The news is not that persecution of Christians around the world is on the rise. The news is that mainstream news reported it. Not that it could be ignored. The numbers were too big. They were too big to ignore, unlike the ongoing killings in Nigeria, and India, and Pakistan and arrests in China and burning and demolition of churches that occur increments that are easier to let slip by.
But, let’s be real here. Christian pleas for recognition and sympathy, as was shown for the killing of Muslims at Christchurch or institutionally marginalized people in our own culture who are rising on the shoulders of the Christian notion of the exaltation of the weak and oppressed is largely falling on deaf ears. And Christians aren’t happy about it.
Let’s be even more real here. Christians are not persecuted in the United States and never have been. That the tide of popular opinion about Christians and Christianity is turning, has turned, is not the same as persecution. That Christians are seen as the oppressors, the privileged and the keepers of the gates to be stormed by the cultural elite who have secured themselves in the cultural command center does not equate to persecution… yet.
But, we need to be careful here. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. We need to follow His lead, and not react out of our flesh. We need to maintain the right perspective. The perspective of people for whom Jesus has made a place with Him.
The 1600’s was also a time of great corruption in the church itself. The church was the largest employer in the land. It had great power, and it was corrupt. The vast majority of people, including clergy, were ignorant of Scripture. According to the experts on the Unbelievable podcast, many clergymen didn’t even know the 10 commandments. This was a very dark period in church history, the culmination of centuries of church/state alliance that twisted the Gospel to serve the power of kings and popes who lived like kings.
Tyndale was influenced by Martin Luther who also a rebel that opposed the church consensus and power structure of the day. Tyndale was influenced by John Wycliffe who a century before had translated the Bible into middle English, but the church opposed the “unauthorized” translation and rejected it. The church even declared Wycliffe a heretic after his death, and many of the Wycliffe Bibles were burned and not widely distributed.
Tyndale made it his life’s mission to translate the Bible into English for the common man. Though Wycliffe had already done that, the Bible was still virtually inaccessible to the vast majority of people, and even clergy were ignorant of it. He suffered exile for his efforts and was eventually arrested, jailed, convicted of heresy, executed by strangulation, and his body was burned at the stake.
We celebrate Tyndale now as a martyr for the faith who took up his cross and followed Christ even unto death, a leader of the reformation that led believers out of the corruption of the organized religion of his day.
He and other “rebels” paved the way for the Bible to be made available worldwide in every language spoken on earth. Tyndale now is the name of a major Christian publishing company. Luther is the namesake of a major church denomination. Wycliffe is the name of the organization that translates the Bible into the rarest languages of the farthest flung tribes of the world.
Just as Jesus opposed the Pharisees and Sadducees in the 1st Century, Tyndale opposed the popes and bishops in the 16th Century. Just as the Pharisees and Sadducees sought to stop Jesus and had him arrested, tried, convicted and executed for spreading the Gospel, the popes and bishops tried to stop Tyndale, had him arrested, tried, convicted and executed for translating the Bible including the words Jesus preached into English.
The main opposition to Jesus, and Tyndale, came from the religious leaders. Those religious leaders employed the power of the state to oppose the spread of the Gospel (in Jesus’s case) and the spread of the translation of the Bible into English (in Tyndale’s case).
When Pilate asked, “Shall I crucify [Jesus]?”, the chief priests said, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15) I think about these things in light of the current religious and cultural climate.
Tyndale was viewed as a rebel and, a renegade, a heretic. He opposed the status quo, including the status quo within the church. He was despised. He was opposed by the church. He could not even return to his homeland, England, for fear of his life, and he eventually lost his life to the church and state authorities of his day
Today, the church and state are no longer joined in power as in Tyndale’s day. Many modern Christians in the United States rue the loss of power and advantage, while modern secularists would like to negate completely all influence of religion on society. If Hilary Clinton had been elected, instead of Trump, most Christians feared an incremental loss of power and influence in the affairs of our nation. Christians have embraced Trump as the man to fight the tide of growing secularism and maintain Christianity in that position of power and influence.
But is that a good thing? We all know of the challenges, difficulties and even persecution of the church that result from state government that is opposed to the church, but history suggests that the confluence of state power with church governance leads to corruption of the church. Would we rather accept corruption in the church to avoid challenge, difficulty and persecution?
Listening to Tyndale’s story, makes me wonder, “What about the church today is like the church in Tyndale’s time?” What influence lingers or has crept in to modern Christianity that will cause future believers to look back and wonder at the corruption of the 21st Century church?
Who are the heretics of our time who will be hailed as heroes in future generations?
The wider the door swings open to presidential exercises of power that fly in the face of the constitutional protection of the separation of powers, the harder it will be to undo the change in the fabric of our democratic form of government.
Christians, evangelical and otherwise, are on both sides of the wall debate. I have my own firm convictions based on hours of studying the Scriptures for help. But this blog isn’t about the propriety of building a wall on the southern border; it’s about the declaration of an emergency to get it done. We need to be wise. We should not be rash. “He who hurries his footsteps errs” (Proverbs 19:2); and “Do not go out hastily to argue your case; Otherwise, what will you do in the end, When your neighbor humiliates you?” (Proverbs 25:8) Following are three things that Christians should consider about the declaration of an emergency to build a border wall. Continue reading “Three Things Christians Need to Know about the Border Wall Emergency”→
I am reblogging this post as I have the distinct impression that most of the world, including most of the academic world, don’t realize that the Theory of Evolution, which seems to be accepted more like a fact in modern society, is still not completely settled. While the official face of the scientific world continues to bow in homage to Darwinian Theory, doubts of its ultimate viability and explanatory scope are increasing.
This is not to say that doubts about evolution, generically, are increasing. Evolution can mean any number of things, including the adaption of species over long periods of time. Garden variety evolution is not seriously in question (to put a layman’s spin on it).
Their report (as well as others) reveals a Neo-Darwinian theory in crisis. Many scientists are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the old paradigm, even with a face lift, in light of ongoing research and discovery. The old model is straining under the pressure.
It isn’t any wonder, then, I suppose, that the number of scientists willing to sign a petition expressing skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution has risen ten times since 2001.
Skepticism About Darwinian Evolution Grows as Over 1000 Scientists From Around the World Declare Their Doubts About Darwinism WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Over 1000 doctoral scientists from around the world have signed a statement publicly expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution, according to Discovery Institute. The statement, located online at http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org, reads: “We are […]
I am about ready to fly back to Chicago from Phoenix, AZ after participating in my first Board Meeting of the Gospel Justice Initiative as a board member. I am humbled to be part of this group that is attempting to implement and carry out in these modern times the words of the prophet:
“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
It’s fitting that today is Martin Luther King Day. Last night as I drove back to my hotel, I listened to a podcast interview of Frank Viola who wrote books like Pagan Christianity and his most recent book, Insurgence. He pointed out in the interview that both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had a problem with Jesus. The Pharisees were the equivalent of the conservative right today, and the Sadducees were the equivalent of the progressive left.
That resonates deeply with me as I survey the world today in and out of my social media feed. While both sides might claim Jesus in their political platforms (more or less), I have the distinct impression that they would be put off by Jesus face to face in their presence. Jesus didn’t conform to the spirit of this world. His was the kingdom of God.
Followers of Jesus, it seems to me, should reflect the character and “aroma” of Jesus. I think of these things when I remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was hated by the ultra-conservative, called a communist and scrutinized like an enemy of the state. He was also despised by the radical left who criticized him for standing in the way of real revolution, a violent takeover and overthrowing of the status quo.
I see Jesus in Martin Luther King and his legacy – not just because he didn’t sit comfortably with the far right and the far left, but because he exhibited the character and carried the aroma of Christ.
This morning I have listened to a podcast and read an article on the same theme: Christians who desire not to be defined by the things they are against. I didn’t go searching for themed material today, these things came together organically as I went about my daily habits of listening to a podcast first thing in the morning and reading throughout the day.
While these three sources of material may not seem like thematic material, I assure you they are. Beginning with the interview, the evangelist, Palau, explained the motivation for engaging with the City of Portland in civic service. Palau recognized that Christians were known in the community primarily as people who were opposed to certain things, and not anything positive – let alone as followers of Jesus.
Palau also recognized that Christians were distrusted by the community, and so he set out to regain the community trust. The first thing Palau and his church did was to respond to the needs of a local public school that was failing. Not only did they show up; the showed up in such force that people took notice. What was supposed to be a day of work turned into an ongoing labor of love.
Palau and his church were so successful in making a positive impact that they inspired churches around the community to adopt schools, and the schools, in turn, embraced the church involvement. The involvement caught the attention of the mayor of Portland and his chief assistant, Sam Adams, who would later become mayor himself.
Palau and Adams are an unlikely pair to become friends, but that is what they are today. Adams is the first openly gay mayor of Portland. Palau is an evangelical evangelist. Adams confirms Palau’s concerns by agreeing that he previously only knew evangelicals for what they stood against, but now, he says, there are more things they agree on than disagree on.
Adams recognizes that they have some fundamental disagreements on key issues for both of them, but those areas of disagreement are no longer the defining characteristic. They now join hands on addressing areas in which they agree and have formed a long-term friendship as a result.
Palau has built a bridge without compromising his faith. As a result, Adams and the community no longer view evangelicals only for what they stand against; they also see what evangelicals stand for. The community now knows that the Gospel means more than calling out sin. It means meeting peoples’ needs, loving people and offering hope. The Gospel isn’t primarily a what, but a Who – Jesus, who transforms people who follow him.
We need to find a way to talk to each other, and not just at each other. We need to listen to each other, and not be so quick to respond with a put down or a label or an accusation.
Does the present state of journalism reflect our current attitudes toward “others”? Or does it drive our attitudes towards “others”?
Maybe its both.
We wouldn’t “buy” what they are dishing out if we didn’t want it. The biased, clickbait journalism that we consume is, sadly, just a reflection of who we have become. Maybe it’s who we always were?
At the same time, the hyped up “news” outlets of the left and right variety to a good job of stirring up the division among us and agitating us to fight with other. We toss meme hand grenades into the social media foxholes of our “enemies”, while we rally the troops hiding in the trenches, and they are fueled by a nonstop barrage of media assault.
What are coming too? Where does this end? Is there any hope?
Maybe, but we need to become better news consumers and demand more integrity from our news sources. We need to become more astute in our vetting of fact and eschew the clickbait headlines that dangle in front of our faces like garish posters advertising the wolf boy at a carnival.
We need to stop ourselves from posting knee-jerk responses on social media, labeling those we disagree with and parroting our talking points without really listening or engaging in independent thought. We need to stop the us-against-them mentality when it comes to politics and worldviews and see ourselves as neighbors who have different perspectives.
Yes, worldviews matter, but relationships matter more. No one is winning the social media debates. We are losing our connectedness in a sea of disjointed, clamorous rancor.
Followers of Christ should seek to set a better example. We should be salt and light. We should have a different flavor. We should not defined by the political positions that we hold, but by the love and character of Christ.