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On this Christmas Eve, one of the great unreported stories throughout what we used to call Christendom is the persecution of Christians around the world. In Egypt, the “Arab Spring” is going so swimmingly that Copts are already fleeing Egypt and, for those Christians that remain, Midnight Mass has to be held in the daylight for security reasons. In Iraq, midnight services have been canceled entirely for fear of bloodshed, part of the remorseless de-Christianizing that has been going on, quite shamefully, under an American imperium.
– Mark Steyn, “Silent Night,” Dec. 24, 2011
The secular war on Christmas throughout the West presently serves as a lightweight bookend for the religious war on Christians throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. In the West, the persecution is still petty, tentative and small-minded. Elsewhere, it is purposeful, murderous and systematic. One cannot equate the banning of “Merry Christmas” wishes by elected politicians to the banning of Christians from holding elected office, or pretend that atheists co-opting public parks to promote nasty anti-holiday messages is the equivalent of violent attacks on Christian church celebrants.
But if the actions are different, the motivations stem from the same source, which is the desire to eliminate Christianity from the world. This is not a new desire; it was already hundreds of years old when the Emperor Diocletian issued the first of his four “Edicts against the Christians” in the year 303. Like the Western anti-Christians, Diocletian did not initially intend for there to be any bloodshed, but hoped that political and legal pressure would be sufficient to cause Christians to apostatize, but his hopes were dashed by the stalwart faith of the empire’s Christians. His fourth edict, therefore, demanded summary execution of all men, women and children who were unwilling to offer sacrifice to any of the pagan gods.
Secular culture is no more intrinsically tolerant than Diocletian. Those who consciously adhere to “secular values” understand that they are fundamentally different than, and inherently opposed to, Christian values. While far too many Christians and non-Christians alike believe that it is possible to arrange society such that secular values are given primacy in the public while still respecting Christian values in private, both ancient and recent history indicate otherwise. This is particularly true in any society with an activist government that uses fiscal policy and administrative law as tools for social engineering.
Many of the accomplishments of Christendom are being unwound, often by the unworthy heirs of Christendom itself. The increasingly secular British people bitterly complain about the continental subjugation of their once-independent isle even as they simultaneously continue to support the societal secularization that made that subjugation possible. Slaves are being bought and sold in numbers that have not been seen since William Wilberforce led the evangelical charge against the slave trade. As the concepts of individual rights and human liberty arose under Christendom, it is both logically and empirically apparent that they will decline in tandem with the decline of Christianity across the West.
And yet, Christians need have no fear for the future of their faith in the coming years. The church has survived every persecution, every attempt to stamp it out for nearly 2,000 years. It will survive the current secular assault, just as it survived the historical Soviet assault. Kim Jong-Il is dead, while the Christians struggling to survive in the concentration camps he established throughout North Korea have not only outlived him, but celebrate the birth of their Lord and Savior today. We pray that their faith will be rewarded and their suffering will be eased; may they pray that our faith will survive our wealth and comfort.
The truth is: It does not depend upon one man, or seven billion men, women and children, acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord. All the powers and principalities of the world will exert their fury in vain. All the gates of hell will announce their lethal edicts to no avail, as they have already been defeated by the birth of the boy child who is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless us all, every one.