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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Western Christianity More Determined Than Ever to Self-Destruct

Link: Christians Attacking Christians

"But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."
Galatians 5:15

I'm sure it happens all year long, but for some reason, I seem to notice it more during Lent.  And there is no doubt I experience it more in the United States than anywhere else.  I'm referring to the obsession Christians have with bashing each other.  Up front, let me say that I have no intention of "being fair".  I promise to be as honest as my life experience's allow.  I will call it as I've seen it.  But first, let's have a look at the Islamic community at war with itself.  At present, the Christian world is being given a front-row seat into the eternal conflict between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims.  Internationally, the Sunni greatly outnumber the Shi'a, and consider themselves to be more enlightened, more educated and more refined.  The Shi'a have endured a type of prejudice within the Muslim community which assumes them to be less-educated and backward.  In the last few decades, the Shi'a have become much more vocal and aggressive, especially in Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon.  The Shi'a Houthi group in Yemen has recently removed the Sunni government from power, and is threatening to draw Saudi Arabia into a conventional conflict in the streets of Sana'a.  All the while, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have risen like a phoenix from the ashes, and inflicted repeated strategic defeats on the Islamic State forces in and around Tikrit.  Why is this worth mentioning?  Because for months, the ISF has been equipped and trained by the United States, and the U.S.-led air coalition has been attempting to provide air cover for operations against the IS; unfortunately for the U.S., during these months, the ISF had its ass handed to them.  It was only after Iran provided military advisors and the Shi'a militia became more effective that the tide of battle changed. 

Not surprisingly, Iran has received the credit for this change in fortune.  An "Intro to Islamic Studies" course will teach even the most rudimentary student that Iran is a majority Shi'a nation, and the flag-bearer internationally and diplomatically for the Shi'a community.  The Iranians freely admit to providing support to the Houthis, who were locked in a battle with both the Sunni-Yemeni government and Sunni-based Al-Qaeda, who controls a good part of southern Yemen, along the coast and right up to Aden.  I have recently become convinced that Sunni Islamic extremist groups send new recruits to Yemen to receive training for the battlefields of Iraq and Syria.  At present, the experience to be gained in Yemen is much more similar to Syria than the experience of fighting in Afghanistan.  The established Sunni governments of the Middle East, especially the monarchies, are very disturbed by the spread of Iranian (read: Shi'a) influence and authority, and the timing couldn't be worse.  Any day now, the Obama Administration will announce the successful negotiation of a Treaty with Iran, that allows the Iranians to peacefully pursue Nuclear research.  No doubt the treaty will call for inspections, but something tells me that the Iranians will be inspecting themselves.  So Iran seems to be hitting the crest of a wave, and now the world waits to see if they can successfully surf it on home.

In one form or another, I believe the organized religions of the world are going to have a confrontation.  I am hoping it will be a diplomatic engagement that results in greater understanding and peace in our lifetime.  If we look at the glass as half-empty, then we must consider a major military confrontation with forces that are attempting to forcibly convert the world to (Sunni) Islam.  For practical purposes, the Muslims need to resolve their own issue between Sunni and Shi'a.  But lets take  look at the other side of the coin, the Christian West.  Even though the hearts of Catholicism and Orthodoxy are in Europe, I can't speak for the European Christian community.  I realize that pockets of devout believers exist in Eastern Europe, but let's face it, the European Christian actually seems ashamed of their beliefs.  If Christianity is going to regenerate itself, in light of the potential threat of an organization like the Islamic State, it will have to take place in the United States.  And this is where the real tragedy takes shape.  In Europe, you can't find a full congregation anywhere in France, Spain, England or Sweden.  Young people no longer get married, and the secular aspect of once-Christian holidays now dominate.  Christmas is about Santa Claus and Rudolph, not the Christ-child.  Further west, the Obama Administration appears to be hostile to the American Christian community, but they have been careful in their actions.  The African-American community, which supports this Administration with over ninety-five percent of its vote, considers religion to be an important part of the family and daily life.  So the attacks on Christianity have been subtle and infrequent, except, of course, for the ongoing "Gay Marriage" debate.  But when I take a good look at what is taking shape in Syria, in Libya, In Nigeria, in Yemen, in Pakistan, in Egypt, and in Somalia, I shudder for the future of my faith.  Regardless of what the left and the ACLU tell you, the United States was founded on Christian values.  That is the reason you find God mentioned in the Constitution, and most other legal documents of the time.  The founding fathers were not opposed to religion, they were opposed to a "STATE RELIGION".  But in the last three to four decades, we have allowed this tiny minority of uber-left Christophobes to remove any mention of Christian values from our schools and from any building that has U.S. government affiliation.  The Constitution speaks clearly about a separation of Church and State, which in my mind simply means we cannot have a state religion.  The beginning of the war against Christianity in the United States really picked up steam with the campaign against prayer in school.  The slippery slope has come into play in force, as now we can't pray for no injuries in H.S. sporting events, or allow religious based groups to make use of school facilities (library for meetings for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes) after school hours.  Prepare to spend the night in jail of you attempt to put a Nativity Scene in front of a public school in December.

There is great strength in unity; I know this, and I'm no rocket scientist.  The various Christian denominations in the U.S. are perfectly suited to rising together in opposition to the long-term plans of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and setting the needed example.  Where religion is concerned, the American people give generously of their time and money.  We should be able to expect Roman Catholics, Baptists (Southern, et al), Protestants (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Unitarians, Anglicans), Mormons, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Evangelicals of all shapes and sizes, Seventh Day Adventists, and whoever I've left out, to come together and meet this threat, united in our faith that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that he died on the cross for our sins. I guarantee you, ALREADY someone has a problem with what I've just written.  Argh.  Recently, I attended a Sunday service of a denomination that is a bit of a mystery to me.  They spend most of their Sundays in worship, which is great, and they constitute one of the larger Christian denominations in the United States.  And as I listened to the sermon, I heard many things that were familiar to me.  In fact, nothing seemed to conflict with what I had been taught as a Catholic.  But then it happened.  The commentary from the pulpit began to include negative observations about another Christian denomination.  Things got back on track, but then it happened again. During the day, in between sermons and during, I noticed a certain amount of comfort in openly criticizing the beliefs/traditions/practices of other Christian denominations (heck, they probably don't even consider these other groups to be true Christians).  Now I can tell you in complete honesty that in my entire life as a Church-going Catholic, I can't remember the Priest EVER mentioning another denomination.  In fact, in times like these, I think its about time we started discussing Islamic extremism during Catholic services.  But what I heard that Sunday, I've never heard in a Catholic Church, although I'm sure it happens.  There is no doubt that every Christian denomination in the United States, will occasionally point out what the other "Christians" are doing wrong, "according to scripture".  Now if we the opposing side were allowed to defend themselves, no doubt they would interpret that same bit of scripture differently.  Its no big surprise that different people interpret religious text differently.  No one wants to consider the possibility that all along, they've been thinking the wrong thing.  The real nightmare begins when people start arguing about the multiple translations, and should be only translate Aramaic, or also Greek?  Now is the time that I stand up in the middle of everyone, and just scream at the top of my lungs, to get everyone to shut up and listen to me.

When did we, as Christians, turn away from the many things that united us, and start focusing exclusively on the few things on which we don't agree?  All of the groups I mentioned in the paragraph above (well, almost all) agree on the most important basic tenets of our faith.  We believe that Jesus is Lord, and that he is the son of God and that he suffered and died for us on the cross.  We believe in the resurrection; that he will return.  Jesus is God, God is Jesus, and God is Love.  Its wrong to lie, and to steal from your neighbor.  Can we agree on that?  Murder is arguably the worst crime that a person can commit, although rape and sexual assault is right up there.  Are we still on the same page?  The age of adulthood, for legal purposes, is eighteen, and we have a Constitution that we use to guide and protect us in our everyday social interaction with each other.  We abhor discrimination of any kind, and believe a family is the best place in which to raise a child.  See how easy this is?  Am I on the right track?  Our common beliefs are the glue that hold us together, and one day we very well may have that bond tested by the evil we are watching in Syria and Iraq today.  There is no doubt in my mind that both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization are evil.  As such, they will use our own bad habits against us, which include our own intolerance of each other.  "I don't like Baptists, they don't dance."  "Catholics worship false idols".  "Pentecostals speak in tongues and don't translate it properly".  The list goes on, and on, and on.  We have managed to live with each other, to marry one another, and to build families together, all these differences notwithstanding.  And we built this country together.  We are the only ones that can allow for this destructive process to be reversed.  What we are required to do, for the love of our faith, our families and our country, is to search out our commonalities, our special bonds, and when the time comes, we must bring each other close together, so that, united, Al-Qaeda, or the Islamic State, or whoever, will find no quarter here, not as long as they seek to divide.

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