Religious Liberty in the Toilet


I was minding my own business, just making the regular afternoon pilgrimage to the men’s room. Out of nowhere, a colleague popped in and asked me a most unexpected question:

refugee-mother-and-child“Are you upset with how the world is responding to our new president? I bet you’re unnerved by the way the world thinks he’s a Christian!”

As a rule, I don’t debate politics much anymore. I certainly don’t do so in the men’s room. But the question struck me—blindsided me—with such swift assault that I mumbled my reply before having time to think. My reply was something like,

“It doesn’t matter who the President is; many folks will assume he is a Christian because he represents the U.S. And besides, I don’t think he will be worse than our last President.”

I think it was the last remark that left my friend so shocked and unsettled.

“What… what do you mean?” he replied.

There in the men’s room, I proceeded to unfold a litany of failures from the last decade which have led to a wholesale depopulation of Christians from the Middle East. (For one such example, see Nina Shea’s article concerning the Obama Administration’s reluctance to use the term genocide in defense of Christians.)

Many examples could be offered about damage done to Christians over the past ten years, but the gist of my frustration centered around the Obama administration’s orchestrated attempt to redefine (weaken) the concept of religious liberty in the U.S. Once the concept was weakened in the U.S., the reverberating effects around the world were easy to predict. If Christians in the U.S. aren’t free to bring their beliefs into the public arena, then why should Communists rulers in China grant Christians free speech in public?

The U.S. has been the beacon lighting the way for religious freedom around the world. When the main light goes dim; all lights emanating from it get darker and darker. The last decade has seen religious liberty go pretty dark.

To illustrate, consider Elliott Abrams’ article in Newsweek last fall which featured the startling headline

The U.S. Bars Christian, Not Muslim, Refugees from Syria.

Abrams explains,

The headline for this column—The U.S. Bars Christian, Not Muslim, Refugees From Syria—will strike many readers as ridiculous.

But the numbers tell a different story: The United States has accepted 10,801 Syrian refugees, of whom 56 are Christian. Not 56 percent; 56 total, out of 10,801. That is to say, one-half of 1 percent.

In a recent Christianity Today article, Arab church leaders were quoted as being opposed to the policies of the Obama administration. These same church leaders thought the Trump Executive Order would have the effect of causing more Christians to leave Iraq and Syria–an outcome they don’t wish to see.

I don’t mean for this post to be political, just like I didn’t intend to get into a political debate in the men’s room. But there is no doubt Christians have suffered terribly for the past ten years, partly because of our political decisions. Let’s hope and pray the next decade will be less violent and intolerant toward Christians.

Why hate family?


According to Jesus, discipleship begins with complete allegiance to Him as Lord. Even the bond of familial love must yield to the eternal relationship of divine love accomplished for us in Christ!

Shockingly, Jesus said, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and

persecution love hate uganda

Creative commons

wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

There’s no record of Jesus possessing any particular animus against fathers, mothers, sisters, or brothers. On the contrary, his statement here is not against families as much as it is for disciples. Why would Jesus issue such an ultimatum to his would-be disciples? Because he loves them!  His gospel really is the only means of escaping a perishing world under God’s sentence of death. If one wishes to escape sin and death, he or she must flee to Jesus Christ alone. It’s all or nothing. Life or death.

And Jesus is life.

This past May, Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa found life. He was so glad to be rid of his demons! For years, Tenywa had been tormented by demons. He says he was oppressed by them until he received Christ at a local gathering of Christians. While all of heaven surely rejoiced at this one sinner becoming a follower of Christ, those living in his village in Uganda were enraged against him. Before his conversion, 53 year-old Kuluseni Tenywa had served as the Imam of his Muslim village.

After his conversion, everyone in the village turned against him—everyone, including his wife and his four children. According to Morning Star News, his wife berated him, calling him an infidel and refusing to offer him food. By late June, a mob—led by Tenywa’s brother-in-law—had come for him. They destroyed portions of his farm and his store and intended to take decisive action against him. Desperate, Tenywa felt he had to flee for his life. He ran from his village, from his home, from his family on June 27. He has not seen them since.

Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa has thus far proved himself a faithful disciple of Christ. His life reflects the sober reality Jesus himself unfolded for his followers: “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt 10:36). Sadly, the world has turned against this brother, but if God be for Him, who can stand against him!

Would you please take a moment to pray for this brother in Christ? His wife and children need our prayers, too. You can read more of his story here.

Should Beheaded Christians Be Called Martyrs?


A good and thoughtful friend of mine recently asked whether I thought journalist James Foley should be called a martyr. In general, the question would be whether American journalists who profess to be Christians are martyrs when they are killed in Muslim lands.

Christian persecution definitionI am actually uncomfortable asking and answering such questions while the matter is still so fresh for the families. These families need our prayers more than our debates about martyrdom. But people are asking the question and making declarations about James Foley being a Christian martyr. So, I thought it might be best to re-post a blog concerning the definition of persecution as I understand it from the Bible. A martyr is one who remains a faithful witness through persecution. If there is no persecution (on account of Christ), then there can be no martyrdom. On that account, professing Christians like James Foley (or Dietrich Bonhoeffer) might be heroes or icons of courage, but they are not martyrs.

Read the post below and decide for yourself.

Tryon Edwards, great grandson of Jonathan Edwards, once said,

“Most controversies would soon be ended, if those engaged in them would first accurately define their terms, and then adhere to their definitions.”

Edwards was perhaps too optimistic about the end of controversy, but he was right to note the power of definitions to bring clarity and, perhaps, unity. Definitions are important things. A trip to the local reference section of a library or bookstore proves beyond doubt that we think definitions are important things.

Consider the prevalence of English dictionaries. There are dictionaries for synonyms, dictionaries for war terms, for business terms, legal terms, theological terms, psychological terms. A seemingly endless stream of dictionaries flows from the ocean of words which break upon the pages of our literature and, thus, land upon our minds, enabling and empowering our thoughts. Our thoughts ride and move upon the surf of words.

But words do not always come as docile tides bathing a white sand shore. Words break upon our ears and often crash into our minds challenging our very existence. As the existentialist Sartre declared, “Words are loaded pistols.” And that is often true. Defining words can be a dangerous game because words are the means by which reality takes its shape.  Consider, for example, how the Nazis defined treason and loyalty. And consider the implications for Germany and the world.

In our own culture, consider how important it is to define the word person. It has become a deadly word for babies developing in the womb because they have been excluded by definition from the semantic range of the word person. If a baby is a person, then it has the rights of a person. If not… So, you see, subtle changes in the definition of words can have cataclysmic long term effects for us. Definitions are exceedingly important.

Two particular words Christians must define in our own day are marriage and persecution. The first is necessary because Christian Persecution Realthe word is being redefined.  The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has fallen on notoriously difficult times, and marriage is now successfully being redefined to include same sex unions. In fact, as I’ve noted in prior posts, the new definition of marriage demands no boundaries on the basis of avoiding all discrimination. A recent federal case in Utah may now allow group marriages (read about it here).

Because marriage is now redefined, Christians will be tested on whether or not they believe what they have been saying about their own definition.  Do we as Christians believe God’s monogamous design for heterosexual marriage? Will Christians stand on these convictions? What if group marriages, gay marriages, or even bestial marriages become matters of civil rights? Will Christians remain steadfast in their biblical convictions? Will we pay the price in persecution? What if churches will lose their tax exempt status as a result of monogamous marriage commitments? What if pastors are convicted of civil rights crimes—or hate crimes—and sent to jail for refusing to marry a small group of lovers?

Persecution will likely flow from the deluge of court decisions against traditional marriage. Thus, Christians ought to start defining persecution so we understand what and why we are suffering.  Persecution means many things to many different people. I read an article recently which stated that wild birds were being persecuted in northern England.  Whatever the journalist covering bird crime in Great Britain meant by his use of the word persecuted, the Christian must understand it much differently. Both Christians and birds of prey can be hunted and threatened with extinction, but Christians alone are human beings created in the image of God and charged with witnessing to His glory. Birds are not people and, thus, not created in God’s image.  Persecuting birds is not the same as persecuting Christians. But Christians will be persecuted. Thus,persecution is a concept which needs to be properly defined. Here is a good, biblical definition of persecution:

Persecution is a retaliatory action against the revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ which is represented or proclaimed by the followers of Jesus Christ. 

The definition is helpful for Christians so we can test ourselves (as Peter commands) to make sure our suffering happens because of Christ and His righteousness, not because of our own stupidity, arrogance, or offensive behavior. The definition is also helpful so we can experience the full joy of the blessings of Christ (Matthew 5:10-12). Finally, the definition is important because we will likely be facing persecution of a more intense nature than at any time in America’s history.

Here we return to Edwards’s point. Definitions do provide clarity and can lead to unity. Often, however, the clarity itself leads to controversy.  Such controversy by no means argues for de-emphasizing the need for definitions. Rather, the controversy serves further to clarify where to stand, when to stand, and how to stand. And if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. If you do stand for something as a Christian, you will face persecution. Define your terms so you will know why you suffer.

And as you suffer, remember the words of your great Shepherd: “Blessed are you.”  Learn from this Shepherd the definition of being blessed—even when you cannot be united on account of the words you have learned to define.

How to Pray for Christians in Iraq (4 Ways)


Thank you all so much for your willingness to stand with our brothers and sisters in Iraq. Many of you have been using the Arabic “N” symbol below on your Facebook or Twitter profile to show your concern for Christians being targeted for extortion and/or extinction by soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  God bless you for identifying with our brothers and sisters under attack.

Christian persecution mosul IraqOthers are understandably cynical about simply changing a profile pic as a reminder to pray. You think it’s too small of a gesture—that we must do more. And of course you are right! We all share some of that same attitude, I think.  Our American “can-do” mentality begs for a place to direct our anguish. We want to “do” something about the situation.  I spoke with a zealous young man today who graciously—yet excitedly—challenged me to “do something.” “We have to do something. Tell me what to do!” He cried.

My first response was to embrace his angst wholeheartedly. We really must do something. Our Christian brothers and sisters have been marked for death.  Their wages have been stolen.  Their homes and their homeland is now instantly closed to them. If they stay, they will be killed. If they leave, they will lose everything they once relied upon—houses, cars, money, jobs, friends. The situation is brutal.  Surely we can do more than pray!

And yet, upon further reflection, I reminded my young friend that prayer is no small thing. We ought not too quickly dismiss its potential for saving our fellow saints.  As James reminds us, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).  James uses the example of Elijah whose prayers both caused and cured a drought in Israel which lasted 3 ½ years.  Imagine—a man with a nature like ours altering meteorological phenomena for more than 1,000 days in a row!  (Talk about man-made global warming!) James could have chosen many other examples such as the prayers by Israel which brought about her Exodus from Egypt and Egypt’s destruction:

Christianity Today Mosul Christian Persecution #WeAreN

Mosul Christian Home (source: Christianity Today)

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.  Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” Ex 2:23-25 (ESV).

God knew! Are we to wonder whether God—now that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have been more clearly revealed—is still near and dear to His people? May it never be! Jesus Himself swore that He would never leave nor forsake His people (Hbrws 13:5) and that He would be with them even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20).  And so the all-powerful, all-knowing God of infinite love remains faithfully concerned for His people and capable of accomplishing great things on their behalf. With that in mind, we can (and must?) pray in at least these four ways:

Fervently from the heart.  Our prayers must be urgent, zealous, fearful, yet fully-fired with faith. Think of it this way: What would you do if you came home from work this evening only to discover that a gang had captured your sister and informed her that she had 24 hours to pay a ransom or die?  Would that not be a fiery trial that would cause you to cry out to God on her behalf? Would you not shriek with horror and beg for mercy? Fiery trials no doubt beget fiery prayers. There is a sword at the throat of our family. Pray!

Second, Despairingly—from a position of weakness. This may sound odd, but I take my cue from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11,

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

Notice how Paul admitted being excessively burdened—beyond any human strength. Is that not the burden our brothers and sisters are under now in Iraq?  What earthly power is (a) willing to save them and (b) able to save them?  Some (like the U.S. Military) seem able but not willing.  Others perhaps are willing but not really able.  So, where are Christians to turn?  As we pray for our brothers and sisters, we should pray from the position of complete and utter despair of human deliverance.  In that position, Paul says, we find our sure hope of trusting not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead!

Third, Victoriously—as though Christ has truly been raised from the dead. Who could ever have imagined that eternal life would spring from the humiliating execution of a stricken, smitten Jewish carpenter?  And yet, our Christ has been raised from the dead!  The Apostle Paul took courage and believed in his own deliverance from the mouth of death because of the Resurrection life of Christ.  Pray for our brothers and sisters to move from the Christian persecution Mosul Iraqdespair of their current situation to the victory of Christ’s Resurrection.  God is no less able to deliver today than he was when Paul was preaching the gospel in Asia (and the Middle East). So pray to God that he would raise the dead to new life in Mosul, Iraq. Pray for the current loss to be made gain.  After Stephen was martyred (Acts 7), the early church was scattered on account of the increasing persecution. Nevertheless, the gospel went forth with power everywhere the Christians fled.  Even so, God’s gospel will triumph somehow. Pray for His people in Iraq to trust God’s purposes by faith.

Fourth, Effectively—as though you expect your prayers to affect much. The prayers of saints saved Paul’s life. Why not now? Why not the lives of those in Mosul, Iraq?  If, as we see in 2 Cor 1:11, the churches were able to secure Paul’s release from certain death, then why would not be possible today for our prayers to be the very means God uses to deliver Iraqi Christians from what appears a certain death? Is our God no longer able to deliver? Surely, God is no less powerful now than He was on the day He delivered Daniel or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!

My friend and I talked about how we would love to help others learn to pray for the persecuted church. We will continue thinking about our prayers for the persecuted, and we hope to be providing much more helps in the future, Lord willing. So, stay tuned…

Don’t Read This …Unless You’re Ready to Count the Cost of Discipleship


Since my friend Don Whitney posted a Tweet about this incident in Somalia, I have been unable to stop thinking about the sober reality of Christian faith. The world hated Jesus Christ when He ministered among men. And the world hates him still.

Persecution Cost of DiscipleshipThere is a robust theological heritage in Christianity which asserts that humans are sinful by nature. According to John 3, men love the darkness and hate the light. Paul says human beings actively suppress God’s truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1). And Moses, long before either Paul or John lived, said that our hearts are full of evil, continuously, even from our youth (Gn 8:21).

Somewhere along the line, Christians forgot the reality of the sinfulness of sin. I once preached a 35 week series on the sinfulness of sin. A visitor one day asked my wife politely, “Does he ever preach on topics other than sin?” I may have been guilty of overstating the case… maybe. But the situation with the persecuted church today makes me think I could never overstate the awfulness of sin.

The incident in Somalia is a sober reminder to us all of the fact that the world hated Jesus, and the world still hates those who love Him. Jesus is present with His people (Matthew 28; Acts 9; Hebrews 13). The presence of Jesus is odious to unbelieving nostrils. As Paul says, it is the aroma of death to death to some.

Sadly, a group of non-believing Muslims in Somalia sensed the presence of Jesus in the lives of two women, Sadia Ali Omar and Osman Mohamoud Moge. They were cousins. Omar had two daughters, ages 8 and 15. These two girls watched as the Muslim men brought their mother to the middle of town and there beheaded her.

Why were these women beheaded in the town square in Barawa? As with John the Baptist, so it was with these two women: They walked in the way of righteousness. The presence of Christ was with them, and that was unbearable to the Islamic militants of Barawa:

 “We know these two people are Christians who recently came back from Kenya – we want to wipe out any underground Christian living inside of mujahidin [jihadists’] area…”

The mere fact that these were Christians was enough of a crime to justify their being beheaded.  The incident was not about the global war on terror. It was not a political event. It was not about “Muslim-Christian” tensions. It was not extremism—well, it was, but that is really not the point.

The point is simple. As Jesus stated, “You will be hated by all on account of me” (Matthew 10:22).  If you are a believer in Christ, you will be hated. Most likely, neither you nor I will face the severe cruelty of a public beheading in front of our children. But we will be hated by some. Like Jesus, we will love others, but they will sometimes return that love with hate, slander, and persecution.

May our Lord God have mercy on these two girls and the rest of the family members grieving the loss of these two saints martyred in Somalia. Surely, Omar and Moge are absent in the body, but now present with the Lord. Perhaps they, too, are gathered around the Lord’s throne, crying, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

Will Germany Help Syrian Christians


Deutsch: Dr. Angela Merkel Bundeskanzlerin der...

Deutsch: Dr. Angela Merkel Bundeskanzlerin der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Vorsitzende der CDU Deutschlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the founder of a ministry to the persecuted church, I am well aware of the serious degree to which Christians are suffering from North Korea around the globe and back to Malaysia. In Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, Christians are routinely beaten, imprisoned, or killed because their faith in Jesus Christ cannot stay secret or silent.

There is no doubt that Christians are the most persecuted people on the planet right now, but Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany and the daughter of a Christian pastor, has come under inexplicable fire for stating what ought to be obvious to all: Christians are in danger.

Thankfully, Chancellor Merkel has not cowered yet to the liberal pressure to stop standing up for Christians. In fact, Merkel recently called on Germany to exercise its right to defend Christians by welcoming the persecuted Christians from Syria. As I have chronicled before, Christians in Syria are being squeezed from both sides and are in severe danger of being wiped out completely in some areas.

Without a doubt, many in the German government will fight her efforts to protect and preserve Syrian Christians; so we must pray for Germany and for Merkel. We must be thankful that at least one European leader has the moral fortitude to see the violence for what it is and to actually reach out to those in greatest need, rather than sitting on the fence hoping not to “anger” those who are violently imposing their religion on all Syrians.

Thank you, Angela Merkel, and (hopefully) thank you, too, Germany.

Dishonorable Killings Continue


Lahore City Centre

Lahore City Centre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just read this devastating account of a couple in Lahore, Pakistan, who killed their 16 year old daughter because she was talking to a young man. In many Shariah-compliant Muslim communities, parents are driven to kill their children (almost always their daughters) in order supposedly to preserve the honor of the Muslim family.

As I have written before, I cannot think of much that could be more dishonorable. Yet, this kind of killing is not uncommon. In Pakistan, for example, there have reportedly been at least 1,000 such killings this year. Astounding, isn’t it?

The Muslim Persecution of Christians Continues Unhindered


The targeted killing of Christians continues in Nigeria. As we have seen before, Boko Haram is well financed and likely well connected. They are continuing to carry out attacks on a routine basis.

This past week, they attacked St. Rita Church in Kaduna state by driving an SUV loaded with explosives through a wall of the church and into the church building itself. In theChristian Persecution past, the bombs were detonated outside the buildings in parking areas. This attack is an ominous indicator that these Jihadists are growing stronger, more sophisticated, and more diabolical.

Christians are sheep in the midst of wolves in Nigeria. Of course, this has been a common theme of Christianity from its inception. Though Christians understand the cost of discipleship, we also understand the pain, the grief, and the fear which accompanies these targeted murders against friends and family.

Sadly, Nigeria is not alone in this suffering. Christians throughout the Middle East are suffering horrendous tortures. Benjamin Weinthal has a nice post chronicling some of these atrocities at National Review. He rightly concludes,

The Islamic world is immersed in an epidemic of persecution against Christians.

Apologists for Islam and mind-numbed peaceniks will scoff and turn a dubious brow toward such bald statements as these; but the truth could not be more plain for the world to see. Muslims are persecuting Christians at an alarming rate around the world.

What will we do?

 

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.

 

Are We Asking the Wrong Question About Violent Islam?


In his recent U.N. address, President Barack Obama boldly prophesied that the future would belong to those who do not insult the prophet Muhamad.  I both hope and suspect his is a false prophecy.  The problem with his approach is that it is impossible. Exploring the question of what insults the prophet Mohammed yields answers as varied as Teddy Bears and movie trailers. Consider just a few of the “offenses” to Islam which led to rioting, violence, and killing:

Miss World pageant(2002);

Down with Muslim Terror

Creative Commons

Newsweek (2005);

Cartoons (2006);

A Teddy bear (2007);

Facebook Photo (2012):

Speech from the Pope on how all religions should agree that Murder is wrong (led to worldwide murders);

And, finally, free speech itself offends some Muslims.

Honestly, it would be easier to state the one thing that apparently doesn’t offend violent Muslims: Perfectly enforced Sharia Law in a Muslim state.  Everything else (as noted above) is offensive to violent Islam.  Sadly, violent Islam speaks for the Muslim world. Non-violent Islam is unheard over the noise of terror.  And violent Islam is offended by anything and everything that is not complete submission to Islam.

Playing the shell game of which action will offend Muslim terrorists is about as liberating as deciding which handcuffs you want to wear, which color you want your prison jumpsuit to be, or which weapon you’d like used in your own execution. Such decisions might feel liberating in the moment, but they will never end well.

When it comes to appeasing Muslim violence, accommodations lead only further into fear; accommodations are by nature admissions of defeat.  It’s time to admit that non-Muslims aren’t the problem. America is not the problem. Christians are not the problem.

Women Becoming Targets for Violence in Egypt


The Apostle Paul once lamented the fact that he was guilty of throwing women into prison (Acts 22:4).  Though it is politically incorrect to say, it is also patently obvious to see that women are, according to the Scriptures, the “weaker vessel.” As the typically more physically dominant of the two sexes, the man (again, according to the Scriptures) has an added responsibility to honor and respect the woman, ensuring her well-being. If he fails, then his relationship with God suffers, as his prayers will no longer be heard (according to 1 Peter 3:7).

I bring up this topic because not all religions and not all government authorities think the same way about Muslims Target Female Missionariesprotecting women. Even in the U.S., some are grossly offended at the notion of a man “protecting” his wife. Still, hidden within the most liberal critique of Christian instruction lies a biblical necessity of protecting the woman from harm. So, Susan B. Anthony—a champion of women’s rights—once stated:

Trust me that as I ignore all law to help the slave, so will I ignore it all to protect an enslaved woman.

Her comments came against a critique levied against her when she decided she had to help an abused wife run away from her abusive husband.  (Sadly, it is true that women need to be protected from men at times, when they should be protected by them). Biblically, the call is clear that women are to be honored and protected.

As controversial as the above statements may feel to some, they are completely benign in the global realities of this present world. The Christian view does not demean women; it protects them, honors them, and counts them as equals before God.  The Muslim view, well…

In Egypt, the U.S. Embassy has put out a notice for female missionaries to be on extra alert because, apparently, they are being targeted by violent Muslims.  According to the Embassy, there is “credible information suggesting terrorist interest in targeting U.S. female missionaries in Egypt.”

Are We Losing Our Free Speech? Two Stories Which Make the Point


Earlier in the week, I noted how the largest American mosque is equivocating on free speech. Now, two more stories have erupted which keep the issue on the table of concern for anyone who cares about basic human rights.

First, the U. N. Secretary General (Ban ki-moon) asserted that stringent limits should be placed on free speech. Free speech lost two stories christianSpecifically, he notes 2 general guides which would severely limit (if not eliminate altogether) free speech.

The first limit he thinks should be imposed is positive: Speech should be free as long as it promotes common justice and the common good. While this sounds “positive,” it is actually destructive. Who decides “common justice” and “common good”?  Most likely, it will be the group with the most uncommon political clout. This means there will be no minority dissent possible, as it would go against what is perceived as the common good. That this concern is accurate is reflected in the fact that Ban’s comments were made in response to the satirical movie on Islam. Any criticism of Islam would prove to be not for the “common good” because it might provoke violence.

The other limit Ban seeks is negative: Speech is not protected when it provokes or humiliates another person’s beliefs or values. What Ban is saying in this restriction is, basically, that free speech should no longer exist. It’s difficult to see what speech of any substance could reach this bar. Criticism of sexual beliefs would be deemed humiliating. Criticism of Muhammad or Islam would be humiliating. Ban’s idea of free speech is an offer for us all to accept the government’s great ventriloquist routine in which we just sit in the government’s lap while one voice does all the talking. The U.N. is leaning toward a ban on free speech.

The second story which has outed its discomfort with free speech is much closer to home, from the L.A. Times (ironically enough).  In this story, the author, Sarah Chayes, argues that the movie trailer may not meet the threshold for free speech because of its propensity to put people in imminent danger of violence.

Again, this is strange because, historically, when speech was considered violent and thus not free, it was speech in which someone stirred up someone else sympathetic to his cause for the expressed intention of provoking these allies to violence. When Muslims respond with violence to free speech acts, they are doing so against those who made the speech act.  In other words, the relationship is one of enemies, not of allies (see further here).

Even more insanely, the violence is typically directed toward the person(s) who made the speech act. In the case of the recent movie trailer that supposedly started the violence (but really did not), the makers of that movie are now in hiding because their lives have been threatened. So, again going back to a previous post, this ends free speech as we know it. Now, the person who speaks out is also guilty of inciting a riot—against himself!

Free Speech

Public Domain

From the standpoint of freedom, this shift in our thinking reflects the loss of free speech in any meaningful sense. More important, if this new and twisted way of understanding free speech is allowed to stand, then Christianity will effectively be outlawed. How can a Christian preach Christ exclusively without also insulting Islamic beliefs and values?

While many undoubtedly would welcome the demise of Christianity, they should also take note of the offense Muslims take against homosexuality and women’s rights. The Christians may be the first shut down, but they won’t be the last.

Is America’s Largest Mosque Against Violence (or Free Speech)?


Hassan Al-Qazwini

Hassan Al-Qazwini (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Well it is good to hear the largest mosque in America speaking out against the violence Muslims are perpetrating around the globe. Al Qazwini, imam at the Dearborn mosque, has even stated that Muslims cannot tolerate killing. Yet, even with this ostensible condemnation of Muslim violence, Al Qazwini offers three very troubling remarks for those who care about freedom.

First, this imam’s definition of “inciting to violence” displays vision that’s about as clear as, say, Mr. Magoo’s.  After a quick condemnation of the violence in the Middle East, the imam pontificates about the urgent need for stringent action to stop those inciting violence. What the imam means is that there needs to be stronger action against people who make movies that criticize or insult Muhammad.  In other words, there must be stronger action to shut down free speech if it happens to be speech against Islam.

This imam has a fuzzy definition indeed.  Whatever one wishes to say about the putrid nature of the film trailer, he must admit that it did not call anyone to violence against the U.S. embassies in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere. I don’t think it even called for violence against Islam.  Since when did making fun of a religious leader equal inciting to violence? If that were the case, the Monty Python group would have been drawn and quartered years ago.

Second, the only call to action we get from Imam Al Qazwini is a call to shut the movie-makers down.  Indeed, he offers two reasons these movie-makers ought to be silenced. The first reason to silence them is for the supposed safety of American diplomats abroad (like Chris Stevens, the ambassador killed in Libya).  This is an odd concern.  From whom do these ambassadors need protection, the movie-makers? No.  They need protection from violent Muslims. Muslims—not movies—are the problem that must be addressed.

The second reason Al Qazwini gives for silencing the movie-makers is that they “have blood on their hands.”  This charge is unconscionable to me.  It asserts that the people who made a movie mocking Islam are guilty of murdering the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. Nonsense. More and more, the evidence is making plain that the attacks in the Middle East were not spontaneous and had little, if anything, to do with the movie. Even if the movie were involved, the movie is not an act of war like the attacks on a U.S. Embassy are acts of war. The violence here is 100% on the side of the Muslims and must be completely condemned as such, with no admixture of excuse.  When Imam Al Qazwini calls for action against movie-makers and says something must be done against them, he is showing his real concern is not Muslim murderers but movie makers. Actions speak more loudly than words.

Rally at Dearborn Mosque against violence and movie

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Finally, the equivocation is unmistakable in this article. And it is reprehensible.  Anytime in the article that there is a hint of condemnation related to the murders committed in the Middle East, there is at least equal condemnation against those who made the Innocence of Muslims movie.  This is insanity.  The end of the article offers a plea to rally at the mosque against violence, a rally “to condemn the attacks on U.S. embassies and an anti-Islam video that angered protesters.”  The rally would have been much more helpful without the “and.”

If Islam is a religion of peace, then Muslim leaders must condemn violence outright, without hesitation and without any hint of excuse. I am not making these remarks out of so-called “Islamaphobia” or hate; I am offering an honest critique which explains (reasonably) why many people struggle to believe Islam is a religion of peace.  And, even more importantly, I am offering glimpses into the future (or lack thereof) of free speech for Americans—especially for Christian Americans, who cannot afford to be silent. Your comments and questions are always welcomed.

Trending: Persecution Thinking on the Rise


Chris Stevens and three other U.S. Embassy officials are dead. Murdered. Who did it? According to most journalists, a movie did it. I’ve watched a great many “Who Done It” movies, but I think this is the first time the movie “done it.” How can a movie kill?

In the twisted logic of news outlets from MSNBC to the New York Times, the violence was “sparked” by the film’s Christian Persecution Trendingproducers and by one of its infamous promoters, Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who once threatened to burn a Quran.  Several different headlines read, “Film on Muslim Prophet Sparks Protests” (see Reuters).

This kind of reporting is perverse, but popular.  It’s trendy.  It’s fashionable to place the blame for violence on those who supposedly incited it. (After all, they are usually more compliant criminals than those who threaten further killings when confronted).  As a Christian, I would say that this misguided effort of blaming the non-violent for the actions of the  violent is “trending.”  Consider these three examples:

In 2001, Harry Hammond, a street preacher in England, stood in protest of the homosexual and lesbian lifestyles at a pro-gay rally.  Basically, all he did was hold signs which read, “Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord.”

Hammond was assaulted by a crowd of three dozen or more angry attendees.  He was also fined for inciting violence (even if it were against himself).  No one in the crowd who assaulted him was charged.  Hammond appealed, but died before his appeal was heard. He was again condemned after his death.

Muslim Murder Theo Van GoghIn 2004, another filmmaker was apparently guilty of inciting violence (against himself).  Theo Van Gogh made a short documentary detailing the stories of four women who claimed they were abused in Islam.  For his efforts, Van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim, who claimed to be representing all Muslims. The murderer left a note on Van Gogh’s body and had another note with him. The notes made clear that Van Gogh was not the final target: America, Europe, Holland, and others were. Still, many blamed Van Gogh for his “controversial” film.

Even in America, this nonsensical approach to violence has taken root. This past June (2012) in Dearborn, MI, a group of street preachers brought signs to a public festival celebrating Arab life.  For their protests, the street preachers were assaulted with bottles, cans, rocks, milk crates, and language that would have embarrassed Howard Stern.

The police threatened to arrest the preachers for inciting a riot.  Ultimately, the police made them leave the festival; then, on their way home, the police pulled them over for having too many people in their van. No one throwing rocks and bottles was addressed, even though there is clear video footage of many who were hurling projectiles toward the preachers and making threats against them.

The trend is toward criminalizing “hate speech,” blaming those who hold to “hateful” ideas for the violence that ensues, rather than holding violent people responsible for their crimes.  Right now, those “hateful” ideas include opposition to homosexuality, opposition to abortion, or concern about the violence of Islam.  In the future, other hateful ideas such as spanking your children or teaching them your Christian faith will likely “incite” riots and violence.

When it comes to the persecution of Christians this is a growing trend.  More and more, those Christians who remain steadfast in their moral beliefs are labeled as “hate” groups for what they believe—especially if they dare to utter such beliefs publicly.  This represents a complete corruption of the ideals established in the original USA, a place which allowed both freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

For now, we are struggling to understand how to frame these issues. I would suggest we all should at least be able to state what our Secretary of State said:

“The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

Beyond that, I wish we would learn to be more clear.  For example, when we hear the President of Egypt call for the prosecution of filmmakers in America, why not respond with, “How about we first worry about prosecuting the murderers who killed an American ambassador?” Or, when news media attempt to blame Terry Jones or Sam Bacile for Muslim rioting, why not alter a line from the NRA and say, “Movies don’t kill. Muslims kill.”

I understand that last line is a bit provocative, but the onus of peace is on Islam. If they cannot condemn violence and if they respond to free speech with threats of violence, then they will only further the perception people have of Islam—that it is a violent religion. When news reporters feign outrage at a movie maker yet do not charge Muslims with wrongful violence, they are making matters worse (and making themselves look foolish).

UPDATE: (There is now evidence that the attacks were planned around 9/11 and that the Embassy knew about them in advance, indicating that the violence was not outrage against movie clips.)

Feel free to express your own opinion politely.

Separate But Equal Now Being Demanded by Muslims?


 

Are Muslims in Denver taking us back to the Reconstruction days of  Plessy v. Ferguson? Americans instinctively Separate But Equalrecoil nowadays at the thought of “separate but equal” laws.  How can we possibly single out a group of Americans based on their skin color, ethnic background, or religious preference? Such separation denies basic freedoms inherent in the Constitution.

And yet, Muslims in Denver might ironically be asking for separate but equal treatment in order to remain true to Islam.  There is an ABC News story concerning a controversy at the Denver International Airport.  The controversy has to do with whether it is legal or not for the airport to announce the times of the Catholic Mass.

In former times, the airport announced the services without a problem. Then, someone complained. Now, the airport will no longer announce the services.  That is the basic summary of the controversy.  The real issue that caught my eye, however, was a throw-away line from the ABC story.

At the very end of the story, the writer says the chapel (in which the Roman Catholic services are to be held) is jointly owned by an organization of Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Muslims.  The Muslims, however, have a separate (but equal?) meeting room.  A number of websites have reported that the separation is on account of Muslim refusal to share the same chapel space with Christians.

So, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about sacred space in Islam.  Some websites quoted Surahs in favor of Muslims maintaining strict separation from Christians and Jews. Do any of you know what Islam teaches about sharing a public meeting space with people of other faiths?

If the situation is actually as it currently appears, then tons of other questions will be raised in my mind concerning the interaction of Muslims with the various other faiths represented publicly in the USA.