Sunday, July 16, 2006

Orthodox Christianity is Hated

From time to time, I clip (in the figurative sense) articles from the mainline and electronic media that deal with Christianity and culture. Sometimes I blog them, sometimes they just sit around for a few weeks until I delete them. But sometimes there are a few tidbits that I can tie together into a theme. This is one of those times.

What I notice time and again is that we are like Alice in Wonderland, living in a culture and in times in which up is down, left is right, good is evil, and evil is good. At the center of most of the hatred and bile of our culture is Christ's Church. Although the kinds of things we seem to read every other day make no logical sense, they should come as no surprise.

The sixteenth century reformer and theologian Martin Luther identified "the cross" as one of the marks of the Christian Church. In other words, if you want to identify whether a group of people are truly members of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, there are "marks" that tell us whether they are the true church or not. One of those marks, the cross, is the fact that where the true faith is, there will be persecution.

Our Lord told us as much when he said:

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.... They will also persecute you.... Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me." (John 15:18 - 16:2)

It has been a long time since the days of persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, when the faithful were crucified, tortured in the arena, and martyred for refusing to bend the knee to the false god Caesar. But the time of ease for the Church is at an end, and in fact, it is long since past in many places of the world where the Church is under physical duress. Christians are still arrested, tortured, and martyred in places like Sudan and China.

But in "civilized" countries, we see the hostility against the Church take a different tack. It is what our suffering brethren in Sweden call a "gray martyrdom." No-one is being sent to the arena or burned at the stake in Scandinavia for preaching the Christian faith - but we do see a marginalization of Christians, a social and political apartheid, and even charges of "hate speech" for proclaiming Christian truth as revealed in Scripture that conflicts with the Official Party Line of the Government.

Once again, the Christians are told to burn just a wee bit of incense before the false god of Government. Be patriotic. Be good citizens.

In the U.S., we don't even have the "gray martyrdom" of Sweden - not yet. What we have instead is an Orwellian redefinition of right and wrong, a reordering of morality that conflicts with the built-in sense of propriety that has been shared by civilized people for centuries.

Here is a news account of a private business owner who runs a skating rink. He is being charged with a violation by the Human Rights Division of the State of New York and is under investigation. What is his alleged crime? He plays Christian music on Sunday afternoons at his skating rink. It seems that this is a violation of the human rights of non-Christians.

Think about this for a moment: a "human rights violation." This is the language of the gulag, of concentration camps, of barbed wire. What has this man done? He played Christian music for people who skate after church. Now, I'm no fan of "contemporary Christian music" - much of its theology is weak and its style is unfit for Lutheran worship services. But having said that, this is America, and why should anyone - be they Jehovah's Winesses, Jews, Moslems, or Christians have their music criminalized - especially on private property? There is only one explanation for what is behind something so contrary to cherished American freedom. This is diabolical. It is a Satanic assault on Christ and His Bride.

Or how about this remarkable story of a judge that criminalized prayer at a graduation ceremony. What makes this otherwise commonplace happening unique is the reaction of the students. During the graduation ceremony, some 200 students defied the judge's order by defiantly reciting the Lord's Prayer contrary to the sanitized official program. The overwhelmingly Christian audience joined in.

I'm not militant about school prayer. In fact, I have no problem with public school events being completely secular. However, having said that, people do have freedom of speech. Public schools that have overwhelming populations of, say Orthodox Jews, Moslems, Evangelical Christians, or Roman Catholics can hardly expect that this cultural reality will simply be swept under the rug and hid under a bushel. Why is it only Christianity that is placed under a gag order of this nature? No-one was being forced to participate. Once again, where are the champions of free speech? Or is freedom only defended for people who think along approved lines? Is this "free speech" Castro-style?

So, what will now happen to these people? Will there be an investigation? Will there be fines? How about jail time for violating a judge's order? Can you imagine the outrage if any other type of free speech were banned at a graduation? And consider these "lawbreaking" kids. Were they spraying their school with graffiti? Were they roaming around with automatic weapons? Dealing drugs? Committing theft, rape, threats? No, these awful kids were praying. Oh, how dastardly! Maybe we need to build more prisons...

Consider this little window into our culture. A small indy film produced by Baptists that is utterly spic-and-span - no profanity, no violence, no nudity, no glorification of crime, no sexual innuendo, no drug references, etc. - a squeaky-clean family film - has been given a PG rating by the Motion Picture Association. Why? Because one of the characters talks about Jesus. Jesus. Not Hitler, not Pol Pot, but Jesus. A character in the film talks about Jesus Christ! Hence, "Parental Guidance" is suggested! First of all, Father Hollywood is not prudish when it comes to movies, nor is he a big fan of evangelism by asking people to "accept Jesus" or "make a decision for Christ" - but having said this: when I was growing up, a PG rating meant a movie had some element that made parents of small children consider whether or not to see the movie, maybe some bad language or adult plot themes. These days, the f-word, nudity, and violence can lurk under a PG rating. But a Baptist character talking to somebody about Jesus? Wow. That's crude stuff. Better not let the kiddies see something like that - it might warp them for life. Better send them to the sex and violence in the next screen at the multiplex. Are you getting the picture?

This approach to good and evil, right and wrong, reminds me of pop-star George Michael's outburst against a rendition of the Lord's Prayer by rock musician Cliff Richard a few years back. Michael called it "vile." "Vile" is a word that we used to use for people who torture animals, or those who hurt children, or those who harm innocent people in order to get ahead. "Vile" is a very strong word to describe something evil - er, like the Lord's Prayer. Indeed. George Michael ought to know the word "vile" - this is the same fellow who was arrested for indecent exposure and deviant sexual behavior with total strangers in public toilets on the highway. You know, the rest areas where you bring your children to go to the bathroom. But the Lord's Prayer is "vile." Got it.

So what happens culturally when people are constantly told good is evil and evil is good, where Christians are vilified, and attacking them becomes the routine job of government agencies and cultural gatekeepers?

Well, how about this lad? He desecrates Christian graves with paint and Satanic symbols and lacks all remorse. But why should he feel sorry? Isn't he just striking back at those evil Christians who are so bitterly opposed by our culture? He seems to expect to get a medal or something. In a few years, maybe he will.

And what other things happen when evil is called good, and good evil? In a culture where children are routinely sexualized and sexual deviance enjoys legimized status in many countries and states - a British pastor is fired from teaching school for giving a 10-year old girl, one of his students, a congratulatory peck on the cheek. Notice that the vicar did this completely in the open during an emotional moment. He did not jam his tongue down her throat or try to undress her. What kind of a culture do we live in where this sort of thing can be confused with pedophilia? There is absolutely nothing off-color or shady here - a priest gave a struggling student an innocent and fatherly kiss on the cheek after presenting her with an award. He was proud of this little girl who worked so hard. What a cad! Throw away the key!

My goodness! My little son is routinely smooched by parishioners of both sexes after church. Maybe it's the Francophone influence here in New Orleans, but people kiss one another all the time. St. Paul was always imploring Christian brothers and sisters to greet one another with a kiss. How can anything so spontaneous, tender, and innocent be dragged in the mud and made to seem "dirty"? It's because the waters themselves have been muddied. Thanks to perverted pop-stars and deviant members of the clergy who molest children - we now live in a culture where we are forced to treat one another like we have the bubonic plague - or risk lawsuits and firings. How said. But let's not forget: the Lord's Prayer is "vile."

I have no idea what this vicar's stand on women's ordination is, but this distortion of the roles of the sexes is also a symptom of our confused morality in which evil is called good, and good evil. About a hundred priests of the Church of England who oppose women's ordination were given assurances when women were first being ordained that they would not have to run afoul of their consciences and be forced to work with, or acknowledge women clergy. But now, as women are being considered for consecration as bishops by the Church of England, those promises are being broken. Conscience now counts for nothing, promises are now null and void, and those who stand up for orthodoxy are portrayed as evil.

This should come as no surprise, for the same scenario unfolded over the last 40 years in the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden. Opponents of women's ordination were allowed to opt out of participating with women priests and bishops by virtue of a "conscience clause." Gradually, as the culture began to shift, the conscience clause was grandfathered out. Now, a man must, as a test, accept communion from the hands of a woman pastor before he is permitted to attend seminary. He may well deny the resurrection, the miracles of Jesus, the atonement, the resurrection, etc. and he is permitted to hold these opinions and still study for the ministry. But he may not oppose women's ordination. There is only one explanation for this topsy-turvy turn of events - it is nothing short of diabolical.

We now live in a culture where Disney endorses special events for homosexuals while the Boy Scouts are treated as an amoral pariah. Morning talk radio hosts routinely use profanity and carry on at length about their genitalia while Baptists who make movies with Christian characters are slapped with "parental guidance" warnings due to content. Mel Gibson's record-breaking movie "The Passion of the Christ" was locked out of the Oscars, while a song entitled "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" is recognized for its esthetic and artistic virtuousity and given an Academy Award.

Do you feel like Alice yet?

Let's keep things in perspective, however. Our Lord told us this was coming:

"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt 5:11-12).

Amen! And come quickly Lord Jesus!


E said...

Thank-you. Thank-you. And again, thank-you. To put so eloquently into words the struggles within my heart about the direction the Church is going is truly a blessing and I am all the more blessed for the opportunity to have read them.

Renaissance Blogger

waited4thisdate said...

condense. problem is we dont listen as much as we used to. You have no comments for a reason. Narrow your thoughts down and more people will read you son.

Mike Green said...

Condense?!? No, more is better. Don't placate those with an MTV attention span. Besides, it's not like it was War and Peace. Spot on as usual, Father Hollywood!

Deacon said...

Thank you for this post. It seems that in today's world you can be anything that you want to be, just don't dare to be Christian.

The only question that I have for you concerns the ommission of the first of the four Nicene Adjectives. The Church is indeed Holy, Catholic and Apostolic; but, as the first Adjective tells us, she is also One.

Deacon said...

Thank you for this post. It seems that in today's world you can be anything that you want to be, just don't dare to be Christian.

The only question that I have for you concerns the ommission of the first of the four Nicene Adjectives. The Church is indeed Holy, Catholic and Apostolic; but, as the first Adjective tells us, she is also One.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Deacon:

Yes, indeed, she is one! It was not an intentional omission. The Bride of Christ is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic - and will be unto eternity!

Thanks for your post!

Steven G. said...

Great post Father.

Steven G. said...

I apologize for double posting, but I realized that I too left an adjective off of my last post.

Great post but sad. It reminds me of Jesus' comments:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not! (MAtt 23:37 KJV)

Deacon Jim said...

Well said.