Saturday, September 22, 2007

Signs of Coming Persecution?

Yesterday I read the August 2007 edition of Christianity Today, and a few stories really grabbed my attention. The first story (page 13) is about Colorado Christian University, a private-liberal-arts university, who has been denied access to state grants for its students because of “the school’s religious affiliation.” One judge lamented, “even its secular instruction is infused with religious components.” You’ve got to be kidding me, judge, a Christian school teaching all subjects from a Christian perspective? How deplorable.

The second story (page 20) is about James Holsinger, President Bush’s candidate to be Surgeon General of the United States. The problem? Holsinger once wrote a brief for the United Methodist Judicial Council about the dangers of gay sex and the complimentarity of heterosexual sex. The political world is in an uproar.

Jonathan Edwards said of the situation, “In a profession dedicated to healing and compassion, it cannot be hard to find a qualified candidate for surgeon general who sees all human beings as equals…Holsinger’s anti-gay writings and beliefs suggest that he will undermine, not advance, the cause of equality and fairness in health care.”

What about the cause of morality and the right to free speech?

The third story (page 14) is about Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws which “have been used against Christians in two recent incidents.” In the first incident, Younis Masih was sentenced to death for allegedly making derogatory comments about Muhammad, and in the second incident the government temporarily shut down a nursing school and suspended five Christian workers because Muslim students complained that the Christians had “defaced the Qur’an.”

And to make matters worse, the Pakistani Parliament “is considering a law that would outlaw apostasy. Men who convert from Islam to any other religion would get the death penalty; women would receive life imprisonment.”

On the one hand, it seems that the United States is worlds away from the violent bigotry of a Pakistan, but on the other hand, are we really all that far away? Our litmus test is not Islam or any other particular religion, I’ll grant you that, and we’re not executing people for dissent. But our litmus test is “tolerance” and in the name of tolerance Christians are being marginalized, maligned, and dismissed as intolerant bigots. They are being denied access to funding sources and positions of power and who knows what else.

Who would have thought even ten years ago that taking a traditional, Christian stand on issues like homosexuality would eventuate in exclusion from the resources of our culture and excommunication from the systems of our culture? Who would have thought that the seeds of Judeo-Christian morality, sown in mass by previous generations, would be wiped out in such a short period of time? But that’s the reality in which we’re living today, and I fear that it will only get worse.

As Christians living in this culture at this time, we need to prepare ourselves to stand in the midst of a great, coming storm. We need to hold true to the faith once for all delivered to the saints without becoming callous and vengeful toward those who are persecuting us. Like Stephen standing before his executors, we need to pray, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” We need to stand against our enemies and love our enemies at the same time.
In other words, we need tremendous grace and power from the Lord in times like this.

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