Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The New Lion's Den

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Recently I remembered an article I had read last fall titled, "Christians Are Being Thrown To The Lions Again."

The article was attempting to get the attention of the West and alert us that Christians in the Middle East are routinely killed for being Christian. The journalist said the subject is being "avoided in the secular, skeptical West with taken-for-granted religious freedoms."

I believe the West is awakening to the fact that our religious freedoms should no longer be "taken-for-granted."

Studies by the think tank Civitas have found that about 200 million Christians, or about 10% of Christians worldwide are "socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs, and are targeted more than any other body of believers."

Barbarism, often by militant Muslims, is generally the tool of choice used to dispose of infidels in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, but in the West the secular progressives take a different approach--- the tools are different.

They are more subtle. More nuanced.

In the West, particularly in America, the "New Lion's Den" functions through a chain of orchestrated events:

Caricaturization to Marginalization to Villification to Villainization to Criminalization to Elimination.

Some months ago, England's Telegraph newspaper published an article titled, "Christianity Close To Extinction In Middle East," attempting to alert the British citizenry of the march against religious freedom---particularly Christianity, in the culture.

It said, "Christianity faces being wiped out of the 'biblical heartlands' in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers."

The Telegraph article was drawing from a survey published by the think tank "Civitas."

The survey finds "'the lion's share' of persecution faced by Christians arises in countries where Islam is the dominate faith."

It also found that more Christians are imprisoned in China than any other country in the world.

The report titled, "Christianophbia," said "Religious freedom is the 'canary in the mine' for human rights generally."

Christianophobia highlights "a fear among oppressive regimes that Christianity is a 'Western Creed' which can be used to undermine them."

It is hardly a "Western Creed."

This is not unlike how Caiaphas perceived Jesus Himself as plans were laid for His crucifixion.

If religious freedom is "the canary in the mine," we must observe how the bird is doing in our current culture.

The canary is flinching, if not fading.

Wallace Henly is a former journalist who was an aid to President Nixon and now serves on the pastoral staff of Second Baptist Church in Dallas with Pastor Ed Young.

In an article published yesterday he writes, " Some nations suppress Christians, their messages and beliefs violently. Current Western culture, however, has own style of trying to silence the real church. It follows a specific sequence, which has accelerated in recent years."

"It moves," he says, "like this, from Marginalization to Villification to Villainization to Criminalization to Elimination."

Henly remembers the caricaturization the Washington Post published of the late Chuck Colson, whom he worked with after Colson had become a Christian. I remember it as well. It was an ugly attack, playing off Watergate, all because Colson had become a Christian.

The secularists use this method to either discredit someone, a movement or an idea, or to endear them to the public.

Grotesque caricature is used to make the subject appear clownish or like a bumbling buffoon who should not be taken seriously, while those of whom the secularists approve are made to be credible and endearing.

In the 1960s the radical movement of that day---hippies, marginalized the Bible and biblical beliefs in the culture, advocating and practicing "free love," etc. basically challenging every traditional biblical value.

I was a youth pastor during those days, I remember them well.

This was also the time in which moral relativism was growing new and deeper roots in our culture.

From that beginning, the cultural marginalization of biblical Christianity went on to become public policy as the church was pushed deeper and deeper into its buildings and out of the marketplace, and the hippies of the 60s became the political leaders of the 70s and began dominating the marketplace with these progressive ideas.

The "wall of separation" was inverted and was built higher and higher, further marginalizing the church from the culture.

Vilification easily followed.

Marginalization says the person, institution or idea should not play any significant role in the culture.

Vilification suggests there should really be no role at all for the vilified subject because it has nothing to contribute to the collective society.

Once vilified, the subject becomes someone or something not only to be scorned, but feared. In the case of Christians, they are caricatured as trying to force their religion on everyone. Enemies of freedom, not defenders of freedom.

They become villainized.

The consensus makers in our culture---news media, entertainment, television, pop music and administrations who advocate secular progressivism, begin to raise national awareness regarding these villains.

Those who stand for traditional marriage are villains because they "hate" homosexual people. Those who stand for the sanctity of life "hate" women because they are trying to deny women a "choice" regarding abortion.

When villainization has been adequately elevated and a cultural consensus of relative truth and values has been established, criminalization easily follows.

A new and changing morality has been created.

Laws are written to enforce this new and changing morality, and these new laws become the "New Lion's Den."

When the owners of Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A, Arlene's Flower Shop in Richland, the Stormans' pharmacy in Olympia, the photographer in New Mexico or the cake maker in Gresham, Oregon attempt to live out their biblical beliefs in their own business, they become targeted and criminalized.

If a CEO believes marriage is between one man and one woman, he is fired.

If the Benham brothers believe in biblical values and virtue, their TV show is suddenly canceled. Duck Dynasty...and the list goes on, and on.

The canary in the mine is gasping for air. The lions are hungry.

Religious freedom is under attack.

Even if the church were to be driven momentarily into the catacombs for lack of religious freedom, it would be a moment to prepare for an even greater Christian witness in the public square.

There is a revealing and informative verse in Acts 14:19-20 A.

"Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city."

Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Pro-Active. Be Bold. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.