Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. (1 Peter 4:12-13 NLT)
The Apostle Peter was a victim of Nero’s campaign of terror on the Christians, and was executed in about AD 65. The Christians became a secret sect that fell victim to the lions and gladiators whenever they were found. They committed no crime other than to gather to sing songs, quotes scriptures, and encourage one another. From David Bernard’s book, the History of Christian Doctrine: “Pagan opposition to Chrisitanity was based on misunderstandings and false, scurrilous rumors. It was commonly reported that christians murdered people, sacrificed babies, ate human flesh, drank human blood, conducted orgies, and so on. In addition, pagan writers attacked Christianity on the ground that it undermined the state and the fiber of society.”
Let’s fast forward and to the time of the Protestant Reformation. Micheal Servetus was a man who saw the errors of religion wedded with the state and consolidated under a central power, the Pope. As he studied religion and saw the excesses of the church, he realized the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church were in grave error. He traced this error back to the state-sponsored councils that affirmed the Trinity instead of One God in Christ. Servetus had to flee for his life after publishing his views, but he continued to write in defense of the oneness of God, the full humanity and Deity of Christ, and the necessity of faith and repentance in baptism (no infant baptism). And he was executed for it in Oct. 1553, by the protestant city council of Geneva, Switzerland, “in the name of Christ.”
The pendulum had swung to the other extreme. Christianity’s widespread acceptance and sanction by the secular government led to abuses and atrocities being committed in the name of Christ.
Fast forward even further and you’ll find masses fleeing religious persecution in Europe for the shores of America. Out of the descendants of this group would arise men who had the backbone to stand up to government oppression and declare, “We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Our Founders determined not to institute a state religion, but they realized the role Christianity would play in creating the ideal citizen. “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” (Northwest Ordinance of 1787).
Somewhere along the line we have succumbed to a false tolerance, a moral relevance that has allowed our president this week, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, to say of Christianity,
“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
These alleged examples of atrocities committed “in the name of Christ” have been the old stand-bys for Christianity’s critics for decades if not centuries, signposts confirming that the religion of the Bible is not a peaceful and good religion. But we’ve just reached the tipping point in our culture where those examples have come out of the break room and the chat room and have been uttered by a sitting US President in a national prayer breakfast, of all places.
There are evil ideologies masquerading as religion, one of which is Islam. Among the reasons that a President, or anyone, would excuse an evil ideology and denigrate true religion are a denial of absolute truth and an embrace of collectivism. No morally decent person would claim that all Muslims are terrorists or that all Christians are saints. But any morally decent person has to see the distinction between the religion of the Bible and the religion of the Qur’an, condemning the latter as evil. But the President was compelled to go back to the 1000’s to paint all Christians as marred by atrocities and legitimize an ideology that he sees as on par with Christianity.
The clear and apparent fact is that people have committed atrocities in the name of Christianity. Specifically, atrocities have been committed by power-hungry reps of power structures that used Christianity to gain and hold control over others. However, it appears to be the strictest adherents of Islam that commit atrocities in the name of Allah. This is a difference that Islam’s apologists are unable to recognize. The echo chamber of culture amplifies voices like our President’s, producing poisonous lies that threaten individual liberty and legitimize religious oppression. Pretty soon, we will have come full circle in history, and today’s American society will more closely resemble Nero’s than Jefferson’s.