Saturday 2 March 2024

Why the Attack on Christians?

Last Sunday I was asked to give a talk at church on "loving thy neighbor". It wasn't the easiest to prepare since the world is in such chaos and all we see or hear on the news is people spewing hatred about everything and every one, but I took a deep breath, looked deep inside, did some praying and sat down at my computer to compose thoughts that would fill at least twelve minutes. I had an idea of what I might say, but things changed dramatically when my mind and fingers began working together. This statement by Ian S. Arden seemed to take center stage. He said the it "is sufficient to give or to do what you are able and then allow Christ to magnify your efforts."

I suddenly realized that give and do are action verbs and regardless of our situation we can do something to brighten another person's day. Over the past couple of months as I've struggled through shoulder surgery and the accompanying therapy that quite often brings tears to my eyes because the pain is so intense, my thoughts have often focused on my younger brother who died in a nursing home at the height of the Covid epidemic. There was no funeral or viewing; just a few family and friends who gathered on a blistery November day for a brief graveside service to mourn his quiet passing. 

Our family had never been close, and I have always felt that my brother and I were the catalysts that drove what little light and laughter there was away. I was five and he was three one early spring morning when our mother sent us out play, with firm instructions that I keep my eyes on him. It didn't take long for us to grow bored with each other's company, and the next thing I remember is my father racing towards the house with Sandon's limp body in his arms and shouting for the keys to the old Army jeep - our only means of transportation. He said my brother was dead. Inadvertently, Daddy had run over him with the tandem disk that was used to break up the clods of soil in preparation for spring planting. Mother there them to him, but as he was pulling away she turned to me and said, "This never would have happened if you'd been watching him as I told you to."

I suppose many lessons about the right kind of parenting could be learned from that statement, especially when it comes to destroying a child's emotional stability and life in general, but suffice it too say that through God's grace my little brother survived. Nonetheless, he was in a coma for six weeks and when he awakened the right side of his body was paralyzed, along with some accompanying brain damage. It was a family's worst nightmare come true.

But one thing I can tell yo about my brother is that I have never seen a more Christlike person, despite a lifetime of insensitivity and downright cruelty. He had to learn how to do everything again, without the aid of rehabilitation therapy which was non-existent in those days, and he never regained any real use of his right arm. When he was finally allowed to go to school he would fall almost daily getting on and off the big, yellow school bus and his elbows and knees were always scraped and bleeding. He had to stay in at recess to work with his teachers so he wouldn't get so far behind. Kids pointed fingers, laughed at him and didn't want him to be part of their activities. If it hadn't been for three boys his age in our farming community, he would have no one to associate with other than his family. No girls wanted to date him so he took our younger sister to his senior ball.

But during all those years of unkindness and numerous additional surgeries to help improve his mobility, he never blamed anyone for what had happened to him and he always found someone to befriend who had gone through their own difficulty. He finally learned how to drive a car and eventually married and fathered six children. But he made a few mistakes like people, who just want to be loved and accepted for who they are, do and paid for them dearly by falling into a fire pit and not being able to get out. The people he was with left him there to die. But before he completely expired they loaded him into the back of his van without any identification and dropped him off outside the hospital emergency room doors.

When I was finally able to see him in the burn unit his entire body was so swollen I couldn't even recognize him. It was one of the most horrifying experiences of my life to watch the burned skin being pulled from his body, to know how much he was suffering again and not being able to do anything to help. He lived the remainder of his life in a nursing home where some of his burns never healed.

But true to his God-given nature of being a peacemaker and truly loving people, he spent a decade and a half encouraging and lifting the spirits of the other residents, many of whose families had abandoned them. His bear hugs were the greatest, there was always a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, and even when he was in pain he found something to laugh about. I don't know how he did it with all the strange smells, eery sounds, bland food, intense suffering and a near total lack of physical freedom, but he became friends with everyone capable of even knowing he was there. He would listen while they talked, take part in activities, and even though he couldn't rub two pennies together because he didn't have them, he would do whatever he could from his wheelchair to bring those around him a little joy.

I want to be more like him, but that's not so easy to do, especially since Covid. Whatever it's origins, it has distanced people in a profound way. As a society we no longer trust each other, our willingness to be kind, patient, understanding and helpful has eroded, and we're afraid of saying the politically wrong thing for fear of being ridiculed, persecuted or even prosecuted for exercising our First Amendment rights and expressing how we feel. There is certainly very little peace and brotherly love in the world today.

As Christians we knew this life would not be easy, but I doubt few of us really understood how bad things would get before the end of humanity as we know it came to an end. Like us, Christ was born into a politically and spiritually charged culture. His life was anything other than strife free and ended in a horrifically violent and unjust way. Still He honored his mission in showing us by example and teachings the way back to our Heavenly home. Each of us here today have a mission designed specifically for our eternal edification, and like Christ we have to face our own battles against the tactics of the evil one who only wants to destroy us. I know a big part of mine is standing true to the principles our Elder Brother taught, regardless of repercussions from those who don't want to believe in anything other than themselves and getting what they want. 

I suppose it helps knowing that the war between good and evil has already been won, but there are still many battles to be fought and we have to do that together. We have to quit hiding in our homes thinking we are too busy, too unimaginative, too frightened, too shy or too important to be bothered by someone else's needs.

We are our brother's and sister's keepers and we will be held accountable if we don't reach out in whatever meager way we can to those within our circle of influence. And we don't have to do it in a big way or put ourselves in any emotional, spiritual, or physical danger. There are toxic and evil people that need to be avoided because they have chosen a different path. But the majority of people we meet want to do what's right. I've had to turn to others for help more the past two months than I have in my entire life combined, but being on the needy end has shown me how much a little compassion, an unexpected dinner or treat, a short visit or even a phone call or text means when you're going through a difficult time.

Love for others has no bounds, not race, religion, political affiliation, social class, amount of money or personal issues we may never understand. Accepting people for who they are and trying to see into their hearts is required of us because every soul is equal in God's eyes - not worse or better - just equal. As members of His kingdom who want to return to where He is, we must come to see and love all of his children as He does. It's not any easy task, at least for me, but my actions here will determine where I spent eternity.

I want to leave you with one final thought from Christophe G. Giraud-Carrier. "Rather than seeing each other through the distorted lens of mortality, the gospel raises our sights and allows us to see each other through the flawless, unchanging lens of our sacred covenants. In doing so, we begin to eliminate our own natural prejudices and bias toward others, which in turn helps them minimize their prejudices and.bias towards us."

That's pretty much my talk, and I was feeling more peaceful than usual when I got home from church after giving it. But those feelings didn't last long.The next morning I read an article that presented findings of a Washington DC based Family Research Council project that brought me straight back to the reality of the America I love so much. It stated that there had been 436 hostile incidents against churches during 2023 - more than double those in 2020 and eight times as many as in 2018. These events include vandalism, gun-related incidents, arson, bomb threats and even a few deaths.

The article went on to state that Americans are increasingly comfortable lashing out against churches due in part to the hostility against Christians displayed by the Biden administration. You can take from that what you like but my Christian beliefs have been attacked unceasingly since his arrival in the White House. And the laws enacted against anyone who will not bow down to the far lefts ideology have increased exponentially to the point that I'm almost afraid to write a blog because I could end up in prison for expressing how I feel. I mean people who pray in front of an abortion clinic are put in prison while those who burn buildings used by pro-life persons and induce physical harm don't even get a slap on the wrist. And what about the veterans who are being thrown out of their homes in New York City, and elsewhere, to house illegal immigrants. The list of injustices in our two-tiered system of justice today would fill volumes.

That's not acceptable in any country, especially one that was founded on God-given freedoms in a Constitution and Bill of Rights, but far too many of us are afraid to take a stand. We think if we remain silent someone else will fight the battle and things will settle down once the election is over. But those who do not speak up are silently expressing their consent to any injustice that is being perpetrated amongst their fellow citizens. It took time for me to accept that, but once I got away from the lies mainstream media perpetuated I began see to see how completely those in charge have forced their ideologies on us unsuspecting, gullible and ill-informed citizens of what was once the freest, most admired and healthiest country in the world.

Not to leave this post on a dismal note because I know who is really in charge of this country and the people who inhabit it, but the bad news for American Christians only continues to get worse. Biden just declared Christian Nationalists - without defining what that term was supposed to mean - to be the greatest threat yet to democracy; far greater than any outside or inside terrorist groups among which there are many to choose from. Listen to Glenn Beck's story about journalist Steve Baker being arrested by the FBI yesterday (March 1, 2024) if you really want to know what that means for any American conservative. It's pretty chilling stuff.

This ongoing battle between good and evil is intensifying so rapidly that it's hard to keep up with all the assaults on our rights as Americans. Nothing about the principles our country was founded on is sacred any longer, and unless we unite as patriots and remove people from office who do not stand up for the things we value, the complete takeover of our nation by the global elites will be a reality none of us will be able to endure for long. I don't know about anyone else, but I believe freedom is not a guarantee even under a Constitution as great as ours. We must be willing to stand up and fight, if necessary, to retain what we have left. Right now it is a battle of ideologies, but it has every marking of escalating into another civil war that will be both bloody and costly to every American. I don't want that to happen. That's why I stand with our true unsung patriots who continue to fight for the freedoms we continue to undervalue. 

Another winter storm is here, but the gray skies, high winds and sheeting snow are a reminder that storms of any kind eventually end and the sky turns blue again. But the moments of quiet reflection during their passing can help get us reexamine what is truly important - life, liberty, God and family. Without even one of those things, we would never learn the meaning of true happiness.

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