcement of a new understanding of gender identity is pressed upon us through powerful legal and social means. A friend who is an administrator at a small Christianity college says the staff there have had conversations with their legal advisors on whether it will remain legal for them to separate their student body into dormitories for men and women. Will the swelling chorus that denies any connection between nature and sex to conjure up countless new so-called genders compel colleges built around faith concepts to join the new zeitgeist or close their doors? It is not inconceivable that Biblical teaching may soon be declared hate speech and therefore become illegal. So this fight is not just a fight about property.

On the other hand, let’s analyze it as if it were.

I own myself, which means I have a right to control my life. So, let’s say my son decides he wants to go to this college. He’s 18, so owns himself and that constitutes a right to control his own life. He wishes to live in a dormitory with similarly-minded other men because he recognizes that as a good way to not have sex until he’s married. The school owns the dormitory, so should be able to set standards for the facilities. They offer housing to students and to their parents, who are often footing the bill, based upon the contractual obligation that this is a good clean environment in which young people can concentrate on learning. That is the product they’re selling and the parents and students are buying. That’s a free monetary exchange of property value for property value.

If the school is forced by the government to open dormitories up across gender lines, then the school has been deprived of a primary marketing tool, which is another property value. They can no longer advertise their school as a wholesome environment for Christian students. Therefore, a theft has occurred. If parents and students decide students would rather remain at home and attend college digitally, then the school has been deprived of tuition and the students and parents have been deprived of the right to spend their money as they see fit (yet another property value).

A theft has occurred.

The converse of this is that there are private colleges that want to open dormitories across gender lines and market themselves as an exciting alternative to the Christian school experience. Again, the college has a right, by virtue of property ownership, to market themselves in this way and students and parents have a right, by virtue of their property stake in their money, to buy that experience. To deny them that right is to steal money from both the college and the parents/students.

I know a lot of Christians who would get angry that I am saying this, but the fact is that we have been denying “the world” its property rights for a long time, so now that the worst of secular society has decided to turn the tables on us, we shouldn’t be surprised. Which is not to say that we should embrace the tyranny. You do not recompense the theft of one person’s property rights by stealing the property rights of the original offender. The only moral solution is for all powers to stop stealing from one another.

 

Swiss Anabaptists   2 comments

Courage comes in all shapes and sizes. Check out my fellow blog hoppers on this subject or link in and share a profile in courage of your very own.

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After the Waldensians (more or less) came the anabaptists. I suspect Waldensians became anabaptists, but the history is unclear on this. I use the small “a” because they weren’t just one group. Anabaptists were heavily persecuted by all sects of Christianity who aligned themselves with governments. Anabaptists were separatists who rejected infant baptism and believed that the outward church should consist only of saved and baptized believers. For this reason, they re-baptized adults who professed Christ and had been previously made ritually wet as infants. The preposition ana means “again”. Anabaptists were those who “baptized again.”

It is really difficult to classify anabaptists as a single group (which is why I don’t), for there was wide diversity among them. Some claiming the anabaptist title were fanatics, pantheists, mystics, anti-Trinitarians, extreme millennialists, and other Christian heretics who brought great shame upon the Reformation.  The majority were spiritual people and devoted students of the Bible who felt the Reformers were not purifying Christianity of Roman Catholic dogma quickly enough or properly applying the principles taught in the New Testament.

Prior to 1523, most anabaptists in Switzerland were known by the generic term “Brethren”. They were among the least understood and most persecuted groups of the early Reformation — the Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists and even some other Anabaptists opposed the Brethren violently.

They believed in:

  • Separation of church and state. They called for this for the protection of the church from persecution by the state. They held no government offices, opposed military service and some became completely pacifistic.
  • Liberty of the conscience. They opposed the establishment of state churches, asserting freedom of religion and teaching that the faithful for free to believe according to the dictates of their conscience, even though an individual could be wrong. The Reformers thought this was a “radical” belief because the Reformers believed you had to adjust your beliefs to their beliefs or be jailed and possibly executed within their domains.
  • Purity of the churches. For the anabaptists the church was not an institution but simply a local fellowship of believers who voluntarily joined a congregation following a salvation experience, placing himself under the governance of the church for so long as he and the church were in agreement. This relationship could be severed by either party.
  • Believer’s baptism. While anabaptists were flexible on some points, they were completely inflexible on the subject of baptism. They opposed infant “baptism” as unscriptural and felt it was the churches’ responsibility to test those who came seeking baptism to assure they were actually believers.

Anaptists stood for religious liberty at a time when neither Catholics nor Protestants fully appreciated the importance of freedom of conscience. They were the forerunners of the modern Brethren, the Amish, the Mennonites and the Baptists (although many modern Baptists include a fair dollop of nationalism in their religious “liberty” cocktail) . Their emphasis on the purity of the external local church set a standard for congregationalist churches going forward.

They would also, in many subtle ways, influence the founding of the United States, for they stressed individual standing before God, voluntary interaction, and freedom of conscience, which were precursors to the concept of individual liberty. They were horribly persecuted and many were martyred for believing what they read in the Bible. While some of them did fight back, those are not the recognized “heroes” of the faith. The majority of the anabaptist Swiss Brethren held to the principle of non-aggression, and some to non-violence, while steadfastly refusing to give up their beliefs.

And, for that, I consider them to be courageous. There is something to be said for quietly turning the other cheek while saying “No, I will not comply to that which is ungodly.” Christians today should take a good hard look at what living for faith in times of persecution really means. The Swiss anabaptists didn’t give up their faith even when they were faced with burning or drowning for their refusal.

Are any of us that brave today?

Wrong Side of History   7 comments

Wow, that happened faster than I thought it would!

State forbids pastors calling homosexuality ‘sinful’.

There’s this small part of me that wants to be hopeful, to say that this will go to the Supreme Court and the SCOTUS will rule on the side of liberty that ALL Americans have freedom of religion and speech.

But ….

I suspect the days when American Christians could expect to be treated fairly under the law are over and it’s time for us to accept that we can be on the right side of history or the right side of the God of history, but we can’t do both. It’s unfortunate that Christians are being shut out of the culture. It is unfortunate for the culture because it desperately needs to hear gospel truths. Morality is a rapidly shifting slope when there is no foundation for morality and that is where this culture is right now.

But being shut out of the culture is also not necessarily a bad thing from a Kingdom perspective. The early Christians did a whole lot more to spread the gospel when the Roman Empire was actively trying to kill them than Christians in America have done in the last century and a half when we had all the freedom in the world to talk about what we believe.

The question is — are we going to obey the laws that men put upon us or are we going to obey God’s laws? We can’t do both when man’s laws fundamentally disagree with God’s laws.

How should then we live?

Christians, we should know this, even if we would prefer not to live it.

Posted August 3, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Actor Chris O’Dowd Equates Religion With Racism   Leave a comment

Actor Chris O’Dowd Equates Religion With Racism.

And, for an example of what Sorbo is talking about ….

Kevin Sorbo: ‘God’s Not Dead’ Star Takes Stand Against Christian Persecution   Leave a comment

Kevin Sorbo: ‘God’s Not Dead’ Star Takes Stand Against Christian Persecution.

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