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The Hope of Christmas!

Today is a magical day. Today, Christians celebrate the birth of God on Earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Fully man and fully God, Jesus is later revealed as the second person of the Holy Trinity. While the image of the Infant Jesus is (by design) easy for people to relate, the celebration contains a mystery beyond human experience and intellect. It is a miracle.

Christmas is the first instance of the Good News of the Gospel, but the fallen nature of mankind ensures that Christianity continues to exist in a sinful world. Even the day of Christmas, perhaps the most innocent of all human celebrations, is marred by evil men. As Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace across the Middle East, Muslim murderers chose the holy occasion as an opportunity to shed blood.

Early Sunday, an explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria's capital of Abuja, and an emergency worker reported that 25 people were killed. A second explosion struck near a church in Nigeria's restive central city of Jos, while two other explosions hit the northeast state of Yobe.

Such violence is not exclusive to Nigeria.

In Iraq ... another round of suicide bombings on Thursday killed some 70 people [and]there will be no Midnight Mass. ... Iraq's Christians spend Christmas in "great fear," ... Christians are not displaying Christmas decorations outside their homes.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, the Fides news agency reported that more than 2,500 police will be protecting Christian churches during Christmas. Local sources told the agency that some 430 churches in Pakistan will have "special security measures." ... Christians make up about 3% of the Pakistani population. As reported to Fides by official sources, over the past five years, nearly 5,000 people have been victims of attacks by fundamentalist groups in Pakistan: a quarter of the victims are Christians.

Charles Jacobs at Big Peace [h/t Power Line] summarizes anti-Christian persecution in Egypt.

Gordon College is a Christian school between Salem and Rockport. A few weeks ago I spoke there at a commemoration of Kristallnacht, Germany's night of broken glass, the first mass assault on Europe's Jews and the harbinger of the Shoah. I told the Christian audience how good it was to feel Christian support for Jews in these times, and that even some of the most stubborn of my people were now appreciating Evangelical support for Israel. I also said that we felt this blessed support came from a spirit of Christian altruism. But given the news from the Middle East, concern for others is surely not the only reason Christians need to support Israel.

I asked how many in the audience of 250 knew of Anne Frank. Almost every hand shot up. Then I asked how many had heard of Ayman Labib. I got a mass blank stare. Ayman was a 17-year-old Egyptian Christian who just weeks ago was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates as teachers watched because he refused their demand to remove his cross necklace.

I asked how many knew about the Maspero massacre, which had left at least 24 Copts dead and 270 injured. And whether they knew that since January, there had been more than 70 attacks on Christian churches or institutions in Egypt.

While tonight you commemorate a Jewish pogrom, I told them, Christianity has just suffered its own "Kristallnacht" ... and I have yet to see much of a Christian response.

I invoke Christian suffering and the call for "a Christian response" during this Christmas season because attacks on Christians at this time of year are particularly perverse and the time of year provides a proper context for contemplating a just response.

Christian suffering around the world is curiously unlamented by Christian America. This is partially due to media-induced ignorance. CNN has no intention of interrupting its message of eco-solutions, gay-rights and Democratic talking-points in order to sympathize with Christians. Catholics aren't the folks CNN and their ilk have in mind when they bray about minority rights.

But seeming Christian apathy in the U.S. is also explained by culture and religious sensibilities. Whereas Muslims around the world react to a solitary pastor in Florida burning a Koran with murder and mayhem, Christians are called to respond to violence with forgiveness and by turning the other cheek. Whereas Mohammed issued ultimatums and led armies to war, Jesus preached hope and embraced martyrdom. Christianity retards the natural human impulse for revenge and recommends a response borne of hope.

Of course, that response is often difficult to articulate and may manifest as hesitancy in the search for peaceful, diplomatic channels. Perhaps these occasions of violence are matters of foreign affairs subject to state action. When America refuses to decry such atrocities and threaten repercussions, they seems to go unlamented. But the lamentable fact may be the impotency of the United States to aid in the security of the rights of Christian minorities around the world.

Perhaps a presidential candidate should be asked, "What will you do to protect persecuted Christian minorities abroad?" Surely the matter deserves far greater attention and consideration that it presently receives. A Christian response may be hard to decipher, but it is worth the trouble.

Nevertheless, today insists that Christians retain hope for the future - of this world and for the next. It is nothing less than a miracle that we celebrate today. If the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, the perils of this world must not cause us to lose faith. The Christmas story is one of hardship and suffering, but ultimate triumph. When we reflect upon the hardships and sufferings of this world, we must be mindful of the promise of ultimate triumph.

Categories > Religion

Discussions - 8 Comments

Justin, thanks to the Internet the world seems to be smaller. While the media you mention will not bring you the news about Christian persecution around the world, Internet sources can bring you that news. One favorite source, that sometimes even offers ways to send aid to those who are persecuted, is Voice of the Martyrs, here:

What is this gibberish about violence in Iraq? LIES, ALL LIES!!! Don't you propagandists realize that President Obama brought the war in Iraq to an end recently by withdrawing American troops? Why can't you learn to love PEACE?

Oh. My. You really are that guy, aren't you? Were you drunk when you posted? Wow. Just ... wow.

Off to chat to the fairies at the bottom of the garden. I'll pass on your regards.

Christians have been persecuted...since the Birth of Christ!....out of fear that A God who created all that is
will see their Evil and cast them into hell. The Lord suffered on the cross......we're asked to suffer for our Lord. fair exchange

Uh huh ... Now if anyone can parse that into something that even remotely approaches something that makes sense I'll be interested ...

In a country where the very idea of a presidential candidate who didn't stand up and shout from the rooftops his or her profound commitment to the Christian faith would come as a seismic event, the constant whine from the right that Christians are persecuted is quite pathetic.

I know you all want to be persecuted, because if you are then so much of what you believe about the state of the nation is confirmed. Sadly, though, you're not.

This post is about persecution of Christians, and ignorance of said persecution in the United States. What part of that are you denying, exactly?

Just another one is reminding us, as the post reminds us, how little we Christians suffer here in the US as Christians. Although where he takes it -- when reading his comment, the phrase "suffer fools lightly" crossed my mind and I wished to be reminded of the context, remembering only that is was about persecution. I don't even have to suffer crossing the room to my Bible; the Internet provides my answer, which I can so easily present here, though you should read the whole thing in 2 Corinthians 11.

Paul says, "I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak [it] not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye [yourselves] are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour [you], if a man take [of you], if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also."

Paul continues into describing what he suffered for his faith and into what perils his faith has lead him. Leo Kennedy is right about our just deserts, but in the US about all we suffer are denials of the flesh and folks like Just another one. The point of the post is that there are Christians in the world who suffer more truly and completely for their faith. We who suffer so little ought to do more to relieve their suffering. Just sending money seems a little thing, but I don't know what else the average Christian American can do. If the United States of America saw itself as a Christian nation it would, as a nation, do more.

Yet if we say that Christians ought to suffer, then perhaps it is right to do nothing. I can't conscience that and while sending money may be a simple salve to conscience, those who set themselves to rescue the persecuted seem to appreciate the funding of their efforts.

About Mr. One: when looking for that scripture I found the phrase "suffer fools gladly" mentioned in Wikipedia, which quotes G.K. Chesterton on how to interpret the phrase. I thought this part applied here:

"There is an apostolic injunction to suffer fools gladly. We always lay the stress on the word “suffer,” and interpret the passage as one urging resignation. It might be better, perhaps, to lay the stress upon the word “gladly,” and make our familiarity with fools a delight, and almost a dissipation. Nor is it necessary that our pleasure in fools (or at least in great and godlike fools) should be merely satiric or cruel. The great fool is he in whom we cannot tell which is the conscious and which the unconscious humour; we laugh with him and laugh at him at the same time.”

Always a shock to me when American Christians indulge themselves to ride the persecution and martyrdom train - especially when they take time out of their holy day to tap out a jeremiad like this to pump up their brothers and sisters for a Jesus-approved Holy War while playing the victimhood card. This is not to deny the obvious - that these attacks on Christians are absolutely despicable - but merely to note the pre-determined conclusion that religious victims (i.e., the persecuted, the martyrs) are always, by definition, Christians, and vice-versa (well, okay, sometimes the Jews, but that's it.)

For example, Paulette would never suggest that "a presidential candidate should be asked, "What will you do to protect persecuted minorities abroad?" Wait - I removed a word from his quote; the only possible question he would ask is "What will you do to protect Christian minorities abroad?"

It's almost quaint the way that Kate finds "how little we Christians suffer here in the US as Christians" to be a take-away from Justin's post - a post which is brimming with intimations and links to the "We're next - the Muslims are out to get us next" kind of fearmongering and holy warmongering. Perfunctory respect is paid to Christian concepts of turning the other cheek and retard(ing) the impulse for revenge (mostly just to take Limbaugh-esque shots at a religion which is foreign to him and which he clearly despises), but he still winds up lamenting American "impotency" (wait - does he hate America, or just Obama?).

I found these lines to be particularly amusing:

"Even the day of Christmas, perhaps the most innocent of all human celebrations, is marred by evil men. As Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace across the Middle East, Muslim murderers chose the holy occasion as an opportunity to shed blood."

"Whereas Muslims around the world react to a solitary pastor in Florida burning a Koran with murder and mayhem, Christians are called to respond to violence with forgiveness and by turning the other cheek. (...) Christianity retards the natural human impulse for revenge and recommends a response borne of hope."

As though stuff like this never occurred:

"In the clearest signal to date of Pakistan’s unease over the U.S.-led air campaign, Musharraf told Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the U.S. commander overseeing the war, in Islamabad that the Pentagon needed to rethink its bombing campaign after 22 days of air strikes. Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the campaign, cited civilian casualties and a lack of tangible success, according to Pakistani officials.

But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, reiterated his opposition to any bombing pause during Ramadan, saying that Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia and the al Qaida terrorist network it shelters “are unlikely to take holiday.”"

(Never mind things like, say, the aptly named Tet Offensive.)

Also fun was how Justin stepped off his trail of tears to take a stab at Duh Librul Media:

"Christian suffering around the world is curiously unlamented by Christian America. This is partially due to media-induced ignorance. CNN has no intention of interrupting its message of eco-solutions, gay-rights and Democratic talking-points in order to sympathize with Christians."

That's fairly boilerplate b.s. for Paulette - 3 secs. on google brings up the Christmas day article from CNN US, headlined "Christmas carnage in Nigeria; 5 churches bombed" and complete with facts (which, btw, are wholly unsullied by any reference to The Gays or global warming nonsense) such as "The blasts mark the second holiday season that bombs have hit Christian houses of worship in the west African nation." as well as " Washington, the White House said U.S. officials would help Nigeria pursue those behind "what initially appear to be terrorist acts." "We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a written statement. "We offer our sincere condolences to the Nigerian people and especially those who lost family and loved ones." The first explosion Sunday struck near a Roman Catholic church in Madalla..."

So, all of that is just par for the course here at NLT. Demonstrably false statements made to prop up ridiculous arguments. More about these attacks can be found at CNN International and their blogs, as well - although their liberal bias may show by not using enough phrases like "savage Muslim murderers" to please Justin.

What I found more interesting, though, was how he started his very next sentence.

"Catholics aren't the folks CNN and their ilk have in mind when they bray about minority rights."

Notice how he switched from "Christians" to "Catholics." Not a big deal (although he should explore Ohio more seriously sometime, he could find plenty of devout Protestants who look at Catholics anywhere from a suspicious fringe of Christianity to a cult to simply a non-Christian denomination), except that Christians are not a minority in the US, of course. They comprise somewhere around 75% of the US population. But Catholics can technically be called a minority, claiming about a third of that 75% (or 25% of all Americans). Still, no matter if you slice your Christians and Catholics together or separately, they still tower over other religions, which only take up about 4%. Muslims remain below 1%. (But Sharia law is IMMINENT!!!)

Of course, what's most clear is that if Justin (and his handful of disciples) had somehow been born (in Iran or Afghanistan or Pakistan he would surely now be a fundamentalist "Islamofascist" calling for the heads of European cartoonists who depicted Mohamed, and boring and irritating his neighbors with whiny, hopelessly one-sided lists of Islamic persecution and martyrdom and how uniquely victimized Muslims are. Very much at home anyplace where the separation of church and state is dismissed or mocked, and the state is described as a religious unit - see Kate's longing for the USA to (officially) consider itself a "Christian nation."

A really insightful companion to (analysis of?) this blog-post is "Persecution Complexes" by Elizabeth Castelli (a non-Vatican-approved religion professor at a non-Ashbrook-endorsed university), which can be read here:

Oh, since I wasn't online on the 25th I wasn't able to say it, but I hope you all had a Merry Christmas.

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