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Behold the wood of the Cross…

This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern metropolis.” 
St. John Paul the Great 

Christians are called to follow an almost unfollowable example; a man who, in defiance of all authority, preached the Gospel of God’s power, love and forgiveness. And who, as the Son of God, set aside his earthly power and allowed himself to be crucified to redeem a world of sinners. 

Good FridayHolding such beliefs at any time, but especially in pagan Rome or secular America is bound to draw the scrutiny of those in power because central to the Christian world view is the belief that secular rulers have no power over us – Caesar’s image may be on the coin, but God’s image is upon us.  

Indeed, being a Christian is almost a guarantee that Christ’s opponents will use coercion, violence and government power to persecute you if you follow him. 

But for most Americans, living as we do in a still relatively free country, persecution of Christians is perceived as happening only somewhere over there on the other side of the world.   

Distance serves as anesthetic said Fay Voshell writing for The American Thinker.  Certainly it’s not happening here.  Not in the United States of America!  Christians in America who look with horror on the persecution of their co-religionists in the Middle East, Africa, Communist China and North Korea assume they are safe from persecution.  

But they are not safe. 

Voshell, citing Msgr. Charles Pope and Johnette Benkovic, identifies five stages of persecution and posits that in America we are well into the fourth stage of persecution, that involves criminalizing Christians and their churches, businesses, and educational institutions.   

As Monsignor Pope put it:

An increasing amount of litigation is being directed against the Church and other Christians for daring to live out our faith[.] … It is clear that attempts to criminalize Christian behavior is a growth sector in this culture and it signals the beginning of the steady erosion of religious liberty. Many indeed feel quite righteous, quite politically correct in their work to separate the practice of the faith from the public square. 

One of those who most openly advocates excision of Christianity from the entire culture is Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who stated at the Sixth Annual Women in the World Summit that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth. Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced.  Rights have to exist in practice – not just on paper.” 

But where is the pushback on Mrs. Clinton’s publicly announced plan that, if elected, she will lead her administration in a war on Christianity and Christian practices? 

The deafening silence from religious leaders is indicative of a problem we face throughout today’s body politic, and especially in the conservative movement, and that is a lack of moral courage in the face of pressure from those who seek to destroy our culture, the rule of law, and our liberty – those things that have kept secure the God-given rights exercised by those who seek to make America weaker and less exceptional.  

And it is not new to Christians. 

In the aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion, the Apostles were at first frightened and disheartened and then amazed and inspired by his resurrection. And when they began to perform miracles in Jesus’ name they quickly drew the attention and wrath of the secular authorities. 

Acts 4 tells us that after healing a cripple through the name of Jesus Christ Peter and John were arrested hauled before the Council, who sought to intimidate them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 

Acts 4:7-12 tells us: 

When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is 

‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; 
it has become the cornerstone.’ 

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” 

Isn’t that the situation we believing Christians find ourselves in today? 

Secular authorities want to deny the power of the Christian faith to heal broken bodies, broken lives, and yes, broken countries – and they threaten Christians with punishment if they proclaim that “there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” 

Acts 4: 18-21 tells us that after the Council deliberated for a while they called Peter and John back “and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.’  After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them…” 

What Mrs. Clinton told the Sixth Annual Women in the World Summit is a clearly and publicly announced plan by secular liberals to avoid a repeat of the circumstances that Acts 4 tells us allowed Peter and John to escape, at least for a time, the punishment government authorities wished to mete out to those who unashamedly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and who wish to live their daily lives by its tenets. 

Peter and John recognized that their escape was not the end, but the beginning of their persecution for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Acts 4:29-31 tells us how they and we should respond to threats of persecution for proclaiming our beliefs:

“And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant[l] Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” 

This Easter, as we reflect upon the sacrifice that Jesus made for us upon the Cross, and we recognize the persecution Christians face today in the Middle East, Africa, in Communist China and North Korea, and yes, right here in America, let us follow in the footsteps of Peter and John who when faced with the threat of persecution, did not flinch, but instead prayed for boldness. 

* "Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world. Come, let us adore…" is from the Roman Missal, The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord.

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