16 posts categorized “US Persecution”

July 4, 2013

Independence Day

VOM offices are closed today as our staff join in celebrating Independence Day in the United States. We are thankful for the country where we live and work, and we pray that God will bless our nation and draw many Americans into fellowship with Him.

We often encourage our readers to pray for nations around the world, and especially for our Christian brothers and sisters living (and often suffering) in those nations. Today it seems appropriate to ask our readers to pray also for the United States, and for Christ's followers who live here.

Please join us in praying.

February 6, 2013

Tolerance: The Occasion for Persecution

Different regions of the world have different histories and also different traditions about freedom, especially freedom of religion. Some areas of the world have never known freedom, or very little of it, so society’s disapproval of people who turn to Christ or witness for Christ is somewhat expected. The idea of “tolerance” is not in their thinking. In Western thought, however, the idea of tolerance is well known, and it sometimes evokes emotion in Christians who believe it indicates turning one’s back on biblical truth.

Let’s look at how the idea of tolerance developed in Western thought and, later, how the understanding of tolerance today can lead to forms of persecution.

Although the Enlightenment (or Age of Reason, 17th and 18th centuries) is seen as a rebellion against the dominance of the church, the Western world continued to enjoy freedom within a pluralistic culture led by Christian values. The rebellion was against the abuses of church and state (often because they were fused together). Therefore, the Enlightenment was an attempt to establish reason as the basis of truth and knowledge, rather than tradition or faith. Faith was tolerated as long as it was not intrusive and was practiced mostly as a private affair.

Tolerance meant that people of diverse viewpoints (including religious) could express their reasoned beliefs (religious or political) and would defend those rights with reason. So the ideal was civil conversation, with the expectation that reasonable people would come to reasonable conclusions in an atmosphere of fair public debate. It was freedom experienced under the umbrella of Christianity.

Recently, however, there has been a radical change in the meaning of tolerance, with the potential of creating hostility toward the Christian faith and Christians. What is being lost is the ongoing and free public debate based on differing viewpoints, and it is being replaced by the public articulation of only what is “politically correct.” It means that society is free to express publicly only what the dominant cultural spokespersons of our culture allow. Much of what is considered politically correct is in opposition to Christian values and morality. This, in effect, restricts freedom of
religion. And the umbrella of freedom is closing.

Postmodernism is somewhat responsible for this shift. Modernism, which came out of and defines the Enlightenment, put forth the idea that we could come to a rational conclusion based on reason and, for the most part, that which is factually based on science. Modernists believed that anyone anywhere who used reason could come to the same conclusion. Modernist thought was intended to supplement faith and superstition as the universal cultural explanation. The Christian faith believes in the universal conclusion and absolute truth of salvation through Christ alone (John 14:6). VOMClassroom

Postmodernism, however, rejects the idea of absolute truth, proposing that truth is relative—determined by whatever individuals or communities determine is truth for them. The only way to maintain harmony within such diversity is through tolerance. The problem is that tolerance in this case means no one can make a statement about universal truth. So we are faced with the idea that everyone’s “truth” is equally valid and that we should not try to persuade others that our truth is absolute and theirs is wrong.

When we followers of Christ articulate that Jesus is Lord of all creation and that he is the only way to salvation for all people, we are immediately labeled as intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, ignorant and (worst of all in their minds) offensive to postmodern thought. They would tell us that everyone should be able to hold their religious beliefs unchallenged, as long as they don’t assert them. While postmodern thinkers challenge Christian belief, we are not allowed to be offended!

In the Western world, we may not be subject to public scourging or physical persecution. But we will be subject to other forms of persecution that fit our culture—censorship, ridicule and lawsuits that result in fines and other forms of harassment. In the Introductory Class in Persecution Studies on the VOM Classroom website (www.vomclassroom.com), we talk about the various levels of persecution. The first level is disinformation, the second is harassment and the next one is discrimination. It is possible for society to move along through these various levels and escalate into the final one, which is outright persecution.

The questions for us in the Western world are the same ones faced by believers in other parts of the world: How willing are we to fulfill Christ’s mandate as we see our society moving through these levels? How much are we willing to suffer and sacrifice? Are we willing to be obedient to Christ no matter the cost? We may be required to decide sooner than we think. What do you think?

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

January 21, 2013

Surprised by Suffering

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from a post on Ravi Zacharias International Ministries' web site, reposted here with permission. The post was written by Jill Carattini, managing editor of A Slice of Infinity for RZIM. You can read the full post here.

For those of us who live in far less hostile environments, news of persecution is foreign, frightening, and difficult to fathom. Their experiences bring the words of the early church to life in a way that many of us have never considered. When the apostle Paul wrote that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ—neither "trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword"—he was referring to struggles that were dangerously real to him and the people to whom he was writing. "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies" (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). Peter, too, encouraged believers in their troubling situations. He urged them to stand firm in their convictions regardless of their affliction; he reminded them that discomfort and suffering was a sacred part of following the wounded one. "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ" (1 Peter 4:12-13).

The apostles' words do not take away the injustice of brutal murder. But they do assuage the shock of its occurrence. Jesus told his followers to expect persecution; in fact, he said they would be blessed by it. "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12). Peter's words encourage the suffering not to see their painful trials as strange or out of the ordinary, but as something that further marks them as believers and unites them in even greater intimacy with their leader. Persecution may be always jarring, unfair, or lamentable, but it is not strange when it happens to those who follow Christ. Perhaps it is stranger when it is not happening.

Mark Twain once said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." For those of us who live the faith we profess without challenge, trial, or risk, reflection may well be appropriate. Is it possible that we have so shut ourselves up in Christian circles that we have closed ourselves off from the world and hence any chance of suffering for Christ? Is it possible that we are so at ease among the majority that we avoid venturing out as the minority among those who might hate or hurt us? Certainly we experience hostility and persecution indirectly. But how we are personally interacting with the angry, the lost, and the broken masses Jesus once wept over is another thing entirely. How effectively we live as "the salt of the earth" that Jesus described depends on our place and posture within it. Surely salt that remains content within the shaker has lost its saltiness.

The struggles of Christian students on university campuses, the sufferings of Christian aid workers across the world, and the daily trials of believers who live courageously in dangerous places are stories that frighten and sadden us. They are also stories that depict what can happen when the salt of the kingdom is allowed to season the earth. Gayle Williams is said to have been the hand of Christ among some of the world's most forgotten. "Remember the words I spoke to you," said Jesus to his disciples. "'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). And then he was led away like a sheep to the slaughter.

August 22, 2012

New Report Highlights Christian Persecution in America

PersecutioninusaA stunning new report from The Family Research Council and Liberty Coucil highlights the enormous amount of hostility towards Christians in America.  This is a report every Christian and pastor, in America should read.

A few of the examples cited in the report include:

• A federal judge threatened "incarceration" to a high school valedictorian unless she removed references to Jesus from her graduation speech.

• City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals, listening to religious messages or singing gospel songs at a senior activities center.

• Following U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' policies, a federal government official sought to censor a pastor's prayer, eliminating references to Jesus, during a Memorial Day ceremony honoring veterans at a national cemetery.


July 2, 2010

MSU: No Apologies for Pastor's Graduation Speech

Here's another example of the ACLU throwing a fit about a pastor who prayed and referred to Jesus as Savior during the invocation and benediction at a recent Montana State University graduation. Click here for the full story.

March 17, 2010

Southern California City Says Home Bible Group Must Get Permit

Earlier this week we told you about the problem with having a home bible study in Gilbert, Arizona.  Today, we have yet another situation that is brewing here in Southern California in Rancho Cucamonga.  Fox News is reporting on this situation.  Read the full story here.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. -- For the second time in six months, the city has ordered a group of Christian worshippers who meet inside homes to get a permit or shut down.

It's the latest incident in which religious groups in Southern California have been targeted by cities for home gatherings, though many of those groups were eventually allowed to meet without obtaining permits.

Rancho Cucamonga is trying to halt Friday night meetings at a home after receiving a complaint in February from a neighbor that 40 to 60 people were gathering weekly in the San Bernardino County location.

Officials said the homeowner needs a conditional use permit by Good Friday, April 2, to operate a church in a residential area.

Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal defense group that specializes in conservative Christian issues, said the meetings were actually a Bible study group that usually draws about 15 people.


So. Calif. City to Home Bible Study: Shut Down by Good Friday

Rancho Cucamonga in controversy again over religious gatherings

March 15, 2010

Arizona: Gilbert Ordinance Bans Home Bible Studies

Here's an interesting and troubling story coming from Arizona. According to the report the legal organization, The Alliance Defense Fund, has taken up the case and it is expected that this ordinance will be overturned. The question I have is why was this even made an ordinance in the first place. Feel free to comment below and read the other linked stories about this case.

Gilbert ordinance bans home Bible studies

Town's Ban on Religious Gatherings in Homes Appealed

Group: Arizona town can't ban home religious assemblies

February 22, 2010

ATF Charges Two Men in Church Fires

Thank you to all of you who have been praying about the church fires that have been taking place in Texas. It appears that there may have been a big break in the case, as two young men have been arrested and are now in jail. Here are some related news stories and a short 40 second video.

Suspects Behind Bars in Texas Church Fires

NY Times - 2 Men Charged in Texas Church Fire

February 12, 2010

Sketches Released in Texas Church Fires Probe

The story regarding the church fires in Texas  is also now being highlighted on cable news.  This morning there was a report on Fox News, which I have linked below, saying that some sketches of the possible arsonists have been released, and that we shouldn't jump to conclusions about whether this is religiously biased hate or attacks.  

 Screen shot 2010-02-12 at 11.26.51 AM Screen shot 2010-02-12 at 11.26.58 AM Screen shot 2010-02-12 at 11.27.07 AM    

Related Articles:

Three Persons of Interest in Texas Church Fires

Sketches released in Texas church fires probe

Honk if you support East Texas churches says Ark. visitor

January 28, 2010

Robbers Interrupt Bible Study

Here's an interesting story coming from the website Crime Scene Kansas City.  Thank God no one was hurt.

Police are investigating a home robbery about 8:45 last night in the 1300 block of West 40th. Victims say two men showed up during their Bible study, ordered them to the floor and took off with a TV set and a wallet. It's not clear if the robbery is connected to two others last night at 8:04 p.m. in the 5000 block of Norledge and at 8:11 p.m. in the 3500 block of Windsor.