Back in the early 1980s as I was just beginning to get involved in the pro-life, pro-family grass-roots movement, I had the opportunity to work with a man who had taken the mantle of an organization that was defending religious liberty. He had been working to get the church more engaged in the battle for several years and had just simply burned out. As he left the organization and the arena entirely, he made a comment that I have never forgotten.
"Dave, the only thing that will awaken the church is a healthy dose of persecution."
We have raised the alarm about anti-Christian bigotry, attacks on religious liberty and even coming "persecution" for years. The escalations of lawsuits, media bias, hostility in academia and political contempt against biblical Christianity have certainly been real, tangible and measurable.
We have no idea in America what persecution is. Yes, we are closer than we have ever been to opening the doors for true persecution, but we have not even begun to see what it looks like.
I had the joy of preaching both services last weekend in a Chinese church, and I am always horribly convicted whenever addressing this issue with our Chinese brethren. They know what real persecution is. Spend some time at Voice of the Martyrs or read "Foxe's Book of Martyrs" to get a small glimpse. We read about it and we can now see images worldwide of Christians who have lost lives, family, property, businesses and freedom for simply being a Christian. Like combat, however, nothing is like experiencing it personally.
According to the Voice of the Martyrs, the organization "completed projects to help persecuted Christians in 46 restricted or hostile nations during 2008, along with four countries where Christians are rebuilding after Communist oppression." The two primary oppressors are Communist regimes (China, North Korea and Cuba) and Islamic-dominated cultures and states.
Tragically, "liberated" Iraq is one of the top persecutors of Christians, with tens of thousands of Coptic Christians fleeing the post-Hussein Islamic state. The worst oppressor per capita is North Korea. Here in the United States we had better face reality that the direct influence of both Communism and Islam are increasing here via a multi-generational weakening of the only possible source of opposition – the Christian church.
Scripture tells us, "But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house" (Mark 3:27). We did not arrive in 2009 post-Christian, multi-cultural, politically correct America that is bowing to these Twins of Tyranny without first having the "strong man" bound and gagged.
The creeping corruption of pietism that divided sacred from secular; the emotionalism that elevates feelings over truth; the acceptance of the separation of God from education and government; and the "seeker friendly," "market-driven," "health, wealth and prosperity" and "your best life now" trends in American Christendom have systematically brought self-imposed paralysis to the churches.
While this weakening was occurring, another agenda was moving forward strongly under the noses of the pastors and church leaders in this country:
- Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
- A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
- Abolition of all right of inheritance.
- Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
- Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
- Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
- Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
- Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
- Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equal distribution of the population over the country.
- Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production.
This list is called "10 Conditions For Transition To Communism" and is directly from the Communist Manifesto. The parallel agendas of the Humanist Manifestos I (1933), II (1973) and III (2003) were also at work, primarily in our government and higher education systems – including seminaries.
For example, Article 1 of HM I states, "Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created." We wondered where the "theistic evolutionists" came from? Article 10 declares "Religion consists of those actions, purposes, and experiences which are humanly significant. … It includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love, friendship, recreation. … The distinction between the sacred and the secular can no longer be maintained."
While the Christian church was busily relegating biblical influence over the affairs of our culture to the history books, the atheists and religious liberals were thrilled to move right in to the empty house. We did not have to be bound, we bound ourselves.
Persecution, the physical, institutional expression of ungodly hatred, is the inevitable consequence of this progression, whether by creeping tyranny as we have allowed on our watch, or military conquest.
The question of the hour for all patriotic Americans, but in particular the small remnant of biblically thinking Christians, is whether we care enough to use all necessary and available nonviolent means to "unbind" the church and eject these "enemies within" from every institution of influence before we have no choice but to flee or fight.
Maybe that is what it will truly take, as my friend said, to awaken the church.