Vol: 134 Issue: 24 Saturday, November 24, 2012
When I was a young man, the idea of Christian persecution seemed (to me) more historical than actual — why would anybody want to persecute Christians? That baffled me.
I knew about historical persecution in the days of the Roman Empire and I could kind of understand it, when I looked at it in historical context. Christianity threatened to upset the balance of power within the Roman Empire.
It wasn’t because Christianity introduced a new god to the Roman pantheon.
The Romans had tons of gods, most of whom they borrowed from the Greeks, who had plenty of gods to spare. The Romans looked for common ground between their major gods and those of the Greeks, adapting Greek myths and iconography for Latin literature and Roman art.
So to the Romans, another god more or less didn’t make much difference either way. As the Romans extended their dominance throughout the Mediterranean world, their policy in general was to absorb the deities and cults of other peoples rather than try to eradicate them.
By the height of the Empire, numerous international deities were cultivated at Rome and had been carried to even the most remote provinces, among them Cybele, Isis, Epona, and gods of solar monism such as Mithras and Sol Invictus, found as far north as Roman Britain.
Because Romans had never been obligated to cultivate one god or one cult only, religious tolerance was not an issue in the sense that it is for competing monotheistic systems.
Ancient Rome considered itself highly religious and credited their rise to power to their relationship with their gods and goddesses. Roman religion was based primarily on knowledge, prayer, ritual and sacrifice, rather than on faith or doctrine.
But the Christian religion wasn’t like the rest of the religions of Rome. The Christian religion had no defined rituals. Prayer was modeled after the “Lord’s Prayer” which eschewed ritual formality in favor of a simple acknowledgement of dependence upon the One True God for all things.
And THAT is where all the problems arose. The whole, “One True God” thing. If there was only One True God, then that meant that all the rest of them were false gods.
Jesus claimed He was the only God, and that “No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”
It logically follows then, that the Roman polytheist was doomed, according to Christian theology. The population in those days found that sort of doctrine threatening, even hateful. In fact, that was the charge under which they were persecuted — they called it a hate crime.
How could this be? The fact is, the claims of Christianity make it the enemy of every single other religious belief structure on earth.
Why? Because, according to Jesus, any worship that denies Him is worship of the devil.
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
The United States Constitution’s First enumerated freedom under the Bill of Rights is freedom of religion. That was another reason why as a young man, the idea of Christian persecution seemed so foreign to me.
Christianity is not so named because in colonial America, it wasn’t necessary. The default position was Christian –instituting protections for Christianity would be as unnecessary as setting forth the criteria for marriage as being between a male and female.
(Some things are just so obvious that they don’t need explaining. Or so they thought 236 years ago.)
It wasn’t Christians whose worship needed protecting. The Founders were more concerned with ensuring that all religions would be tolerated.
And in so doing, they ensured that all religions in America would be tolerated. All of them, except the one they never anticipated would ever need safeguarding.
Consequently, as we count down the last days to the return of Christ, the most dangerous label one could affix to a Christian would be that of “Christian fundamentalist.”
First, let’s define a fundamentalist as one who stands firm on the fundamental doctrines of his faith.
By the turn of the 20th century, American theological conservatives had identified five basic Christian fundamentals which most of you will recognize from the OL’s basic statement of faith:
- The Divine Authorship, inspiration and authority of Scripture.
- The Virgin Birth of Christ.
- The Atoning Work of the Cross.
- The historical reality of Jesus Christ and His earthly ministry.
- The historical reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and ascension.
If one holds to those five basic Christian truths, then one is a Christian fundamentalist and therefore, a “intolerant hater” that the Department of Homeland Security considers a threat to national security. But only Christian fundamentalism is viewed by the federal government as a threat.
To the world, Christian fundamentalists are the ones who advocate the rebuilding of Israel’s Temple in Jerusalem, oppose the creation of a terrorist state beside Israel, oppose the division of Jerusalem, and the destruction of our shared enemy.
They accept the testimony of the Bible as legal title for Israel’s possession of the Land of Promise and support Israel’s right to exist as an issue of doctrine as well as politics. The world hates them for that.
The world views Christian fundamentalism as being responsible for all manner of hate crimes, not the least of which is its exclusivity. The entire ecumenical movement is stalled in its tracks by Christian fundamentalism.
On the other hand, if one adheres to the Five Pillars of Islam, one is a Muslim fundamentalist and, in America, automatically deserving of such respect that even non-Muslims revere Mohammed as “a Prophet” even if offering such recognition violates their own Five Fundamentals of Faith.
For example, Tim Tebow sparked a HUGE backlash during last year’s Super Bowl when he starred in a pro-family ad sponsored by Focus on the Family. The ad was about Tebow himself, and how his mother decided not to abort him when she was pregnant.
The ad set off howls of protests and demands for boycotts against the network amid demands that the ad be cancelled on the grounds there was no place for such controversial ads on public television.
Later that same year, Lowe’s decided to pull its ads from a reality show on TLC about Muslim-Americans due to complaints from Christian groups that the show was promoting Islam as a faith. Once again, there was a reaction. But not against the network for producing the program.
Against Lowe’s . . . for pulling its support.
Calling the retail giant’s decision “un-American” and “naked … bigotry,” Senator Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, told the Associated Press he was even considering legislative action if Lowe’s didn’t apologize to Muslims and reinstate the ads.
In post-Christian, Laodicean America, when compared to the “threat” posed by Christian fundamentalism, even a form of fundamentalism that mandates the murder of innocents in the thousands, pales by comparison.
I began with the statement that when I was a young man, I could not imagine the circumstances under which Christians living in the world’s most Christian country could ever find themselves persecuted for their faith.
Of course, I could also never have imagined that a faith that offers salvation as a free gift extended to all mankind would be considered hateful whereas a religion that demanded murder-suicide as a condition of salvation would be celebrated. Especially by those whose murder would satisfy those conditions.
But that is where we find ourselves — not over the course of centuries, but over the course of less than two decades. When Bill Clinton and Al Gore addressed the DNC in 1992, they both quoted what they claimed was the Bible.
The DNC rocked the US political establishment when it voted to remove any mention of God or Jerusalem from their platform. When the DNC sought to quell the backlash by holding a voice vote to put God back in, He lost three times before the Democrats did what they do best.
They stole the election for Him. Nobody quoted the Bible.
America was born out of the principles of Christianity that made her the greatest nation the world had ever seen. America kept to the basic fundamental doctrines of Christianity for most of her existence and prospered like no nation in the history of the world.
Until, like the Romans before them, they came to worship the creation more than the Creator, precisely as the Bible predicted would happen in the last days.
”For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2nd Timothy 4:3-4)
Like the fable that says that Christian fundamentalism is dangerous and hateful, but Islamic fundamentalism is to be respected as a “religion of peace and love” in spite of the mountains of bodies that testify to the contrary.
Ever notice that hardly anybody ever asks where America is in prophecy anymore?