#What Is Aleppo? Why Christians must care


What is Aleppo? The question seems innocent enough to most Americans. But back in September, the question lit up Twitter ( #WhatIsAleppo ) and made Independent presidential candidate Gary Johnson appear even more out of touch with reality. When asked about his response to the crisis in Aleppo, Johnson replied, “And what is Aleppo?”

It’s one thing for an average American to be unsure about Aleppo’s whereabouts; it’s another thing entirely when someone aspiring to be president is not aware of its existence.

aleppo-city-viewSo, what is Aleppo? Aleppo is an ancient city, one of the oldest cities on earth. Aleppo was around before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. And Aleppo existed before King David killed Goliath. Indeed, people were dwelling in Aleppo before Moses was born in Egypt. People have been living in the ancient city of Aleppo (now the second largest city in Syria) for more than 4,000 years.

Today—partly because it is Syria’s second largest city—Aleppo has become the flashpoint in Syria’s civil war. The civil war in Syria is a power struggle to determine who controls Syria and this region of the Middle East. Daniel Horowitz explains,

In Syria, there is a fight between Assad/ Hezbollah/Russia/Iran vs. Al Qaeda splinter groups, Ahrar al Sham, and the Islamic State — with Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia funding a number of the Islamic fundamentalist rebels.

Uri Friedman of The Atlantic describes Aleppo’s significance this way:

If Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian allies, were to emerge victorious in Aleppo, it would have consequences beyond Syria, Tabler added: “It would be a tremendous loss for the U.S. and its traditional allies: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan. … This would also be a huge loss for the United States vis-à-vis Russia in its Middle East policy, certainly. And because of the flow of refugees as a result of this, if they go northward to Europe, then you would see a migrant crisis in Europe that could lead to far-right governments coming to power which are much more friendly to Russia than they are to the United States.” In other words, to answer Gary Johnson’s question, Aleppo is a lot more than a Syrian city.

These quotes make a couple of important points. One, a serious war is waging in Aleppo, and it involves a number of world powers, not the least of which are the U.S. and Russia…apparently on opposing sides. The significance of Aleppo in world events is evident in the recent assassination of Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov. Karlov’s assassin allegedly shouted “Remember Aleppo” after killing the ambassador. Clearly, Aleppo is front and center in world affairs.

Two, Christians in Syria in general and Aleppo in particular have no real allies. Which would be better—to face the oppression of the Assad form of Islam or side with the Al-Qaeda rebels and live under their brand of Islamic extremism? It would be difficult in good conscience to waive a banner for either team in this civil war.

Back in 2011-2012, the U.S. thought it was intolerable that 10,000 Syrians were killed. Our government thus decided to fortify the rebellion against the Assad government. But Assad’s government did not topple. Russia and Iran reinvigorated that government with military might to reassert its dominance. And the result has been horrific. CNN reports,

Since the war began in 2011, an estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed, according to the United Nations.

As of December 2016, 4.81 million Syrians have fled the country and 6.3 million people are displaced internally.

What should Christians do?aleppo-syria

Without a doubt, Christians must pray for all the citizens of Aleppo. The people of Syria are suffering at the hands of their political leaders, who, in some sense, serve as religious leaders, too. There are reports that churches are growing because Muslims are disillusioned by the violence and are looking for answers. As one Christian from Aleppo says,

“But you know what’s surprising? The church is still full; displaced people take their place. Especially Muslims are coming to the church now.”

Christians must pray specifically for other Christians in Syria. The Christian district in Aleppo has been all but obliterated. About 90% of Christians in the area have either died or fled to a safer location like Lebanon. Those Christians remaining are living without electricity, gas, heat, and even without water. Conditions are not just terrible. They are life-threatening. And yet, ministry needs and opportunities are increasing. Imagine surviving through such difficulties, while having the opportunity to minister to many Muslims through your church. It’s an unusual opportunity to say the least.

For anyone interested, Global Hunger Relief operates in Syria. The advantage of GHR is that it operates on a volunteer basis, ensuring that 100% of funds given actually go toward meeting needs, not paying staff.

http://globalhungerrelief.com/news/detail/syrian-refugees

Who Is Persecuting Palestinian Christians?


No one needs to ponder whether Christians in Palestinian territories are suffering terribly. They are. Who’s to blame?

Christian persecution middle eastThere are very strong voices in the media and in political circles who point out that Israel is the country doing all the killing. Sure, Hamas is firing hundreds of missiles into Israel, but they don’t end up killing anyone because of Israel’s advanced “Iron Dome” defense systems.  Meanwhile, Israel’s rockets do reach their targets, and, so, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in recent fighting. Palestine has been an area of Christian influence for centuries. And Israel has been an unwelcome occupier of the land since 1948. Protected by her western allies, Israel is responsible for exerting its disproportionate force in such a way that Christians in Palestine are the ones who end up suffering.

Against this view, there are those who argue that Israel has done no wrong. They point out that Hamas—a known Islamic terrorist organization—has been in control of Palestine since 2007.  In the last decade more than 4,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza.  The rockets are fired by Hamas, Al Quds, and others, who launch the rockets from hospitals, elementary schools, and apartment buildings in order to prevent Israel from fighting back.  If Israel were to fight back, she would inevitably kill civilians, which would then create “martyrs” for media manipulation.  The entire affair is as cynical as it is sordid.

What if—instead of being sucked into the bi-polar, geo-political warfare being waged from both sides—what if we could hear directly from Palestinian Christians? Maybe we can. They have been speaking out for the past couple of years.  From a 2012 Gatestone Institute report,

In a rare public protest, leaders and members of the 2,000-strong Christian community in the Gaza Strip staged a sit-in strike in the Gaza Strip this week to condemn the abductions and forced conversions in particular, and persecution at the hands of radical Muslims in general.

Most of us are not experts on the political machinations of the Middle East. We rely on news reports, testimonies, and research we hope we can trust. And we must do our best to make sense of a situation that always seems to inflame passions more than light the way of truth. It isn’t easy. But here’s a thought.

Given the fact that these Christians are living in Hamas-controlled Palestinian territories, they would be applauded by their government and by the sentiments of the general population if they blamed Israel. Blaming Israel would be the most natural, most agreeable, and most simple statement for them to make.  But they have been doing the opposite. They have been protesting the treatment they are receiving at the hands of Hamas and their own leaders.  They have been saying that their people are being kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. And they have said this publicly at their own risk:

The protest has further aggravated tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Gaza Strip, which has been under the control of Hamas since 2007.

Leaders and members of the Christian community now fear reprisal attacks by Muslim extremists. Some have appealed to the Vatican and Christian groups and churches in the US, Canada and Europe for help. 

It seems to me that it would take much more courage for them to speak against their own Muslim (Hamas/PA) leaders than it would for them to Israel Flag God Favor Israel Ethnic National Christspeak out against Israel. Thus, I tend to believe that Palestinian Christians are in fact being persecuted by and, consequently, have been suffering at the hands of Hamas and other Muslim radicals in Gaza.

I’m not saying that Israel is always right. I don’t believe that. I don’t even believe that the land and geopolitical entity we now call Israel is particularly favored by God (as I have explained here).  There is no doubt that Israel’s wartime mentality is creating a terrible hardship for many, even if Israel has taken the unprecedented step of announcing ahead of time where and when she will strike. (See here for particular stories with varying degrees of blame toward Israel).

What I am saying, however, is that Palestinian Christians have been persecuted by the Hamas-led Palestinian authority. And at least some Palestinian Christians have been trying to speak up about it.  They feel that the media are punching the mute button toward their voice-boxes because their complaints don’t fit the typical political script.

At the end of the matter, of course, it does not matter who is to blame as much as what will we do? Will we help them with our prayers (1 Cor 1:8-11)?  Above all, let us pray that Christ Himself would be their strength, their hope, and their refuge through this awful storm in which they seem to have lost all their earthly allies.

For Krauthammer’s take on current Israel-Palestine crisis:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-moral-clarity-in-gaza/2014/07/17/0adabe0c-0de4-11e4-8c9a-923ecc0c7d23_story.html

 

 

 

Can Christians Persecute Christians?


One of the most enjoyable aspects of earning a Ph.D. is sitting through courses known as “colloquium.” Basically, a colloquium is a gathering of Ph.D.’s (and Ph.D. wanna-be’s) for the purpose of debating ideas and pushing one another to think more thoroughly on a given subject, whether the subject is a theological perspective on art or a discussion of the impact of Second-temple Judaism on the writings of the apostles.

 

John Bunyan

John Bunyan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day, the subject of our colloquium turned to persecution, and I was asked rather bluntly by a professor whether or not Christians could persecute Christians. I had not thought of the question before. It is a question which has rolled around in my head ever since. My answer now is roughly the same as my answer then, “yes.” But the yes needs some serious qualification.

 

First, let me explain why the answer is “yes.”  Then, I will offer some necessary qualifications. From history and experience, the answer must be yes. After all, it was Anglican leaders who persecuted John Bunyan, keeping him in prison for a dozen years because he dared preach the gospel without the approval of Anglican leaders. Likewise, King Henry VIII was the head of the Church of England when William Tyndale was persecuted to death at his behest.

 

More to the point, I have a pastor friend who told me of a Sunday service in which he dared to question the dubious (but popular) seven-year timeline of a Tribulation Rapture.  For his efforts, he was rewarded with the wrath of a 78 year-old, angry deacon. Not content to debate the text of Scripture with my pastor friend, the aging gentleman instead made his way to the front of the sanctuary, holding onto and pushing off of pew after pew, until he finally reached my friend and punched him across the jaw with all his might. Fortunately, there was not much punch left in the deacon’s punch, but the point was made all the same.

 

The point (it seems to me) is that the flesh of all men—even professing believers—gets very comfortable with its religious outlook. And the flesh today is no more subdued by the righteousness of Christ than it was a thousand years ago. Anytime the righteousness of Christ is proclaimed or displayed by faith, then the flesh must harden (as Pharaoh’s heart did) or break (as David’s heart did once confronted by Nathan).

 

My friend is not alone in stirring up wrath in his congregation. I cannot believe it seems unusual to have people angry enough to fight. If the word of righteousness goes out, then surely not every heart will be broken. Some will get angry—including some who profess faith. Oftentimes, religious people are the most ready to lash out against others who teach the way of Christ more accurately. I know of three men who faced the wrath of a congregation because they dared to suggest that professing Christians with white-colored skin are exactly equal to professing Christians with black-colored skin.

 

And now that I think about it, in my 15 years of preaching ministry, I have been invited to fight on at least 3 different occasions as a direct result of maintaining the righteousness of Christ. The pastorate is not a place for wimps, but it is a place for peace-loving men—like Christ—to proclaim the righteousness of Christ, and face persecution (like Christ). So, yes, even in the midst of those who should believe all that you are saying, persecution is quite possible.

 

Part Two: Distinctions…

 

What About Christians in Palestine?


What’s going on with Christians in Gaza where the Palestinian Authority is in control? The Gatestone Institute wants us to

The Coat of arms of the Palestinian National A...

know.

The following post can be found in its entirety at Gatestone Institute, an organization dedicated to educating the public about what the mainstream media fails to report on matters of human rights and freedom.

“The truth sometimes hurts; that is why the Palestinian Authority has been working hard to prevent the outside world from hearing about many occurrences that reflect negatively on its leaders or people.

In recent years, the Palestinian Authority leadership, often with the help of the mainstream media in the US and EU, has been successful in its effort to divert all attention only toward Israel.

Following are examples of some of the inconvenient truths that the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank do not want others to know about:

– Over 100 senior PLO and Fatah officials hold Israeli-issued VIP cards that grant them various privileges denied to most Palestinians. Among these privileges is the freedom to enter Israel and travel abroad at any time they wish. This privileging has existed since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993.

– Out of the 600 Christians from the Gaza Strip who arrived in the West Bank in the past two weeks to celebrate Christmas, dozens have asked to move to Israel because they no longer feel comfortable living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

– Dozens of Christian families from east Jerusalem have moved to Jewish neighborhoods in the the city because they too no longer feel comfortable living among Muslims.”

Read entire post…

Yes, America, There Are Pro-life Democrats


Are there any pro-life Democrats left in America? After the Democrat cave-in which came during the passage of Obamacare, and after the concomitant HHS mandate requiring contraception and abortifacient drugs be covered by all health insurance programs, the answer would seem to be an emphatic, “No!” The national platform of the Democrat party calls more or less for abortion on demand.

Still, there are some pro-life Democrats. I follow the blog of one such person, Rebecca Hamilton, a state representative from Oklahoma. From all I can see, she is a devout

Democrats For Life politics pro life

(Public Domain)

Roman Catholic who seeks to live out her faith in every aspect of life (not just during the Mass).  Her blog is tagged, “Public Catholic.”  I have a great deal of respect for her because she seeks to have her political ideals answer to her eternal faith. We all benefit from having such examples.

I encourage you to read through one of her latest blogs, as it will likely offend you whether you are Democrat or Republican. Such offense is good in the sense that it calls for a subjugation of your political party to your Christian identity.  Her concluding comment sums up the thrust of her plea,

I can’t emphasize enough that we need to stand and fight within our parties to change things. You cannot build a culture of life with half the people. It cannot be done.

Her heart is obviously in shining the pro-life light into an abortion-minded darkness within the Democrat political system. While I may not be as optimistic about her potential of success in the endeavor, I am quite impressed and encouraged by her effort.

She must feel alone much of the time. Her presence in the political arena as a pro-life Democrat is a reminder to all Christians that our faith ought never to be captive to any political animal, be it donkey or elephant.

 

Do You Know What Is Glorious?


Egypt Coat of Arms Muslim Persecution Christians

 

Christians in Egypt are glorious. Or, more precisely, Christ is being glorified through the lives of Christians in Egypt.

 

Since the so-called “Arab spring,” which toppled Hosni Mubarak and other leaders throughout the Middle East, Egypt has become increasingly more hostile to freedom and more open to Islamic rule.  As a result, Christians have suffered as the targets of horrific violence. And the results of their suffering? Glory.

 

According to this report from Charisma News, more than 10,000 Christians from all over Egypt traveled to a secret location in the desert north of Cairo for the sole purpose of worshiping Jesus Christ in the midst of their suffering. The effort—called “One Thing”—was designed to encourage believers to stay true to the one thing that matters in life:

 

“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.”

 

While we can certainly join them by praying for them, we can also take great delight in seeing the glory of Christ once again being glorified through suffering. Isn’t this indicative of the original gospel work He completed? It was for glory that Christ endured the cross.

 

Christians understand that the glory of Christ is on fullest display through suffering. Whatever suffering the saints endure is multiplied into an eternal weight of glory. So Paul says, For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).

 

If you want to know what is glorious, look to Egypt. No doubt, there is glory in Egypt.

 

Democrats Shunning Christians and Christianity in Charlotte


There was a much-hyped Muslim prayer rally sanctioned and embraced by the Democrat National Convention in Democrats shun christians anti christian pro muslimCharlotte. (Pre-rally hype estimated participants exceeding 20,000. Apparently, only 200 or so showed up). Muslims were invited and welcomed by the DNC. Christians were shunned.

Much has been made of the difficulty the DNC has had believing in God (and in Jerusalem) this week, but few have bothered to mention that Democrats officially distanced themselves from evangelical Christians.  While Democrats fully supported a Muslim prayer rally, they totally rejected a Christian one.

According to this report, Christians of all denominations and backgrounds joined together from all over the Charlotte region to pray for the nation.  The group of 9,000 hoped to “adopt a delegate” at the DNC, which meant sending a welcome basket to each delegate and giving them information about Charlotte and her churches.

The DNC officially denied the request of Charlotte 714. The reason?

According to David Benham, the organizer of Charlotte 714, “The mayor’s office texted me and said, ‘We regret to inform but we ask that you not send those letters, and not engage in ‘Adopt a Delegation,’ because your views on women are contrary to the convention.’”

Democrats obama pro muslim anti christianIt seems to me this move is more anti-Christian than anti-abortion.  (Both positions are deplorable).  Here is why the move seems more anti-Christian: The Muslim disposition is probably as anti-abortion as is that of evangelical Christians (see here).  While the move by the DNC indicates just how completely they have succumbed to the cause of abortion, it also appears to be signaling a future in which the DNC is progressively moving to separate from traditional Christianity.

3 Life Lessons from Listening to Groovy Music


When it comes to music, I got stuck in the ‘70’s.  In my mind, very little compares favorably to Carole King or James Taylor—or Gordon Lightfoot, America, or Seals and Crofts.  My favorite Spotify playlist is called “Dad’s Groovy Music” because since the ‘70’s, I have been groovy—the way a 33LP ought to be.

So it’s no wonder that I dig Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s most popular single: Southern Cross. (I know, it’s from the early 80’s, but it has the flavor of the 70’s.)   Ostensibly, the song is about the famous astronomical wonder down under: The Southern Cross.  In reality, the song is about the breakup of Stephen Stills’s marriage.  When understood in this context, the song contains at least three significant life lessons.

First—and I will admit that this first lesson applies more broadly than a single song—Southern Cross is about listening for redemption.  Some would argue that Christians ought not listen to secular music at all because it does not glorify God.  They would say that holiness demands our abstaining from Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I am not mocking their position.  The point is valid. I once cleansed myself of a 130 volume CD collection out of concern for holiness.  Music is a vehicle for carrying a message, and its message can easily carry us away from everything good. Never listen with an unguarded mind.  But if we listen with a guarded mind, we can find hints of redemption.

Here is what I mean. In the Old Testament, God’s people were told to be Holy because the Lord their God is Holy.  The same message is affirmed for God’s people in the New Testament.  But a significant change happened between the Old Testament and the New.  Jesus came, and with Jesus came redemption.  In the Old Testament, holiness took the form of abstaining from things the rest of the nations were indulging.

Life Lesson 1: In the New Testament, holiness looks less like abstention and more like redemption.  Meditate on Paul’s comments in Colossians 2:20-22, and you will see what I mean.[1]  Christians are holy through the redemption of Christ. We are alive to a new resurrected reality and, as such, ought to be those who point everything and everyone in this world to reality of Christ and His kingdom, which has begun.

So, with redemptive ears turned to the message of the Southern Cross, I offer two more life lessons.  These are easily grasped.  Stephen Sills wrote this song after his divorce in an attempt to find healing.  His crying out to his estranged wife is evident in the line: “In a noisy bar in Avalon, I tried to call you.”  He then admits that he understands why twice she ran away.

Southern Cross on Australia Flag

But in the chorus, he makes plain the permanence of marriage: “What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten.”  Stills even acknowledges that “spirits” are using him, and a larger voice is calling.  He gets that divorce cost him something real.  He gets that he needs something larger than himself if he will heal.  He looks to the heavens for his help but comes up short, finding only the Southern Cross. With redemptive ears, we can hear the permanence of eternal things even in secular lyrics.

Life Lesson Two: God has set eternity into every heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Listen to others with redemptive ears, and you will be able to point them to eternal realities.

Finally, realize that most folks live in a contradictory mindset.  While Stills gets the eternal nature of marriage, he feels also that it is lost. So, he must conclude, “Somebody fine will come along, Make me forget about loving you. At the Southern Cross.”  On the one hand, he sees that marriage is an eternal reality which cannot be forgotten.  On the other hand, when he feels all is lost, he professes belief that someone will come along who can erase it all.

If we listen closely to what others are saying, we might help them see that eternal things are real, and they need not give in to the contradiction.

Life Lesson Three: Eternity is real. Don’t live in contradiction.


            [1] Colossians2:20ff, If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence (NASB).

Christians in Egypt (out of Egypt blog)


I have been posting news concerning Christians in Egypt for the past few months.  On at least 2 occasions, I have posted under the title “Out of Egypt” (see here and here).  Now, the folks at International Christian Concern have begun a new blog specifically designed to keep us up to date about the persecution of Christians in Egypt.  Praise the Lord for this new blog.

Check it out and stay up to date on Christian persecution.  Presently, the website has testimonies and videos posted from Christian in Egypt.

Stay tuned for more important news on Christian persecution.

Christians in Egypt Attacked by Army


The Assyrian International News Agency offers the latest update on the case of Christians in Egypt.  According to their news report, the Egyptian army feels free to lash out at Christians.  From the story,

Lawyer Hany Ramsis, one of the organizers of the sit-in who was present at the time of the attack, told Coptic Free Voice “We were surprised by the army attack. The youth were cleaning the place and some families who came from the provinces were packing. There were around 500 people still there at the time of the attack.” He said the soldiers cut the wire fences and started running towards the people, shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

The story goes on to report that 15 or more Christians were hospitalized after the attacks.  Most of the 15 had a combination of broken limbs and head wounds.  There were reports of gunfire.  Some claim that Christians were shot with live rounds, but those claims have not yet been established.

The Christians were able to video the incident (which you can watch here). However, the quality of the video is rather poor.  The incident happened at 3:45 a.m., in what should have been the closing hours of a “sit-in” demonstration.  Christians have continued protesting peacefully in Egypt in order to settle their claims of abuse, oppression, and persecution.  The Christians had agreed to stop their protest for a 9-day period to give the government time to respond.  This incident happened just hours before the scheduled stoppage of the protests.

Christians have a very tough assignment in Egypt and the Middle East.  They need our prayers. Pray for Christians in Egypt (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).


More News About Christians in Egypt


As feared, the revolution in Egypt appears to be escalating the violence against Christians in the home place of the pyramids.  According to this news report, Christians in the village of Soul (which is 30 kilometers from Cairo) were ambushed by a mob of 7,000 angry Muslims.  The Muslims stormed the Church of St. Mina and St. George, setting the facility ablaze.

The church and all of its contents were lost.  Included in the loss were a number of ancient relics which the church had preserved.  In addition, the whereabouts of the pastor and three deacons is unknown.  Some have said that they perished in the blaze; others claim they are being held captive by the Muslims.

Nina Shea, who has been covering this story for the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, reports that the churches in Egypt are now more vulnerable than ever because the guards who once were keeping watch over them now are engaged in other matters relating to the protests and demonstrations.  The churches in the provincial areas remain unguarded and have become easy targets for Muslim violence.

On February 23, there were heavy machine gun attacks by armed men against two monasteries in Egypt.  Allegedly, these attacks were in response to “zoning violations.”  In the Soul village attacks, the reason for Islamic ire was ostensibly a rumored relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.  Muslims apparently were outraged that a Muslim girl would be involved with a Christian man, on the one hand, and irate, on the other hand, because of the unwillingness of the girl’s father to kill her in order to restore honor to the village. (See more on honor killings).

According to International Christian Concern, a similar instance occurred in a separate village which ended with two people being killed and another church torched. And, in yet another attack against Christians,  Nina Shea also reports that members of the Muslim Brotherhood stormed a Christian school in downtown Asyut, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” while attempting to take over control of the school.  The school was built a century ago by Presbyterians.

Suffice it to say, the news does not look good for Christians in Egypt.  Of course, some may say that the Christians must learn to stop angering the Muslims.  Maybe the Christians should work harder to comply with local, arbitrary zoning laws so armed militants won’t be forced to storm their unarmed facilities and unload heavy machine gun fire on peaceful monks.  Or, Christians could possibly commit themselves to refusing any urges of affection toward Muslims of the opposite sex.  Yet, even then, I suspect that some other reason for outrage would emerge.  It almost seems like Muslims in the Middle East just want to kill Christians.

Are Christians Persecuted in America?


Well, we have been discussing Christians in Egypt a good bit lately, but what about Christians in America? Do you think Christians suffer persecution in America?

It would be great to hear your opinions below. If you are interested in my attempt to answer the question rightly, you can check it out here.

Christians in a Muslim Egypt


I have been reading more to understand the situation in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. Freedom is indeed on the march throughout the Arab world. It is something that few thought was even a remote possibility. President Bush deserves credit for believing the impossible was possible throughout the Middle East (see here).

However, the significance of Egypt is much more than political.  The future of Christians in the Arab world could well follow the course of Christians in Egypt.  Will there be a place for Christians in Egypt?  Christians aren’t sure.

Part of the reason for the uncertainty is the uncertainty in the movement itself.  No one seems to have expected this uprising. There was no planned revolution.  No one is in charge of this sudden demand for democracy.  So, not surprisingly, Christians were surprised, too.  Christians were not sure of how to respond.  Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders were originally supportive of the status quo.  On February 1, they were still supportive of the Mubarek regime.  The Orthodox Christian Pope declared that the demonstrations were not from God.

Yet, by February 9th, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox leaders were encouraging their followers to join the protests for freedom in Egypt.  Now, Christian lawyers and professionals are joining with other professionals in Egypt to draft a new constitution.  The hot wind blowing throughout Egypt these days is the wind of democratic change. While their air right now is as filled with the hope of freedom as our air will be filled with pollen in the spring, Egyptians still have a long way to go—especially Egyptian Christians.

The main point of contention in the constitution is Article 2, which states that Egypt is Islamic.  Some are insisting that the new Egypt be an Islamic Egypt.  Others are hoping that the new Egypt will be a free Egypt which will allow the Christian minority to express freedom of religion.  Christians represent about 10% of the population of Egypt.  Of that 10%, only a tiny fraction is Protestant.  Most of Egypt’s Christian population is Orthodox.

Will Christians be allowed in the new Islamic Egypt?  Christians are hoping so.  They are asking us to pray for it in fact.  As this report makes clear, Christians view the prospect of freedom of worship to be a “second miracle.”  They never dreamed of democratic freedom.  Now that it is on the horizon, might they dare dream of the freedom of religion?

A major hindrance to the freedom of religion will be the role of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Whatever some Western elites might be saying about the “new” Muslim Brotherhood, the truth of the matter is that major Islamic terrorist organizations have their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.  Needless to say, Christians in Egypt aren’t excited about the prospect of an Egypt under their

Christians protecting Muslim Prayers

command.  Christians in Egypt admit that they have lived with the fear of the Muslim Brotherhood for the past 20 years.  They are not looking forward to 20 more years under their control. So, what role will the Muslim Brotherhood have in the new Egypt?  The verdict is still out.  Christians are praying that the future of Egypt is not given into their hands.

Finally, I mentioned the prayer protection ring earlier, and it has happened again since. The good news is that it proved reciprocal.  Christians encircled Muslims to protect them during their Friday prayers, and Muslims surrounded Christians during their Sunday worship service to protect them from the protesters.  Surely, this is a good message for all to hear concerning the potential for peace in Egypt, but it is not at all the end of the matter.  There are years and years of historical tensions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. The future remains an open question. So, maybe it is time for us to form our own prayer circle around Egypt for the protection of the saints.

Wondering About Christians in Egypt?


In case some of you are wondering how Christians are doing in Egypt, you can follow this link to a news report that paints a grim picture.  Notice that the violence is taking place in a rural area far from Cairo.  It surely isn’t getting reported, and, according to the article, our present administration appears either disinterested or unaffected by news of the persecution of Christians in Egypt.

Indeed, the news article offers another example of what I was speaking about in Bush, Jesus, and Egypt.  There seems to be support for “democracy” without concern for humanity, or at least without concern for Christian humanity.

Bush, Jesus, and Egypt


Bush, Jesus, and Egypt: How Democrats, Republicans, and Christianity Are Doing in the Middle East
by Gregory C. Cochran

In speaking about the Democrat Party, Gov. Mitch Daniels in his recent speech to CPAC said, “Our opponents are better at nastiness than we will ever be.  It comes naturally.  Power to them is everything, so there’s nothing they won’t say to get it.”   Believe it or not, he is speaking of something fundamental to the Democrat Party—not the nastiness.  I don’t mean here either to slander the Democrat Party or exalt the Republican. I hope only to explain the difference between the two parties and, in so doing, demonstrate how the two approaches are being played out in the Middle East.  In other words, I want us to understand better the political movements in America and Egypt.  History is offering us a teachable moment through current affairs in Egypt.

Many Republicans share Gov. Daniels’ disdain for democrats, while many democrats, likewise, despise the republican tendency to resist change and to “impose” values on others.  While nastiness is not endemic to either party, the other factors—a thirst for power by democrats and an imposition of values by republicans—are quite natural to the respective political parties.

Here is what I mean. By nature, democrats support democracy, meaning democrats believe in a majority rule.  What has to happen for the democrats to rule, then, is for the democrats to be the majority.  Thus, they naturally are quite interested in public opinion.  They will gravitate toward offices and institutions (media, academia) which shape public opinion because public opinion determines the rule of law in a democracy.

Republicans, on the other hand, hold primarily to the principle of the rule of law, a principle which says that certain things are never right regardless of what 51% of the people say.  Republicans, typically, are more conservative, in the sense that they are quite interested in preserving (or conserving) traditional beliefs and instruments which have been effective in the past.  By nature, conservatives aren’t as adept at stirring up the masses like democrats because they aren’t of the opinion that their causes are right or wrong based on the percentages of people who agree with them.  They don’t need majority support, they have the constitution.

I understand that I am oversimplifying and painting with very broad strokes in these descriptions of democrats and republicans.  Yet, at root, these are valid distinctions.  They are important distinctions.  The case of the revolution in Egypt brings out these distinctions clearly.  The New York Times has an article posted concerning George W. Bush’s role in stirring up democracy in the Middle East.  Yes, even the New York Times is able to see that President Bush—against public opinion—was right to assert that democracy would catch on in the Middle East.

Bush, of course, was a Republican. Yet, he advocated for democracy in the Middle East.  The New York Times article explains that President Bush—though advocating for democracy in Iraq and throughout the Middle East—was no fan of a “mere” democracy.  A mere democracy is one in which there is actually 51% rule.  Bush opposed such “democracies” on the basis that certain principles must exist in any democracy—such as the freedom of speech, a free press, and freedom of religion.  As a result, President Bush did not recognize Hamas as a legitimate democratic government, even though they were elected by 51% of the inhabitants of Gaza.  In Bush’s understanding of a democracy, terrorists organizations could not rightly rule.  The reason, of course, was that Bush—a republican—believed in a democratic republic, not in a mere democracy.  This is what another New York Times writer meant when he said,

The left has wrongly distilled President Bush’s emphasis on democracy into emphasis on elections, or on movements free of American influence. Bush rejected both those concepts. For Bush, like Churchill, democracy was a means to enable freedom; the ballot box was not the silver bullet.

So, President Bush advocated for an American democracy, a democratic republic in which a mere majority rule is not enough for a stable government.  There are checks and balances, even for the 51% majority, and that is a very good thing.  As we know, there was once a 51% majority who thought slavery was acceptable, and there was once a 51% majority who cried, “Crucify him! Crucify him.”  Both were wrong.  Even the majority is wrong on occasion.  Inalienable rights (such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) must be protected by law despite public opinion.

This reality brings us to the present state of Egypt.  Both democrats and republicans have applauded the freedom march of street protestors in Egypt.  Yet, both appear concerned about which direction the future march will take.  Democrats tend to lean toward accepting whatever government arises out of Egypt as a legitimate government because it is a government of the people. (I know this is oversimplifying again, but leaders in President Obama’s administration have already made statements justifying the Muslim Brotherhood as legitimate governing partners).  Republicans are sounding the alarms about the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in Egyptian governance.

The issue in Egypt (as in Iraq) is not whether 51% approve; it is whether there is a legitimate democracy.  Already, in the New York Times article mentioned above, you can see the disdain which some democrats have for placing “caveats” on democracies.  In other words, the democrat tendency is to accept majority rule, while republicans insist on basic principles of human rights to be enshrined in a constitution which does not rely on a might-makes-right, majority mentality.

Egypt’s future on (a) whether it will be a democracy and (b) exactly what kind of democracy might emerge is still an open question.  As an American—and especially as a Christian—I am quite concerned about what will happen next.  Even though there is a democracy in Iraq, for example, there is a terrible oppression of Christians there.  This post by Rich Lowry explains how, for Christians in Iraq, the democracy there has been a disaster.  Something President Bush should not applaud (at least not completely).

According to Lowry, an Iraq-type democracy in Egypt would mean “Lights Out” for Christians in the Middle East.  In one sense, his comments hit the mark precisely.  Democracy alone is not enough to preserve liberty.  Yet, in another sense, let’s hope that he is wrong.  There was once a Friday afternoon in which everything turned dark indeed for Christians from the sixth hour to the ninth hour, but three days later, there was a victory over every enemy known to man.  The light shone more brightly from that day forward. Sometimes, it seems, there may be darkness just before the dawn.  Let’s hope a new day is dawning indeed in Egypt and the Middle East.

Why All Christians Must Witness


In many countries around the world, there is a kind of “tolerance” of religions which says that you can believe what you want as long as you don’t proselytize anyone else.  In other words, you can be a Christian, you just can’t tell anyone about it.  Sure, you can be a Christian privately but don’t bring it in public.

I am sure there are many in America who would like it if we adopted this “I-wish-you’d-just-shut-up” policy. They foolishly and naively think that there would be peace if only the Christians would be quiet about sin and forgiveness. But Christians aren’t the cause of the lack of peace.  And, even if we were, the plain fact of the matter is that we cannot be silent.  Several reasons have been offered to explain why the mute button doesn’t work with Christians.

 

Some would say the main reason we are not silent is that we are commanded by Christ to speak, to witness to the glory of God.  We are commanded by Christ to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity and teaching them to observe everything that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).  This is the Great Commission of the church.  Though some have argued that this was meant for the disciples only or for the first church only, that position has not convinced many in our day.  We understand that the first disciples were the first evangelists, but they were not the only evangelists.  Philip and Stephen and Barnabas and Timothy and Apollos and the woman at the well in John 4 are all examples of evangelism in action by those who were not Apostles.  And Acts 8 makes plain that those who are persecuted flee to another city, where they, naturally share the gospel.  Christians feel compelled by the commandments of Christ to share the good news with the world.

Christians are compelled by love, too.  Far beyond the mere command from Christ that His followers should make disciples of all nations is the compulsion in the believer to love others.  As Christ taught, the whole law is summed up in the compulsion to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-40).  Because Christians have been loved by God (even though they deserved his wrath), they understand that love is freely given and not earned.  They are free to love all men, even the most unlovely among them.  So, Christians in love will share the love of Christ with others.

It only makes sense that Christians would be concerned for others.  After all, Christians have been where unbelievers are—strangers of God without hope.  We were captured by grace.  We tasted the bitter fruits of sin and were rescued from its destruction by the grace of God.  Therefore, without any haughtiness or pretense, we speak of the hope of Christ to others. Out of concern for their souls, we speak.  We desire for others to have what we have—peace with God and a certain hope over all things, even over death itself.  We would be callous and unloving if we did not want these priceless, eternal gifts to be available to others.

So, to put the matter in its simplest form, we witness because we are witnesses.  Christians cannot be silent because we are completely remade by the Word of God.  The Word has made us new creatures.  The Word has reshaped our minds, our hearts, our loves, our hopes, our priorities, and our joy.  So, how can the Word not be heard?  God’s Word always accomplishes the purpose for which it goes out. God’s Word will be heard.

To understand what I mean, try holding your breath. Oh, sure, you can do it for a while, maybe a minute or two, but not longer.  The reason is that our lungs are designed to breathe.  What they inhale, they must exhale.  And so it is with the church of God.  What she breathes in, she must breathe out.  And the individuals in the church breathe in the Word of God, and, so, they breathe out the Word of God.  It is that simple.  Christians share because they are Christians.

We are the light of the world. Light shines in the darkness.

‘Save That Sound Bite; It Might Come Back to Haunt Him’ – By Kathryn Jean Lopez – The Corner – National Review Online


Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewed Barry Rubin,Director of Global Research in International Affairs and author of 2 books concerning Egypt and Islam.  She asked him the following question. I post the question and the response so you will get an idea of what it’s like for Christians in Egypt:

Lopez: Human Rights. Christians. Democracy. Any of these winners today?

Rubin: Christians in Egypt, truth be told, are likely to lose either way. A more radical regime is likely to tolerate more attacks on them, a weak moderate one is likely to tolerate attacks so as not to set off Islamist militants. The existence of some anarchy will also endanger them.

via ‘Save That Sound Bite; It Might Come Back to Haunt Him’ – By Kathryn Jean Lopez – The Corner – National Review Online.

Super Bowl Guilty in Sex Trafficking?


Is the Super Bowl responsible for encouraging child slavery and prostitution?  Some believe the Super Bowl is particularly effective for drawing pimps and prostitutes to its mass gathering of maleness.  So, hats off to a group of Southwestern Seminary students who have started “Lose the Chains,” an advocacy group to (once again) fight against slavery in America.  This time, of course, the slavery is sexual slavery (the kind that a Planned Parenthood employee was willing to facilitate in New Jersey).  Lose the Chains became especially active leading up to the Super Bowl because of the claim that this super sporting event is a particularly lucrative lure for the pimps who “own” these girls.

Other media outlets doubt the veracity of the claims that the Super Bowl causes a spike in sex trafficking.  As the Legalblogwatch points out officials in Tampa (2009) and Phoenix (2008) have stated that they saw no increase in sex trafficking while their towns hosted the Super Bowl.  Nevertheless, this same post points out a couple of notable factoids.  First, Legalblogwatch states that the media who are writing articles skeptical of the presence of sex trafficking have themselves been investigated for it.  Apparently, there was an incident in which a website owned by Village Voice Media Group (the media outlet behind skeptical reports) was accused of running an ad in which a 13 year-old was sold into sexual slavery. Second, the writer at Legalblogwatch does not mention Miami—the host city from the 2010 Super Bowl.  According to this report from Time, officials in Miami reported as many as 10,000 additional prostitutes were brought into the city during Super Bowl week.

In addition, the skeptical writer cross-checked the arrests records for the World Cup and found there were “just 5 arrests for forced prostitution.”  I wonder, is that an argument for or against the point that super sporting events encourage sex trafficking?  Is the fact that there were “just 5 arrests for forced prostitution” at a major sporting event a good reason to stop fighting sex trafficking?  What exactly is our comfort level with regard to enslaving teenagers in prostitution?  For my part, I’d say even “just 5 arrests” is too many.  Five cases of sexual slavery is five too many, but we all understand that these five arrests say nothing about how many traffickers there actually were.  How many got away without being arrested?

The Time Magazine blog offers a more balanced look at the figures and reports that Christian groups staged a preemptive strike against sex trafficking in the Dallas-Fort Worth area leading up to this Super Bowl.  Thank God for Christians working as salt and light in the world to be a witness to what is good.

Good work has also been done in Cincinnati and, now, in Atlanta.  Sadly, Atlanta is proving to be a hub for human trafficking and, especially, for child prostitution.  What this means, of course, is that the Super Bowl is not the problem; it is only the opportunity.  The problem is sin in the heart of those who would enslave needy children for sex and for profit.  The problem is in the heart of those whose lust would lead them to use and abuse girls and boys.  The perverts, the pimps, the pornographers, and the Planned Parenthood-types who prop them up are the problem.  The Super Bowl is not the problem.  Sin in the heart of men is the problem.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what devil a person…” Jesus in Matthew 15:19-20.

 

Atlanta http://www.christianindex.org/5678.article

Super Glory (Don’t Miss It) « Doc Cochran’s Weblog


Super Glory (Don’t Miss It) « Doc Cochran’s Weblog.

It is Super Bowl Sunday, so, we have to be reminded of what is true glory.  The Super Bowl is a glory-filled event, but…

What Are Christians Doing in Egypt?


What about the Christians in Egypt? What are they doing during this revolution?

I forewarned (here) that the protests in Egypt might bring on more violence against Christians, and it has.  Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute details one of the latest attacks in this article.  The Barnabas Fund chronicles other hardships Christians are facing in Egypt.

Yet, the Christians are not defeated by on-going violence against them.  I thought it might be interesting for you to consider the various ways which the Christian minority in Egypt is responding to this present crisis.

According to Jordan Sekulow in this account in the Washington Post, some Christians are joining in the protests with others who are standing for democracy in Egypt.

Over at the IMB, stories are being told about avenues opening up for the spread of the gospel in the midst of what otherwise might be chaos.  Indeed, there is a long history in Christianity of turning violence into opportunity for doing the good work of spreading the gospel (see Acts 8:1-4).

And, finally, there is this incredible photograph (which you probably will not see on mainstream outlets).  It shows Christians locking hands to encircle a group of Muslims, enabling them to carry out their prayer obligations.  (The picture was posted here).  Amazing.

Christians in Egypt Making a Protective Wall so Muslims Can Pray

Christians to Hold Prayer Day for Egypt amid Civil Unrest | Christianpost.com


Christians to Hold Prayer Day for Egypt amid Civil Unrest | Christianpost.com.

We should all join in praying for Egypt and especially for the Christians who live there.  They have been oppressed and persecuted for years, and it is not certain what will happen next.   Of course, the Lord knows what will happen next.  May He bless His people with the hope they need to persevere.  It is interesting that all of this has broken loose just after the Pope issued his sermon encouraging Christians there.

A Closer Look Into Iran


Typically, all we know about Iran is that they are going nuclear, and we (meaning Americans) might be in danger from such a move.  Sure, as Christians–as well as  Americans–our  interests are political.  We ought to be concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  However, we Christians have a much larger concern (as is pointed out nicely over on Big Circumstance).

Our larger concern is, of course, the spread of the Gospel.  This excerpt from Operation World points out that the Good News is indeed spreading in Iran.

Disillusionment with the Islamic Revolution still grows and spreads. Thirty years of war, economic hardship, a strict authoritarian government and lack of freedom yield widespread disappointment, especially among the younger generation. Iranians’ sense of disconnectedness with their rulers – and even with their national religion – makes them exceptionally open to the gospel. The long and respectable history of Christianity in Persia, the Church’s noble suffering under persecution and the natural bridges between Shi’ism and Christianity make for unprecedented opportunities for church growth. There is a great hunger for the good news and for authentic spirituality.

The great hunger is presently on display in the growth rate of Christianity in Iran:  nearly a 20% increase per year.  That is both amazing and praiseworthy.  However, it is also prayer-worthy.  Operation World projects the number of Christians to be somewhere between 100,000 and 400,000.

Out of a total population of more than 75 million, Christians still represent a very small minority.  Yet, as we have said, the numbers are growing rapidly.  Christians are no longer “under the radar.”  They are known and, thus, they are–as Christ said we always would be–targets for persecution (Matthew 5:10-11).  Because the Christians are now present in recognizable numbers, they are being persecuted.  As this story relates, the persecution has increased since the beginning of the year.  They need prayer, and they are asking for our prayers.

A Way to Help the Persecuted


Below is a plea from Open Doors USA for you and me to help persecuted Christians in Iraq:

Please take a moment to sign a petition to Secretary of State Clinton asking her to work with the Iraqi government to immediately form and implement a comprehensive plan of action to protect the dwindling community of Christians in Iraq.

The number of Christians in Iraq has decreased from an estimated 850,000 in 1991 to 330,000 today. Thousands have fled Iraq and now reside as impoverished refugees in Syria and Jordan. Of the Christians that remain in Iraq, more than half are internally displaced due to violence and constant threats against them by Islamic extremists.

Violence against Christians in Iraq has rapidly escalated this past year including a bomb attack on three buses carrying Christian students in May 2010, the siege against Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral in Baghdad in which 58 were killed in October 2010, and also the murder of an elderly Christian couple on December 30th who were killed by a bomb left in front of their house.

The Iraqi government clearly has not made protection of Christians in Iraq a priority. The U.S. government needs to strongly encourage and work with the Iraqi government to protect Christians and other religious minorities before they are all driven out of Iraq. History continues to demonstrate that where religious freedom flourishes, stable democracies, strong economies, and healthy societies develop. Considering the immense financial commitment the US has made in Iraq and the tragic loss of American and Iraqi lives, it is imperative that we hold both the US and Iraqi governments accountable to ensure religious freedom for all people in Iraq!

To accomplish this we are asking that you
sign a petition to Secretary of State Clinton raising these concerns. Please share this petition with your friends and family. The more signatures we gather, the greater influence we will have on our current administration in prioritizing the protection of vulnerable Christians in Iraq.

Advocating with you,

Lindsay Vessey
Advocacy Director
Open Doors USA

Largest Democracy


Check out this video and pray today:

Smith and Wolf Good Job


Two Republican congressmen have done the right thing in calling for Secretary of State Rice to take action against the mistreatment of Christians in China.  Particularly in view here is Pastor Bike’s family.  China Aid Association documents the matter on their website. It is worth checking out and voicing your support.  With all the political rancor out there, it is good to see some of our congressmen actually working to serve others.