Who’s Gonna Fill Frank Wolf’s Shoes?


George Jones once asked through the lyrics of a country song, “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?” Released in 1985, the song pays homage to country music legends like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Patsy Cline. For a country music purist, the question is a pertinent one.

Empty shoes Frank Wolf PersecutionHowever, many upstarts have volunteered to fill the famous shoes of country music superstars. Indeed, there will be more legendary performances by future legendary singers. Fame (and fortune) will always draw a crowd.

Truly legendary character is much harder to replace. Take, for instance, the retirement of Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently said of Representative Wolf, “No one fought harder for the persecuted church around the world.” Moore rightly termed Frank Wolf “a hero.”  Who in congress will replace Frank Wolf?

Sure, there will be plenty of suitors for the office of representative. The Washington Post reports,

The battleground district, which stretches from McLean to the Shenandoah Valley and whose seat has not been vacant for more than three decades, has attracted a host of potential contenders from both parties.

But filling an office is not the same as filling Wolf’s shoes. Just as a great many country music wannabes have sought to become famous for their abilities to entertain, so, too, there will be a host of hungry politicians seeking to increase their political influence through possessing congressional office. But who will fill his shoes?

Who will use the influence of his office to call attention to lowly, politically disconnected Christians suffering injustice around the world? Why bother speaking up for Christians? The media do not care about their plight. Some would say the current administration does not care about their welfare. And a cynical observer of church activities might even make the case that professing Christians themselves are unconcerned. Representative Wolf famously called out Christian leaders as a result of their silence on the issue.

Caring for the persecuted church is not in vogue. It isn’t sexy. It won’t win you very many friends. It might even get you castigated from some social circles of influence. So, again, why bother? It seems to me there is no politically motivated reason to bother. There is no popular reason to bother (as there is with lobbying for gay marriage, subsidizing green energy, or providing birth control and abortion funding through federal healthcare legislation).

Who indeed will care for the most severely mistreated minority on earth? I don’t know, but I am glad Representative Frank Wolf did. His office will be filled, his shoes?

It’s About to Get Real


The news story from North Korea this week is making its way around the blogosphere and through social media outposts, and I am very glad that folks are realizing more and more that Christians are the most persecuted group of people on planet earth. Thank you, Lori Stanley Roeleveld, for your recent post concerning the execution looming for 33 of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Christian Persecution RealThe Washington Times reported (3/6/14) that Kim Jong Un will execute 33 Christians soon because of their activities on behalf of the underground church in North Korea. On the one hand, it is further confirmation that there are believers in North Korea. On the other hand, of course, it is further confirmation that Christians in North Korea are in grave danger.

Sadly, not enough leaders around the world seem concerned about the persecution of Christians. As I noted months back, when leaders to speak out (see Angela Merkel story), they are mocked and ridiculed. Most leaders choose—as our current White House has done—to remain quiet in the face of atrocities committed against Christians in North Korea. –To be fair, the White House might be conducting a lot of business behind the scenes. We don’t know for sure that they are not; however, the message is clear that standing up for the rights of suffering Christians is not a high priority.

So Christians in North Korea continue to suffer in silence. In many ways, we are rightly shocked by this grotesque display of disregard for human life. In other ways, however, we must admit that this has been normal through human history. Eric Foley, a missions strategist working out of South Korea, makes two great points in response to the situation in North Korea.

First, he clarifies that the actions of North Korea are nothing new. This is no new “war against Christians,” Foley asserts. This is business as usual. The current plan to execute 33 Christians is merely a reflection of the everyday attitude the North Korean government holds against Christians.

This is simply the West being able to see what North Korean underground Christians have always known, which is that the Christian faith is not welcome in any form in North Korea.”

Second, Foley notes that the gospel is a life-or-death matter for North Korea’s Christians. As Foley says it,

There is no back door for the gospel into North Korea. The only way the gospel can advance is at great personal cost.”

What Foley is admitting is what Jesus taught His first followers:

18“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you… (John 15:18ff).

What’s new in all of this? Nothing, really. Jesus called those who would be His disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow him

Christian Persecution

Source: Reuters

(Luke 9:27).  Basic discipleship includes a willingness to die—like a grain of wheat—in order to produce a new harvest of gospel fruit. Jesus has never been confused about the cost of discipleship.

But we have lived in privileged conditions in the (formerly) Christian west. We have grown accustomed to protections which, in the future, we likely will not have. The times are changing, and the reality of persecution is looming more severe on our horizon, too. The concept of human rights is no longer rooted in the justice of the God of the Bible. So, what is real today in North Korea is what has been real throughout history. Nero burned Christians to light his garden at night. Bloody Mary burned hundreds who refused her catholic faith. And Kim Jung Un is scheduled to execute dozens in a futile attempt to eradicate Christ’s presence from North Korea.

The persecution of Christians in North Korea is real. And, if history is a reliable indicator, it’s about to get real for us, too.

Are People Worth More than Plants?


Are human beings exceptional? Is there something about humans which makes them intrinsically superior to dogs or ants or even poisonous stinkweed?

If you saw my post yesterday, then you will already know the answer is, “Yes!”  Human beings are intrinsically of greater value than weeds and wildlife. Jesus once told His Human exceptionalism Image of Godfollowers, “Do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).  The Bible is plain that human beings alone are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6).

Having jettisoned the Bible and the God of whom that book speaks, many people now are not sure that humans excel plants and animals.  Just the other day, a friend told me of an incident concerning his dog. A colleague at work insisted that the dog was a part of his family. My friend held firm to the categories he uses to classify animals: Pets, Predators, and Food.  Never do animals attain the status of persons in his classic taxonomy.

Another friend of mine from back in the swampland moved to Colorado for his job, which happens to be surveying land. I asked him what the difference was between surveying in Colorado as opposed to surveying in Louisiana. His response was simple: In Louisiana, you must plan about two hours of machete work chopping away still unclassified weeds before beginning the survey work. In Colorado, not only can you not machete any living thing—including weeds, but you must also be extra careful not to damage anything growing on the land.

Now, don’t take the concept of human exceptionalism to mean that you can run roughshod over everything on the earth that isn’t human. That is not the point. The point is simply to affirm the undeniable reality that taking a machete to stinkweed is not a crime, while taking a machete to a child is heinous murder.

I am sure there are some who think this point is too simplistic and represents a straw man argument. After all, no one believes that weeds are equal to humans, right? Wrong.  Increasingly, countries like Bolivia and Ecuador, along with cities like Pittsburgh, Santa Monica, and, now, Yellow Springs, Ohio, are passing ordinances to recognize the “rights” of plants and animals.

Wesley J. Smith—a man who has done more than nearly anyone to uphold the intrinsic value of human beings—has detailed the Yellow Springs city ordinance calling for equal “rights” for nature.  As Smith points out, more than 20 cities in the U.S. have adopted similar ordinances, giving the equivalent of human rights to plants.

The aim of those passing such laws is to elevate the value of nature, but the arrow they shoot is off the mark. The result of their efforts is not to elevate nature but to denigrate humankind. Here’s a part of the Yellow Springs ordinance:

In addition, the ordinance recognizes the legally enforceable Rights of Nature to exist and flourish. Residents of the village shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of natural communities and ecosystems.

Isn’t it interesting that it requires human beings to uphold the rights that are supposed to belong to the plants?

Blind Unbelief: China and Chen Guangcheng


“Blind unbelief is sure to err…” so penned William Cowper in his final and perhaps most poignant hymn, composed in 1774.  Of course, Cowper wrote from a Christian perspective and, though he suffered terribly from depression, he understood that God’s ordering of and teleological purposes for creation would always prove wise and good in the end.  A nation whose laws adhere to these same basic truths is able to govern itself according to the wise and good end that God has built into creation.  That nation will prosper as it conforms to the actual reality of God’s creation. A nation which forsakes God’s ordering and insists on its own is—in Cowper’s words—sure to err.

Such is the situation presently in China.  As this Guardian story reports, China is presently reeling from its own, self-imposed moral crises. Having rejected God and God’s ordering of reality, the Communist government in China has been forced to implement its own.  As every Communist government eventually learns, enforcing your own reality is a monumentally cumbersome affair.  Have you ever tried to fly a kite when there is no wind? Communism requires intense effort and strict enforcement for its policies to fly through even a short space of human history. Most often, just as with the kite, Communism has face-planted into the ground. China is still struggling to fly without reality’s wind.

Blind unbelief refuses to acknowledge the eternal realities which happen to be imprinted indelibly in the human psyche (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Inevitably, then, Communism clashes not just with its own people, but with reality itself.  Such is the case in China today.  The blind unbelief of the Communist vanguard was usurped by the courage of a self-taught, barefooted, and blind lawyer named Chen Guangchen.

According to Chen’s friend (and Chinese human rights advocate) Bob Fu, Chen escaped from house arrest by climbing over a wall behind his house. He has found refuge now in a location described as 100% safe in Beijing. Chen had to navigate blindly both the back wall of his property and a small army of as many as 90 Communist guards, falling more than 200 times in the process,yet persevering to his victorious escape.  In his triumph, Chen has done more than embarrass the Communist government, he has exposed it.

Truth can be called error for only so long, and then it has a way of creeping back in as persistently as water seeps through a roof or light finds a way through the smallest crack in the door.  Truth persists.  If nothing else, the blind lawyer has forced the world to see the undying nature of truth.  The blind lawyer was able to see the reality of Communist impotence.  For Communism (or any totalitarian regime) to work, a certain view of reality must be imposed and enforced.  Dissent cannot be allowed because by its nature it dispels the reality of the darkness. When light enters a room, darkness disappears. Thus, the light of dissent is, as the Germans would say, verboten in Communist countries.

In China, the State expected to be seen as the benevolent supplier of human aid and the aim of all human effort. That dynamic only works insofar as the people succumb to the notion of the State as god. What happens when a blind man starts to see the inhumanity of the State’s actions?  If the State is god, then how can it err?  Chen believes, of course, not only that the State can err, but—more urgently—that the State grossly erred in forcing women to kill their babies for the good of China.

Chen exposed the barbarity of the forceful imposition of the inhumane idea that human beings are a burden on the resources of the benevolent State–and of the further idea that as the supplier of all resources, the State thus has the right to rid itself of such burdens.  Invading the eternal, God-created wall of human dignity, the Communist government breached the most intimate parts of its women and stole from them babies whose composition had been knit mysteriously together in what ought always to remain a protected place—the mother’s womb.

Ignoring the eternal wall which God enshrined, the State ran roughshod over its weakest people. With its legal and authoritative siege-works, the State breached these intimate, feminine walls. Chen could see the barbaric injustice of such an oppressive abuse against women.  So, he spoke. And, ironically, the Communist government thought it could silence eternal truth with its own man-made walls.  As Cowper said, blind unbelief is sure to err.