When Rome burned in A.D. 64, suspicion was cast upon the Christians of that time. After all, they followed a man named Christ, who supposedly had been crucified, then raised to life. They met in private homes. They greeted one another with a holy kiss (2nd Corinthians 13:12), and who knew what-all went on at those meetings!
There were rumors of cannibalism because they practiced communion, as demonstrated by Jesus Christ in 1st Corinthians 11:23-25, “that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
When the emperor blamed Christians for the fire, the Romans willingly supported him. Nero had the Christians dipped in tar and burned as live torches to light his garden parties. They were thrown to the lions or dragged through the streets as part of a national pastime.
But that’s ancient history. We’re so much more civilized and tolerant now; it could never happen again — could it?
It should come as no surprise that Christianity is back on the persecution block. In the May-June 2009 issue of Israel My Glory, Craig L. Parshall writes about “Facing the Goliath of the Liberal Media.” He says, “The press now considers itself an arbiter of what constitutes acceptable Christianity.” He describes the media’s lambasting of President Bush as a religious extremist because he’s a born-again Christian. Yet President Clinton, a Baptist, was cited as having mentioned Jesus or Christ nearly three times more often than Bush, and never was accused of “excessive religious zeal.”
In April 2009, Newsweek ran an article titled “The End of Christian America.” It spoke of “a more tolerant future, with the present as an important transitional step. The present, in this sense, is less about the death of God and more about the birth of many gods.”
It would appear President Obama shares this view, as that same month in Ankara, Turkey, he said America’s no longer a Christian nation but “a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” Does he think this is something of which this country should be proud? And who gets to weigh in on these “ideals and values”? It calls to mind Judges 17:6: “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Israel My Glory predicts this “rush to reinstitute the search for many gods … is a catastrophic regression into a moral and spiritual abyss.”
Former Time correspondent William Thatcher Dowell has suggested conservative Christianity is similar to “the fanatical ultrareligious movement that is spiritually at the core of al Qaeda.” This opinion is running rampant and was evident in an online post to my June column supporting traditional marriage between a man and woman. I mentioned Harvest USA, an organization committed to “equip the church in bringing the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform the lives of those affected by sexual sin.”— words from their mission statement.
There was no hatred directed toward homosexuals, but rather hope for healing and understanding, yet one person wrote: “Saying that an entire gay population is engaging in sinful acts actually causes hate and is remindful of the hate that caused the Holocaust.”
In February the American Family Association purchased TV airtime to broadcast “Speechless … Silencing the Christians.” Two stations yanked it from their programming because they considered it too controversial.
A May Fox News report told of a San Diego pastor and his wife who hosted a Bible study in their home. The county told them they were in violation of a land use code, and should either stop their religious assembly or apply for a major use permit.
Their “religious assembly” consisted of a few friends sharing a meal, studying the Scriptures, and praying. They were questioned about their activities — specifically singing, praying and praising the Lord. When the pastor’s wife said yes to these activities, they were issued a citation and threatened with fines.
The county since has reversed its decision, but the pastor’s lawyer brought up a very valid point: Would this family have been cited at all if they’d been hosting a Tupperware party, a poker night, or a Super Bowl event?
Our Constitution guarantees free speech and exercise of religion. Is it available for all, or only for those the liberal media applaud? If you believe Christians should be silenced, that’s a choice that affects you, your rights, and the freedom of every citizen in America, whether you’re Atheist, Islam, New Age, Wiccan, Catholic, Protestant, or Buddhist.
Get rid of the Bible-believing crowd, and who’s next?
Brenda J. Norris is assistant Sunday school leader and choir director at the West Lubec Methodist Church. She may be reached at email@example.com. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.