Persecution of Christians Begins and Intensifies

Among the astonishing incidents I never expected to see in America, recent attacks against Christians, either going to church or engaging in peaceful protests are profoundly disturbing to say the least. Gateway Pundit posted this article recently, “It’s 1950 All Over Again…Black Family Harassed, Abused by Radical Leftists While Trying to Enter Church in New York” with the following Twitter post (which as of this writing hasn’t been removed yet):

“The BLM mob was screaming ‘We’re not here for violence!’ as they dragged parishioners from the church steps!”

Another article posted “Godless BLM Protest Mob Targets NY Church – Attacks Christians on Church Steps, Including Mother with Baby, Shouts Down Pastor Screaming “Black Lives Matter” During Sermon (VIDEO)

Here are videos on BitChute, since YouTube will likely take them down:

On July 7th, 2020:  Black Lives Matter harasses white church going family with young children.

Perhaps this fictional Thomas More gives us an understanding of Romans 13 in context: in this world the law is a protection, or should be, if it is upheld and honored by authorities who fear God and who are righteous; without law, violence and mob rule are an almost a certainty for Jesus’s Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven is unlikely in this world governed by the prince of lies. Yet understand that Saint Paul in his time was not prevented from spreading the Gospel throughout the realm of Rome, whose laws and courts, despite their flaws, protected him and did not hinder him until the end under Nero.

In this biography of Saint Louis, we learn “Louis, a follower of St. Francis of Assisi, was known for his ardent piety and sanctity. Unlike other Kings who gave customary offerings to the poor, Louis invited the poor to his own table each day, where he waited on them and attended to their needs. His personal interest in the poor led to the founding of numerous charitable institutions including hospitals for the destitute and lepers. Known as the ‘Peace King’, he managed to mediate between the popes and the German Emperors which kept France out of war. As a Ruler, he dispensed justice fairly and with great attention to the needs of his subjects. He was known for his scrupulous honesty.” The Saint is most certainly an example of an earthly authority to be obeyed and respected.

I would also argue that the martyred Czar Nicholas II, who was canonized, in his actual deeds, which have been erased by hostile British and Western propaganda, was also a pious Christian ruler, who helped those in need, and as detailed in this book, “Nicholas’ deep religious feelings were also reflected in his desire to bring the principles of Christianity to bear on his foreign policy. Beginning in 1898 he addressed the leaders of other European States with a proposal to call a conference aimed at discussing the preservation of peace and a limitation on armaments. The results of his strivings were the Hague Conventions in 1899 and 1907, which laid the groundwork for the Geneva Convention. For his efforts, Tsar Nicholas was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.” These facts are absent from most histories, especially a recent British propaganda piece that was literally obscene in its depiction and aired on Netflix. Articles here and here attempt to set the record straight as well on the much maligned Tsar who with his martyred family was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In any event, my brief interpretation about understanding the Romans 13 not to be an endorsement of those who persecute Christians and to obey authority at all times under all circumstances, than a necessary evil in the world as it is now is less relevant than the core thesis of the essay “Of Wrath and Righteousness,” with which I suspect echoes much of the thesis in the film, at least in how Thomas More is portrayed:

And the winds are indeed beginning to blow. Reports are coming in at a steady pace of people from all professions losing their jobs and their careers for being insufficiently vocal in their support for the social justice movement. The editor of the New York Times op-ed section was ousted because he published a US Senator’s opinion that the government ought to stop the rioting with force if necessary. The Catholic chaplain of MIT was asked by his diocese to resign for writing a private email to his flock urging restraint and charity in our dealings with one another during these difficult times, even while condemning the killing of Floyd by the police. These are but a few examples. And this is to say nothing of the way in which Americans are treating one another on social media. It seems that the America described in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is still a part of us: a Puritanical America which seeks to hunt down sinners and destroy their lives through public humiliation and shame.

The yearning of the American people for righteousness is truly honorable and praiseworthy and necessary. But tragically, it seems that many of us have been convinced that the path to righteousness is through rage. And quite simply, this is very far from the path shown to us by Christ.

And both Christ and the society in which He lived were by no means strangers to injustice and persecution and unrighteousness. The Israelites under the Roman occupation were a subjugated and humiliated people, routinely exploited and without the rights of Roman citizens, and Christ Himself as well as most of His followers were brutally and unjustly murdered by the authorities acting with complete impunity. Everyone — even the disciples — expected Christ to do something about it, to cast off the hated oppressors, to “at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel.”

Yet what did Christ actually do? He taught us that when we are beaten we are to turn the other cheek, when we are extorted we are to give more than is demanded, when we are exploited we are to do more than we are told. He told us to bless those who curse us, to love those who hate us, to pray for those who persecute us and abuse us. And He told us, in the midst of all of these things, to rejoice.

His words were not mere empty talk; He proved that on the Cross. Nor were His teachings in vain; He proved that through the Resurrection. Nor was He Himself an exception to the rule of human existence; He proved that on the Day of Pentecost.

May God grant us these gifts. May He grant us His Spirit of Peace. May He grant us to love one another, even as He first loved us, with a love sparing nothing — not even our own lives — for even the worst and least deserving among us. This is the new commandment of Christianity, and there is absolutely nothing that the world needs more.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Saint Thomas More understood and lived these words of Saint James, although I realize A Man For All Seasons is brilliant historical fiction. Yes, persecutions of Christians have come and will continue to come. Yet as Father James Thornton has written:

St. John of Kronstadt asks in one of his homilies, “But why does the world persecute the true faith, piety, and righteousness which are so salutary for people, introducing as they do unity, mutual love, good morals, peace, quiet, and order into fragmented human societies?”[6] He answers his question in these words: “Because the whole world lieth in wickedness,[7] people love evil more than good[8], and the prince of this world,[9] the devil … despises righteousness with infernal loathing and persecutes it because it denounces injustice. Evil, debauched people have always hated the righteous and persecuted them, and they will go on hating and persecuting them.”[10]

So we see, then, that persecution can take many forms and that it is an instrument of the Evil One in his war against God and against humanity, directed towards separating man from God.

How, we may ask, does the Christian react to persecution? The Christian strives, first of all, for righteousness, that is, for a life filled with virtue. Doing that, the Christian will be worthy of persecution. If one is nominally a Christian, but never experiences any sort of persecution, not even petty persecution, for the sake of righteousness, then one must ask if he is really striving for virtue, or if his Christianity is all simply a matter of empty, external observances. Next, the Christian will develop within his heart a complete trust in God and a deep love for God’s truth. He will be resolute in his faith and thus never yield to error or compromise with evil, threats notwithstanding. His hope will be focused on God, regardless of the suffering he may have to endure. Finally, he will face the future courageously, knowing that, when all is said and done, God will shield his soul and bring him to safe harbor. In the early centuries of Christianity, and during the Ottoman Yoke and the Communist Yoke, all ages and classes of people, including “both young men and maidens; old men and children,”[11] faced unspeakable horrors without flinching, with the calm bravery of the best combat soldiers. We must be prepared to do precisely the same, whatever form the persecution inflicted upon us might take.

[7] 1 St. John 5:19

[8] Psalm 51:5.

[9] St. John 12:31. 14:30, 16:11.

[10] St John of Kronstadt, Ten Homilies on the Beatitudes, p. 88.

[11] Psalm 148:12.

Let we Christians show the courage and faith Saint Thomas More displayed; we can do no less, even if we shall suffer a martyr’s fate for our beliefs. And let us remember the wisdom of Blessed Augustine, whom Hieromonk Gabriel quotes in “We Shall See Christ:

***

So it is true that the Lord, the light of the world, has ascended up into heaven, leaving behind Him a darkened earth which increasingly demands a self-inflicted blindness. A sad and bitter truth it is indeed.

But it is not the whole truth. St. Augustine, in the same passage from the Confessions, writes: ‘He departed from our sight that we might return to our hearts and find Him there. For He left us, and behold, He is here. He could not be with us long, yet He did not leave us. He went back to the place that He had never left… He is within the inmost heart, yet the heart has wandered away from Him. Return to your heart, O you transgressors, and hold fast to Him who made you. Stand with Him and you shall stand fast. Rest in Him and you shall be at rest…’

The rest of the truth (perhaps an even harder truth) is that we ourselves, the feeble Christians of the last days, are now called to shine forth the light of Christ for anyone who still wishes to see. We have been healed in Holy Baptism of our ancestral blindness. But it is still left to us to choose, with God’s help, to open our eyes, to use the sight that has been restored to us to look into our hearts, where alone the risen Christ can be seen in this world. If we Christians do not find Him there, then how will anyone else ever find Him?

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