Tag Archives: Christianity

The Book Every Christian Should Read

When you read my title, you probably think I am going to say that every Christian should read the Bible. Instead I am saying that every Christian should read How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps. Every Christian must read the Bible, because the Bible is our bread of life. The Bible is God’s Word, and Jesus said that our natural food is every word out of the mouth of God. However, Satan is becoming increasingly aggressive against all of us, and the best way to learn how he plans to attack is to read How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps. Every Christian should read it.

The subtitle is “a toolkit for secular activists,” and the method proposed by the author Ryan T. Cragun is clearly outlined in the Table of Contents:

  1. Promote and Defend Secular Education
  2. Empower Gender, Sexual, and Racial Minorities
  3. Provide “This Life” Security
  4. Encourage Sexual Liberation for Everyone
  5. Stop Subsidizing Religion and Deregulate It
  6. Encourage Regulated Capitalism
  7. Support Education, Art, and Science
  8. Syncretize Holidays and Rituals
  9. Change Society to Value Critical Thinking and Scientific Inquiry
  10. Teach Humanist Ethics in School

If you think that most of these elements of the “toolkit” sound innocuous, you need to recognize a fundamental element of the battle being launched by secular activism: redefinition. The battle for the life of humankind is being fought on the battleground of Truth, and a universal weapon against Truth is redefinition of words. Think, for example, about the word equality. Until recently, every American citizen would have said that the statement “all men are created equal” meant that each of us has equal standing in the law of the land and equal opportunity to thrive. The limits to our accomplishment and happiness are whatever limits we set on ourselves. We all are born equal in God’s eyes, and we are all equally loved by God.

The word equality took on a new meaning, however, when secular activists, the individuals who are the target audience for How to Defeat Religion, appropriated the word and coupled it with the word marriage. The first time I heard the phrase marriage equality, I could not imagine what the phrase could possibly mean. Who couldn’t get married? The answer: homosexuals. Why? Because everyone in the world understood that marriage was the union of a man and a woman. Whether people looked in the Bible for guidance or they simply looked at world history, one thing was obvious: humankind considered the union of a man and a woman to be a marriage. No other union of humans was considered a marriage. LGBTQ activists created the phrase marriage equality in order to avoid the discussion of the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Activists leaped past that definition by coupling the word marriage with the word equality. In so doing, they embarked on a discussion that did not even make sense unless the definition of marriage was scrapped. By forcing the discussion to the word equality  they avoided needing to argue for a redefinition of marriage. They successfully pushed the discussion past the definition of marriage and made it about a redefined concept of equality. The cultural whiplash dumbfounded many persons who wanted to keep the argument on the real subject, but activists acted as if marriage had always been a civil right protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and that is the argument that was successfully sold to the Supreme Court. The court did not address whether it is legitimate to call a union of two men or two women a marriage. The court simply said that nobody could be denied the “right” to marry. Any definition of the word marriage ceased to exist.

In the light of that experience, a Christian should read the book How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps with a wary eye. The author is writing for secular activists, not for Christians. He uses words as defined in the worldview of secular activism. The historic usage and definitions of words must be set aside when reading How to Defeat Religion in order for the reality of its plan of action to be clear. For example, in the title of chapter 9 you see the words, “Change Society to Value Critical Thinking and Scientific Inquiry.” You understand those words in their historic, common sense definitions, and you wonder what could be the problem this “change” would solve. However, if you read the chapter attentively, you will see that in the hands of secular activists, those words have very different meanings, and a serious problem emerges from the redefinitions.

Why should a Christian read such a book? The answer is simple. It is the old adage, “Know thine enemy.” Luke, writing in the gospel that bears his name, says that after Jesus rejected all of Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, Satan backed away and waited for a more opportune moment. When Satan saw the empty character of Judas, he entered in and engineered Christ’s crucifixion. Even though Christ’s death and resurrection actually worked the defeat of Satan in eternity, the Evil One still lurks in time and space waiting for opportunities in the hearts of human beings who have the same emptiness of character as Judas. The book How to Defeat Religion tells us some of the lines of attack Satan uses to invade humans, even many who claim the name of Christ.

When I reviewed the book on Amazon, I gave it five stars, because this book does exactly what it promises to do, but in my review, I point out that this strategy will only work if religion is what the book says it is: the will to believe a myth as if it were reality.

The thinly disguised fact underlying the book is that its target is not religion in general. I did not see any real evidence that the writer had a problem with Hinduism or Buddhism or Shinto. It seemed quite clear that the target is Christianity. That is fine with me, because Hinduism, Buddhism and Shinto, like all the other religions, are not about Truth. They are, in fact, myths, and many of their adherents do not have a problem with treating their religions as myths. Cragun, however, is not battling windmills; he is battling Christ. We who claim the name of Christ are not battling windmills, either. We are battling “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The author of How to Defeat Religion reveals where we will fight many of the battles that make up this war.

The power that will defeat those who follow the path outlined in How to Defeat Religion works in the life of a person who lives in an active relationship with Christ. Cragun’s strategy will work only if there is nothing beyond the time/space continuum. Inside that limited universe, Satan runs rampant. The only force that can resist and defeat him is a life fully committed to Christ. The strategies outlined in How to Defeat Religion are powerless against a life traveled on The Way, filled with The Truth, and energized by The Life that never ends. We in whom the Holy Spirit dwells carry around in our bodies living temples that the strategies in this book cannot touch. No matter how many churches are regulated out of existence, Christ’s church will thrive in the lives of his followers. No matter how many homosexuals marry, or how many new genders are discovered, Christ’s followers will live in obedience to Christ, filled with joy according to Christ’s Truth revealed in the Bible.

We need to know what secular activists are doing if we are to be salt and light in the culture. Hiding from the reality of their agenda will only make it harder for us to shine our light in the world around us. Satan has sensed an opportune time to attack Christ and his followers. We must know our enemy and act in the power of Christ to defeat his assaults. How convenient that the Enemy’s current strategy is so clearly outlined in How to Defeat Religion.

 

I am delighted to feature a post that says what needs to be said, and says it very well.

What Happens when your Worldview is Built Upon a Free Lunch

Ben Woodfinden is a graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada working towards an MA in Political Philosophy. His research interests include the origins of modernity and the relationship between religion and politics. Ben holds a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton.

No Christian is Perfect

 

ChurchPointsToChristReally good fiction may not be a true story, but the best fiction is always truth. For example, In the novel Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier, there is a startling and insightful commentary on the failure of self-identified Christians to live up to the faith we all profess. In the early nineteenth century, a Christian group offered to provide Cherokee Indians in the Blue Ridge mountains some Bible stories translated and written in the Cherokee syllabary. Before agreeing to the distribution of these stories, the Cherokee leader, Bear, asked for samples of Bible stories, which he heard with some interest. Describing the outcome, the author concludes the matter this way:

In the end, [Bear] said he judged the Bible to be a sound book. Nevertheless, he wondered why the white people were not better than they are, having had it for so long. He promised that just as soon as white people achieved Christianity, he would recommend it to his own folks.   p. 21

Any Christian who has talked with very many people about what it means to be Christian has heard a similar response. Most people express it by saying that they don’t want to be Christians because of all the hypocrites in the church. They, like Bear, want all the people who claim to be Christians to “achieve” Christianity before they themselves undertake it.

Jesus warned Christians that this would be a problem when he told his disciples that their love for each other would be a mark of his reign in their lives. In another place he said that we should do good works in such a way that it made people praise God, not us. Jesus expected people to watch his followers and notice what they did and what they did not do. We should all be alert to the fact that our lives are viewed by people as the expression of our relationships with Christ, or the lack thereof. Christians regularly bemoan the fact that people who do not know Christ use imperfect Christians as an excuse to reject Him.

This is why all of us should be very careful to point to Christ, not ourselves. It is Christ we offer to people for their salvation, not ourselves. It isn’t even the church. The church, the family of Christ, is a good thing, but it isn’t Christ. People are not saved by the church; they are saved by Christ. Those who are saved by Christ fellowship with him and with other believers in the church.

People who reject Christ because of their issues with some of Christ’s followers are looking at the wrong standard. The only way we can hope to get past that problem is by seeking the character trait of humility. We know that John was right when he wrote, “what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is”(1 John 3:2 ESV). We know that we are not perfect.

When we invite people into Christ’s kingdom, we must point them to Christ, not to other Christians. Yet, we all are called to live a faithful testimony to Christ, and that means we must be as much like him as we can manage. People do not all mature at the same rate, so it takes longer for some people, but if we keep our own eyes on Jesus, all of us should certainly demonstrate growth, even if we don’t demonstrate perfection. We must resist the temptation to try to pretend we are anything but works in progress. One of the reasons churches traditionally have spires, arches, and lofty windows is that designers want them to point people’s attention away from earthly things to heavenly things.

When Christ was about to ascend to heaven, some of his followers gathered to be with him. Not one of them was a perfect example of what a Christian should be. Each was a flawed, but redeemed, individual. Jesus did not say, “When you become perfect, then go into all the world.” He said, “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV). Imperfect though we are, we are chosen. We, the imperfect, must go ahead and share with the world that good news that Christ died and is alive in order to save sinful, imperfect human beings. We don’t run ahead of sinners and cry out, “Follow me!” We walk beside them and say, “Let’s go to Jesus.”

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com

photo credit: 20140911-DSC02640 Teweksbury Abbey Gloucestershire.jpg via photopin (license)

World Watch List #8 Pakistan

flag-pakistan-M

Christian mother, Asia Bibi, has spent the last 5 years on death row in Pakistan after being accused and convicted of blasphemy. Her problems began when she offered water to a fellow human being. Asia herself had drunk from the well, but later she was told that Christians were forbidden to use that well.  An argument arose among the women to whom she had offered a drink. They were all Muslim, and they began to make fun of Christians.

In self-defense Asia asked a simple question “Jesus died on the cross for us, what has Mohammed done for you?”

Her Muslim neighbors instantly challenged her comments as blasphemy. The women attacked her and drove her back home. Later, she was brutally beaten and raped. Two of her daughters were also later assaulted.

Due to the culture of Pakistan Christians are considered untouchable. Within the Muslim majority most believe that Christians should be humiliated and shamed. Every Christian who breaks even simple cultural traditions is subject to the charge of blasphemy. Many Christians have been imprisoned on the charge of blasphemy, but most are eventually released. Some have been exonerated, due to evidence that the original charge was made up. Asia Bibi is not the only Christian prisoner in Pakistan, but she is the only one sentenced to death.

Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi must obtain all her food in prison from family and friends. She must prepare it herself, because if Muslims handle her food she is at risk of being poisoned. The risk that any Muslim will feel free to shame or harm any Christian is rampant in the culture.

When natural disasters strike, such as earthquakes and floods, the Muslim majority receive help from the government to recover from the tragedy and to rebuild their homes. Christians are ignored Mr. Khurram Daud Gill, a social activist in Pakistan said, “We witness that Christian flood victims have been treated as untouchables by the government. The rescue, relief and then rehabilitation work was done unfairly. The district government did not provide adequate machines or cranes to lift the mud from the streets and heavy debris of ruined buildings. None of the high scale government officials visited the victims.

Pray

  • For Asia Bibi who remains in prison for alleged blasphemy after her appeal was turned down by the Pakistani High Court
  • For the growing number of Christian women and girls who are targets of killings and sexual assault
  • That the Taliban will be driven out of the country by government forces

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Images:
Flag of Pakistan
Courtesy of All-Flags-World
Source:http://www.all-flags-world.com/country-flag/Iran/national-pakistani-flag.php

 

Image: Asia Bibi
Source: http://www.persecution.com
Used by permission

How to Avoid Seeing Christ

Barack_Obama_National_Prayer_Breakfast_20090205When the President of the United States of America recently spoke at a prayer breakfast and declared a number of wrongs done in the name of Christ, many Christians across the country were appalled. He pointed to the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, and Jim Crow laws as examples of wrongs justified as obedience to Christ. Whatever his personal agenda was that day, it can be stated with absolute certainty that it was never his purpose to praise or serve Christ in those words. Nothing about the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery or Jim Crow laws has anything whatsoever to do with the teachings of Christ or the work of his church. What’s more, nothing about those events serves to justify some other occasion of wrongdoing in any historical era. The clear purpose of those words was to tamp down outrage over violence wrought by militant forces who claim to be serving Allah. The obvious intent was to make Christians ashamed of criticizing the violence of people who claim to be acting for Allah and for the advancement of Islam.

Christians need not be ashamed of abhorring the violence of ISIS, or that of Boko Haram, or that of Al Shabaab, or the violence of any other violent group that claims the name of Islam. People who follow Christ are justly ashamed that the Crusades were initiated as if they were the work of Christ, because people who follow Christ know that the Crusades were never part of Christ’s plan for the advancement of his kingdom. Anyone who studies history knows that fact. The Crusades were politically motivated, and the church was so deeply integrated with the state at the time that whatever the state did was labelled Christian. It defies logic to attempt to justify the violence of ISIS because the violence of the Crusades was not Christ-like.

Such utter disconnect with the truth of Christ taught our founding fathers that the administration of the state must not be confused with the administration of a religion. They did not reject the voice of Christians as citizens with the right to speak and act for what is right. They did reject the integration of church administration with political administration. The founders  protected people of all faiths with the assurance that government would never try to tell them what to believe or whom to worship or how to live out their faith. The men who founded the USA knew that evil loves to cloak itself in religious garments and governmental power. They also knew that the values of citizens are rooted in their faith, and the founders welcomed the expression of and advocacy for values based in faith. They did not reject the voice of people of faith out of some misguided notion that advocacy for the values taught by faith was synonymous with giving that faith executive power.

All sorts of people had agendas related to the Crusade, the Inquisition, slavery and the Jim Crow laws. The agendas that drove the wickedness did not derive from Christ or his teachings. The fact that many individuals and groups appropriated Christ’s name and claimed his support for their behavior does not make it so. Making Christ responsible for the Inquisition or slavery is like making cows responsible for the increase in size of the Sahara Desert. When all the available facts are examined, the evidence does not support the conclusion. Christ’s teachings do not incite to violence, torture, and oppression.

Christ told his disciples and the other people listening to his Sermon on the Mount to expect this sort of thing. When he spoke of heaven and those who will join him there, he said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV). We can safely conclude from that statement that people who somehow do a few good things by claiming the name of Christ will never be able to gloss over their evil by trying to hide behind a good show of good deeds.

The elected leaders in Congress who voted for the Affordable Care Act showed exactly this behavior. They have not, to this day, read the content of that law, yet they go around claiming that this law is good law, even though it is profoundly evil in its design and implementation. Any sane person who reads the text of the law will quickly see that the benefit of the law falls on those who are hired to administer it—the bureaucracies that create bureaucracies that monitor bureaucracies that eat up the federal budget by the billions of dollars at a bite. The President is the most visible and most vocal of the people who claim that this act is something good, when it is demonstrably a profound evil that is already harming the very populations it alleged to help. Numerous supporters, too, linked the ACA to Jesus, even though this is not at all what Jesus meant by helping the sick.

An agenda that steals the God-given freedom of people and enslaves them to government through secret taxes and oppressive bureaucracies is evil. Evil thrives on its success in turning people’s eyes away from Jesus. Many evil laws have been passed under the guise of feeding the hungry, curing the sick, housing the homeless or ending all wars. The proponents of such laws always allude to the teachings of Jesus. They are exactly right that Jesus taught us to help the downtrodden. However, Jesus taught us to do it with our own gifts. Jesus taught me to give my own coat to somebody who was shivering; Jesus did not teach me to grab your coat and your hat and your wallet so I could give the coat and hat to someone who is cold and keep the wallet for myself. This sort of behavior was behind the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and Jim Crow laws. This sort of behavior is embedded in the Affordable Care Act and in most government social programs. This sort of behavior has nothing to do with Jesus.

It is a great challenge in the US today to keep pointing to Jesus. Political leaders of all stripes busily accuse Christ of blessing their agendas. When we look intently at Jesus, we see that he has nothing to do with the many evils linked to his name and his mission. It is easy to see that Satan, the father of lies, is behind all of these things.

Who is Christ? He is the one who came to save the people of the world from being enslaved by the lies of Satan. He is the one who pitied the downtrodden and lifted them up. He touched lepers, fed the hungry, held children on his lap, and suffered under Pontius Pilate. He suffered under cruelty perpetrated by an agenda that originated in the unholy union of religious and political leadership. Jesus died at the hands of the same variety of unholy alliance that produced the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and Jim Crow. He did it, because his purpose was to save people from being lured into such evil.

When Nicodemus came to Christ one night, curious about him because he seemed so unlike the religious leaders among the Pharisees and the priests, Jesus gave Nicodemus the answers he needed: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Such a mission is completely opposite to the purposes of the Roman government, the Pharisees, the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, Jim Crow laws, or even the Affordable Care Act. If people actually look at Christ, it will be easy for them to see that his love and grace do not produce such evil. In order to see the origin of evil, they must look away from Christ.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Barack Obama at Prayer Breakfast
By Pete Souza, White House photographer (http://www.whitehouse.gov/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABarack_Obama_National_Prayer_Breakfast_20090205.jpg