Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
One associates persecution today with heathen, Muslim lands where Christians can be imprisoned or even put to death because of their faith. We express thanks for the freedom we have still to worship God as we believe He requires it of us. But … is the time coming for us also?
There are obvious signs that there is a growing threat of persecution. One cannot help but note the “progress” made by the “gay” movement. These insist that no one may limit them in any way simply because of their homosexuality. There is the strong insistence of the “women’s rights” movement. None ought to limit what they are able to do despite the claim that Scripture teaches certain limitations on women—especially in connection with the “women in church office.” When the church and its members condemn the murder which is abortion, there are loud outcries about “women’s rights” and “freedom of choice.”
But what is increasingly heard is the charge that the church becomes guilty of “hate crimes” when it condemns these things which are violations of Scripture. Though the church does not, and may not, advocate the murder of abortionists and homosexuals, nevertheless the very fact that it condemns these things is equated with a “hate crime.” And for “hate crimes” there must be a penalty. It may be a fine, it could be imprisonment, or some other way the government can devise to punish the church.
Nor is that all. If women are not given their “equal rights” in the church, allowed to serve in any office, then churches might well face the penalties imposed by the government.
The magazine Reformed Perspective, January 2002, has an article titled “Christian Persecution in Canada,” which has some sobering reminders of how quickly persecution can arise. In part, the article states:
Some of the cases of Christian persecution involve civil magistrates, with people attempting to justify their hostility to Christianity as a desire for equality and tolerance. An example of this would be the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) penalizing London, Ontario mayor Diana Haskett for refusing to declare a “Gay Pride” weekend for her city. Other cases involve private citizens or entities (e.g., Trinity Western University) or public citizens’ private lives. Perhaps the most well known incident in this category now is the attack on then-Canadian Alliance leader Stock-well Day during the last federal election campaign over his Christian beliefs.
Many people across Canada were shocked at the mockery expressed against Mr. Day over some of his Christian beliefs during that campaign. Some of the attacks were leveled against predictable views such as his opposition to abortion and homosexuality. But the political leader was also blindsided by an attack for his belief in 6-day creation. Christian Edmonton Journal columnist Lorne Gunter placed the blame for the attack squarely on the federal Liberals and called it the “most vicious character assassination campaign in Canadian political history.” Canada’s anti-Christian mainstream media was glad to pick up the story and run with it. The media and Liberal derision of Mr. Day was so disturbing that even the well-known Christian persecution watchdog Voice of the Martyrs wrote up the incident as an example of Christian persecution.
The issue of homosexuality repeatedly comes up. Several examples were mentioned in the article:
Delwin Vriend was a teacher at King’s College, a Christian institution in Edmonton, Alberta. In 1991 he revealed that he was a homosexual, and was summarily fired. Mr. Vriend didn’t like that so he hauled the institution before Alberta’s human rights commission. The commission refused to hear his case because at the time, the province’s human rights legislation, the Individual’s Rights Protection Act, didn’t include protection for homosexuals against “discrimination.”
Mr. Vriend then dragged the Alberta government before the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing that it should order the province to add sexual orientation protection to their human rights law. He won when the court ruled in his favor on April 2, 1998, and the provincial government agreed to comply with the decision.
…In 2000, Dagmar and Arnost Cepica, owners of a Bed & Breakfast in Prince Edward Island, refused to allow two Montreal homosexuals to rent a single bed room from them because homosexual coupling violates their Christian ethics. In August of that year, the homosexuals issued a complaint with the province’s human rights commission, which penalized them with a $1,000 fine and wanted them to take a sensitivity (or brainwashing) course about homosexuality.
Instead of fighting the matter, the couple decided to simply close down their Bed & Breakfast. It’s hard to believe that in Canada, a respected entrepreneurial couple would have to shut down their small business and source of income in order to preserve their Christian integrity. The island’s tourism Minister Greg Deighan showed little sympathy: “He’s in the business to serve tourists. You can’t discriminate,” he told the Charlottetown Guardian.
Then there is the deliberate attempt to eliminate any reference publicly to the name of Christ and any reference to New Testament Scriptures. People can be comforted in their sorrow, and the distraught may be supported by “grief counselors”—but without mention of Christ’s name.
This is one of the few examples of Christian persecution that doesn’t have anything to do with homosexuality. In 1998, a Swissair Flight 111 crashed just off the coast of Nova Scotia near Peggy’s Cove killing 229 people. The Federal government organized a memorial service on September 9. Instead of being a positive and healing experience, the service generated an uproar. A barrage of condemnation was launched at the federal Liberals, one in which opposition Members of Parliament took part.
United Church minister Rev. Carolyn Nicholson said that the Liberal government’s protocol office told her “that no references to Christ or no New Testament (Christian Scripture) readings were permitted.” A Roman Catholic priest who took part said he was given the same warning. Rev. Nicholson said that she protested, but was told that “the decision was made and I either had to submit to the decision or refuse to take part.”
According to the Halifax Herald (Jan. 22, 1999) Prime Minister Jean Chretien eventually wrote a letter of qualified apology to Rev. Nicholson. “I personally regret that a service that was clearly meant to provide comfort and closure in dealing with a horrible tragedy has itself become a focus of controversy,” he wrote. But: “I wish to assure you that no government official would ever be instructed to, or permitted to, censor or prohibit religious content in a memorial service.”
There are other examples of growing religious persecution in “Christian” Western nations. One can expect more of this in the days to come. Couple this with a “global economy,” rapid development in the realm of the sciences, the predominance of one world power (the United States), and one cannot help but conclude that the coming of the Lord is at hand.
So: what’s new? Many within the churches have pointed this out for years. Obviously the standards of the nation are in no way the standard set by the Ten Commandments and the Word of God. What appears to be new is that there are some in the secular press who are pointing out that there is a problem—not because these sense that there is violation of God’s law, but because the awful consequences of sexual sins are increasingly evident. The sleazy affair of a former president, the reports of transgressions of deviant Roman Catholic priests, the reports of rape and often murder—all these represent some of the consequences of the “sex problem.” That is the conclusion of Michelle Malkin, a syndicated columnist writing in the Grand Rapids Press of April 3, 2002. In a column titled: “You needn’t look far to see that U.S. has a sex problem,” she writes:
Forgive me. Oral sex, pornography, child molestation and murder are the last things you want to read about in this season of Easter and Passover. But we have a problem.
The problem is not confined to homosexual Catholic priest-predators and their institutional enablers who have so vilely betrayed children, parishioners and God. The problem is our sexual revolution run amok everywhere—sex on parade, sex outside marriage, sex as a tool, sex for sale, sex without love, and sex without boundaries.
The article continues by reporting briefly of a number of the scandals which have been mentioned in the press recently. The list is a nauseating summary. Then the writer points out:
The left’s cultural liberators blame “1950s” mores for these 21st century sexual pathologies. Chastity, monogamy and celibacy are repressive, antiquated and abnormal notions, they argue. Those who advocate sexual restraint need to get with the times.
Well, that is exactly what the Catholic Church did in the 1960s with its Vatican II “reforms.” Harry Crocker, author of “Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, a 2,000-Year History,” notes: “Pope John XXIII did indeed throw open the Church—just when the Western World plunged itself into the sex-drugs-and the rock ‘n’ roll era. The results were an immediate collapse in the seminaries, in religious orders, (and) in the priesthood.” It is liberalism that got the church in trouble, Crocker says, not the opposite. Homosexual predators in the clergy are “the spoiled fruit of the sexual revolution.”
Add to this overflowing basket of rotten fruit the condom-wielders in the classroom; the child pornographers sitting at their computers, indulging the unrestrained appetites of “nice men”; and the successive generations of young people who have grown up in a culture that normalizes abortion, illegitimacy, adultery, and public displays of sexual perversion from the Oval Office on down.
This is the true epidemic of modernity. Isn’t it time, for the children’s sake, to turn back the clock?
That last line sounds nice, but, of course, it will not happen—the situation has deteriorated too much and man has become too steeped in this corruption to change. The Word of God is being fulfilled, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves” (Rom. 1:24).
But, some say, the government is cracking down on sex offenses. Rapists are put in prison for many years. Those who murder after a rape are often sentenced to death. Even a very young school boy was suspended from classes for a time because he kissed a little girl on the school ground. Are we not gaining control of this epidemic?
One need not to be a “Scrooge” to respond: “Humbug!” Under the guise of “freedom of speech,” the movies, TV dramatizations, the internet, videos, songs present the most despicable, corrupting portrayals of sex of every sort. Anyone who has e-mail knows that repeatedly unsolicited invitations to one of the multitudes of pornographic sites come. Yet when many imitate these corruptions in real life, they must be punished.
One is reminded of a pigpen filled with wet, dirty mud and slop. If a farmer puts a clean pig in such a pen, and then insists that if the pig gets dirty, it will be butchered, the consequence would be obvious.
Of course, the “pigpen” of filth is not ultimately the corrupt media and “freedom of speech” claims, but it is the unregenerated heart of man. Unless there is a change of that heart by rebirth and true conversion, there will ultimately be no change. There must be confession of these terrible sins and the acknowledgment that only through Christ’s cross can there be deliverance. All of the court trials, all of the fines, all of the emphasis of a need of improvement, without true conversion, will finally fail. And it surely appears that our nation has reached a state of no return. God has given men over to uncleanness.
God grant that His people may show that they are completely different, ready to suffer the consequences in maintaining the law and Word of God.