Let’s face it: believers in the West have had a dream run up until recently. It has been easy street, big time. Christians and non-Christians pretty much lived together conflict-free, and often one was not all that distinguishable from the other.
In fact, for many, what they thought was Christianity was simply cultural Christianity. Everyone more or less believed in God, believed in Jesus, acknowledged the reality of sin, and so on. Most people gave mental assent to the Christian religion, and many went to church each week believing this was the thing to do.
How many of these folks were actual regenerate believers is another matter of course. But the stroll through the park is now coming to an end. As things really do start to heat up, with anti-Christian bigotry and persecution now becoming the norm in the West, it is no longer a free ride for believers.
The increasingly anti-Christian culture that we live in does serve one invaluable purpose: it is separating the men from the boys, or biblically speaking, the sheep from the goats. As things get more difficult for believers, the real disciples will rise to the surface while the frauds, fakes and cultural Christians will fall by the wayside.
And that is a good thing. It is time to stop playing games: as the persecution increases, we will see who the real deal Christians are, and who are not. Enough game playing and trivial pursuits. The day of comfortable Christianity is now over. It is time to get serious.
Clearly one of the main litmus tests today of those who mean business with God and those who don’t centres around the issue of homosexuality. This is becoming the key battleground where anti-Christian persecution is escalating rapidly.
The homosexual activists are using the heavy hand of the law to enforce their agenda on everyone – whether they like it or not. More and more Christians, churches and faith groups are being targeted by the militants, and we are seeing who will stand true to Christ and Scripture and who will cave in.
Two very recent articles have just been written on such matters, buttressing what I am saying here, so they both are worth quoting from. The first comes from evangelical commentator and Professor of Biblical Studies Denny Burk. He speaks about the disappearing middle ground in the homosexuality debates, and the coming conflict. He begins:
Middle ground is disappearing on the question of whether LGBT persons should be treated as full equals, without any discrimination in society — and on the related question of whether religious institutions should be allowed to continue discriminating due to their doctrinal beliefs.
It turns out that you are either for full and unequivocal social and legal equality for LGBT people, or you are against it, and your answer will at some point be revealed. This is true both for individuals and for institutions. Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you….
Those pushing for LGBT “rights” do not mean to offer any accommodation whatsoever to those of us who dissent from the moral revolution overtaking the West. All dissent must be eliminated, and those who continue to defy the revolution must be marginalized as morally retrograde bigots. There will be no hiding. No compromises. Everyone will eventually be smoked-out. And those who resist will be crushed. That is their aim.
The consequences are very real:
Openly discriminatory religious schools and parachurch organizations will feel the pinch first. Any entity that requires government accreditation or touches government dollars will be in the immediate line of fire. Some organizations will face the choice either to abandon discriminatory policies or risk potential closure. Others will simply face increasing social marginalization.
A vast host of neutralist, avoidist, or de facto discriminatory institutions and individuals will also find that they can no longer finesse the LGBT issue. Space for neutrality or “mild” discrimination will close up as well.
He too writes about the sifting process going on here:
We also know that the conflicts ahead will be a proving ground for the faithful. There are many who call themselves Christian now but who will fall away when the conflicts come. When it becomes costly to follow what Jesus says about sexual immorality, some people will deny Jesus’ word in order to avoid the conflict. And that denial will not lead them to Jesus but away from Jesus. The settled conviction to deny Christ’s word is what the Bible calls apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1). Their going out from us to join the opposition will show what they are: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.” -1 John 2:19
We are preparing ourselves for the heartbreak of these departures. But as they go out, the faithful are going to count the cost of staying in. That is what we are doing right now. And we are praying for the strength and resolve to stand when the heat is on. It is not even on our radar screen to consider turning back.
What America has been is not what it will be either for you or for your children. Are you preparing yourself and your children to be faithful when it all comes down? Are you going to be faithful to Christ when they tell you that following Christ means giving up your livelihood? There are already American Christians who are facing that choice right now.
If you think that you and I are exempt from this kind of persecution, you are wrong. We have no guarantee that we will not face the same difficulty in the near or long term. We might. And the question that we have to ask ourselves is this. Will we be ready when our time comes? If we are unwilling to suffer at the easy end of the persecution spectrum, we won’t be ready when the persecution begins moving toward the more difficult end of the spectrum. We need to be ready, and we need to be preparing our kids to be ready. And the first step to being ready is to remember, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This is the norm, not the exception.
My second author is Msgr. Charles Pope, a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. He too speaks to the growing hostility of the surrounding culture and the rise in persecution:
There is a growing consternation among some Catholics that the Church, at least in her leadership, is living in the past. It seems there is no awareness that we are at war and that Catholics need to be summoned to sobriety, increasing separation from the wider culture, courageous witness and increasing martyrdom. It is long past dark in our culture, but in most parishes and dioceses it is business as usual and there is anything but the sober alarm that is really necessary in times like these….
If there ever was a time to wear soft garments, it is not now. It is zero-dark-thirty in our post-Christian culture. And while we may wish to blame any number of factors for the collapse, we cannot exclude ourselves. We who are supposed to be the light of the world, with Christ shining in us, have preferred to hide our light under a basket and lay low. The ruins of our families and culture are testimony to the triumph of error and the suppression of the truth.
More than ever we need to shift toward being distinctive from the culture we have refused to critique and call to reform. More than ever our faith needs to shine brightly and clearly in our churches and communities.
And if a world now accustomed to great darkness calls our light harsh, so be it. If our light does not shine, there is no light at all….
Simply put, it is time for clergy to prepare themselves and God’s people for sacrifice. Seeking to compromise with this culture is now unthinkable. Our only recourse is to seek to lance the boils. And the culture will cry foul. And we who do the lancing will be made increasingly to suffer. But we have to be willing to embrace and endure such suffering in increasing ways in the months and years ahead.
We are at war for our own souls and the souls of people we love. We are at war for the soul of this culture and nation. And like any soldier, we must train to fight well. We must study our faith and be more committed than ever. We must also know our enemy and his tactics, and we must be prepared to suffer — and even to lose our life.
We have to retool and provide every opportunity to get clear about our faith. Sermons and other teachable moments must sound a clear call to personal conversion and to battle for souls and to stop treating lightly the sinful disregard for God’s law in our families and communities.
It is time, past time, to retool. It is time to prepare for persecutions that will get bolder by the month and year. The dark movements that marched in under the banners of tolerance never meant it. And having increasingly gained power, they are seeking to criminalize anyone who resists their vision. No tolerance for us. Religious liberty is eroding, and compulsory compliance is already here. The federal courts increasingly shift to militantly secular and activist judges who legislate from the bench.
When will we as a Church finally say to the bureaucrats who demand we comply with evil laws: “We will not comply. If you fine us we will not pay. If you seek to confiscate our buildings, we will turn maximum publicity against you, but we still will not comply. If you arrest us, off to jail we go! But we will simply not comply with evil laws or cooperate with evil.” Right now, most of us can barely imagine our clergy standing so firm. Quiet compromises and jargon-filled “solutions” will be a grave temptation to a Church ill-prepared for persecution.
Call me alarmist or call me idealist, but I hope we find our spine before it is too late. It is usually a faithful remnant that saves the day in the Biblical narrative. I pray only for the strength to be in that faithful remnant. Will you join me too? Let’s pray and start retooling now. Only our unambiguous faith can save us or anyone we love. Pray for strong and courageous faith.
It was the late Archdiocese of Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George (1937-2015) who said, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
That is the right approach to take. Things are going downhill fast, separating the wheat from the chaff, but God is not finished yet, and we must persevere until the end. And the only way we can do that is to make a full break from comfortable Christianity.