What About Christmas Persecution?


Andy Williams famously sang of December as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  With the smooth, mellifluous tenor that also floated our emotions down “Moon River,” Andy Williams made December special, calling friends and family to unite around the gift-giving spirit ushered in originally by God Himself.  Nowadays, Williams has passed on, and God has become a problem.

 

While it is true that Democrats booed God when he was mentioned at their convention this year, it is also true that the booing

 

The Andy Williams Christmas Album

The Andy Williams Christmas Album (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Democrats are not alone in wishing God weren’t really alive. More and more, Americans seem to have a problem with God.

 

Because Christmas is a recognition of the love of God for us, it, too, must go. As David Limbaugh wrote, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Christmas Must Go.” Christmas is growing less welcomed in America.

 

Andy Williams’s song says,

 

There’ll be parties for hosting 
Marshmallows for toasting 
And caroling out in the snow 
There’ll be scary ghost stories 
And tales of the glories of 
Christmases long, long ago

 

Sadly, people can no longer tell tales in America of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.  The U.S. Navy is one of the latest groups to join the cancel Christmas parade.  They banned the nativity scene on naval bases in Bahrain this year.  Closer to home, Santa Monica, CA, once called “The City of the Christmas Story” because of its elaborate Christmas displays, now has abandoned the public display of the traditional Christmas Nativity.

 

As Christians, we are saddened by this loss of tradition and discouraged by the rejection of everything good about this Christian celebration; however, we must not be surprised. While it is true that the shepherds rejoiced at the arrival of Christ, it is also true that the king grimaced and plotted the child’s demise.  There is more the spirit of Herod and less that of the shepherds in America these days.

 

Yet, just as the jealous King Herod could neither accomplish his own diabolical will nor thwart the righteous will of God, so, too, will it prove true in America that Christ and His church will ultimately reign victorious. The kingdom will advance despite those who marshal their forces against the Lord’s bride.

 

When Christ came to his meager throne in a borrowed manger on that first Christmas morn, he came not to ask permission or even to make salvation possible:  He came to make salvation certain. His resurrection and ascension sealed the certainty of God’s accomplished will. The kingdom has, in fact, come, and God’s will WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Therefore, even if nativity scenes are against this nation’s law, and even if the babe in the manger is a forbidden danger which the self-righteous, politically polite insist we must avoid—still, there will be a few aliens and strangers to the world who will delight in telling the tale of the glory of that first Christmas long, long ago.  It’s okay for us to be of good cheer at this happiest time of the year.

 

 

Give Thanks to Almighty God (Says the President of the United States)


Happy Thanksgiving! We set aside today to remember Him to whom all thanks is due. Thanksgiving was instituted by

President George Washington First Thanksgiving Proclamation Almighty God

proclamation of the President of the United States–George Washington–on October 3, 1789.  You do not need for me to explain it to you because you can read it for yourself below. As you can see, the holiday was national and overtly religious.

Thank you, Almighty God, for the freedom our souls enjoy in Christ.

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Religious Liberty Is Important for All Americans


For more than three years now, I have had an unsettling fear that religious liberty in America is on the wane. Turns out, I am not alone. A movement is afoot among state legislatures across the country.  According to Baptist Press, there is a plan in place to have caucuses for religious freedom in every state legislature by the end of 2013.

This movement is significant because every American—including the atheist and the agnostic—will be less free without religious liberty. A look at the history and function of Religious Freedom in Americareligious liberty will demonstrate what I mean.

Historically, it is not arbitrary that Religious Liberty is our first liberty.  The First Amendment to the Constitution (which includes the freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and addressing grievances with our government) is anchored in the reality of religious liberty.  The freedom to speak and to call out injustice flows from the freedom to believe in reality beyond the governing authorities.  Religion is all about these greater realities.

Charles C. Haynes and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development have chronicled 29 influences religion had upon the founding of our nation. Their point is that without affirming religion, one cannot understand American history. Ours is a history founded on religious freedom for the individual.  Benjamin Rush (one of our “Founding Fathers”) speaks thus of our history of religious liberty,

The only foundation for a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Benjamin Rush Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical, 1798.

As important as religious liberty is to our history, it is even more important to our functioning as Americans.  We have all likely heard of the “rugged individualism” which forged a nation from the frozen streams of northern winters to the barren plains and western deserts.  America has been a remarkable experience of entrepreneurs and innovation. From the telephone to the iPhone, America has always sought to excel—each generation outdoing the past in an ever-upward pursuit.  But such individual-inspired accomplishments are not possible without liberty. And liberty is not possible without religious liberty. Here are two reasons religious liberty benefits all Americans (not just Christians).

First, religious liberty empowers individuals.  It is born of the spirit of Luther—a spirit in which one man can stand against his government and against the world on the basis of truth as dictated by his own conscience. One man—through principled conviction (like Martin Luther King) or through the flourish of individual creativity (like Alexander Graham Bell)—one man can change the world. That is the spirit of America grounded in the spirit of religious liberty.  One man following the dictates of his conscience can call all men to a greater tomorrow if he is free. For him to be free, he must be free to obey first his own conscience and not some government mandate or tyrannical dictate.

Second, religious liberty begets excellence. The reason religious liberty is fundamental is that it frees the individual to call the government (and all citizens) to a higher standard of justice and liberty for all. On what grounds would an individual need redress of his grievances with his government except on the grounds of injustice? Such redress means that justice itself is a higher reality than the government. If men are free to believe in God, they are free to call others to a more excellent reality than that which the government prescribes. While the government must enforce basic laws and rules, the government is not the final authority on the highest truths and greatest impulses of America’s citizenry.

Religious freedom liberty America religionEach individual should be free to explore and create and call others to greater truths.  If, instead, the government is able to define reality for its citizens, then freedom in any meaningful sense is lost. The individual becomes free only in the sense that he is free to choose between government-mandated options.  That’s not First Amendment freedom; that’s a Third World loss of freedom—like the freedom of Chinese families who can choose to have a boy or a girl (but not both).

Sadly, government mandates are trumping individual freedom of religion in the Obama administration.  More and more, religion is welcomed less and less. The HHS mandate in Obamacare is exactly the opposite of religious freedom.

Obamacare mandates—against the religious conscience—that employers must provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.  The freedom of religion that the Obama administration has in view is a freedom restricted to the gathered congregation on Sunday morning—not the freedom of religion necessary for individuals to flourish—not First Amendment freedom.

It may seem to some that the HHS mandate concerning “contraception” for women is just a “Catholic” issue or a “Christian” issue, but it is not. When Christians, Muslims, and Jews are forced as individuals to provide for abortions against their faith and their own consciences, they are being asked to rob America of excellence—to stop calling America to higher truth. In effect, they—we—are being asked to just shut up and do what Uncle Sam says.  And that is neither free nor good.

Christians will likely face intensifying persecution, but all Americans will lose. America will be smaller when religion—especially Christian religion—is muzzled. Don’t take it from me. Listen  to another of the early Americans,

Without morals, a republic cannot subsist any length of time, they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion…are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” Charles Carroll to James McHenry November 4, 1800.

Study Indicates America Losing Freedom of Religion


 

My posts recently have shown a growing concern for the loss of religious freedom in America. Unfortunately, the trend away from liberty is global. Since 2008, the number of countries with severe restrictions on religious liberty has increased by 23 percent, according to the extensive new study recently released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

This new study, titled “The Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion,” details global hostilities against religion. It is a

Religious Freedom down Hostility Up

Freedom Down, Hostility Up

treasure trove of bad news for worshiping people, showing an ever-increasing number of countries elevating hostilities against people of faith.

Since President Barack Obama took office, several countries he has invested in have also lost freedom.  Russia (the “reset button”), Afghanistan (the “real”war), Indonesia (Obama’s boyhood home), and the Palestinian territories—have all been recipients of administration outreach and have all increased in hostility toward religion over the course of President Obama’s tenure.

It would be foolish to assert that President Barack Obama is responsible for the rising tide of hostility toward religion, but it is factual to say that the President’s efforts have not helped to make these countries any freer for people of faith. Personally, I wonder whether the hostility toward Christianity in America isn’t spreading to the rest of the world. There was a time when America was a beacon of freedom, calling other nations to a higher standard of liberty. Now, however, America is sliding away from genuine First Amendment freedom. Thus, it is no surprise that others are, too.

For the first time since the Pew Forum has been publishing this report, religious hostilities have increased in the U.S.  In addition, restrictions against religion continue to increase in the USA.  Could it be that restrictions against religion facilitate hostility toward religion?

 

Films Don’t Kill, Islamic Militants Kill


I will have a fuller article posted later (and maybe a podcast or video), but I felt the need to get this thought out: Films do not kill people.  Why must this be said? Because article after article makes it sound as though the Muhammad Film is responsible for protests, violence, and murder.

Whatever one thinks of the film (and it looks deplorable to me), the film has killed no one. The film will not and cannot kill anyone.  The violence Muslim Violence over Muhammad filmdoes not stem from the film.  The violence stems from Muslims who do not like the film.  They are offended by the film. They do not have the right to destroy property and commit murder based on that fact. Would anyone have considered it acceptable for Christians to riot and kill embassy officials in response to The Last Temptation of Christ? Instead, that movie got rave reviews and was nominated for an Oscar.  No Christian stormed an embassy. And no one would have approved if he had.

Why, then, is it quickly becoming an accepted meme that this Muhammad film has led to protests, violence, and murder? The film did not do that. Muslims did that. To put the blame on the film–and even on Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who threatened to burn a Koran–is to appease violent people out of fear of them. In other words, it is cowardice.

UPDATE (September 19, 2012)

According to this story, even the White House is now having to admit that the attacks in Libya had nothing to do with the movie trailer for Innocence of Muslims. It was  pre-planned attack using heavy artillery.  The U.S. policy apparently was to “minimize” our presence there so as not to incite violence.  Thus, our Ambassador is dead.  Clearly, the movie is not to blame. It’s incredible how error spreads like a prairie fire.

Update Two: According to the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, the film had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Libya.

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.

 

Yes, Persecution Is an American Concern


In light of the recent shunning of Christians by the Democrat National Convention, this post by Rebecca Hamilton at Patheos is well worth the read this morning.

In the post, Hamilton comments on a lawsuit now underway in the UK. This lawsuit is significant because it Christians Not Welcome in America Persecutionforeshadows the future of lawsuits in America. Our trajectory is very much like that of Great Britain.  More and more, the presence of Christ is offensive, and efforts to scrub Him from America’s memory will only grow more intense.

What Should a Christian Think About 2016 the Movie?


 

Reviewing the various articles about 2016: The Movie leaves one wondering what we ought to think about Dinesh Christian Post Christian ethics 2016 movieD’Souza’s recent portrayal of our President.  NPR thinks it’s the work of a Right-Wing political hack (which D’Souza is not. He is a principled conservative with a compelling argument, whether he is correct or not).

ABC News thinks the movie is disingenuous. Rupert Murdoch gives it a big thumbs up. None of the criticism was unexpected.  But what was unexpected by the movie makers was the cold shoulder the film has received from Christian media outlets.

According to this report from the Christian Post, outlets like Christianity Today and World Magazine have avoided coverage of the movie so as to avoid appearing partisan.  I suppose I agree with the tenor of that position, but I would say also that it would be nice to appeal to reason and, thus, transcend either political party.

In other words, each political party would try to manipulate the position of a Christian news agency–either to minimize their influence or maximize their appeal for political purposes. I am not sure that voluntary neutering is the answer to that dilemma. It seems to me that the film should be critiqued on the basis of the strength of its argument.

I’m curious what others are thinking about the movie. I thought there were a few elements which were over the top–such as the assertion that there may be a United States of Islam. Honestly, I can’t see there being enough cooperation between the states mentioned for that to ever happen–much less that it would happen in the next 4 years.  Little exaggerations like that, I found distracting.

However, the movie overall offered a compelling narrative of the life and mission of President Obama. Claims that the President is a Muslim have always seemed too artificial. D’Souza does a good job of presenting his case for President Obama seeking to fulfill the dreams from his father concerning an equalizing of third world nations with western powers.

Have you seen the movie? Should Christian news outlets review it? What were your thoughts about the movie?