Remember Them: Christians Terrorized in Egypt, Syria

Amidst the busyness of our lives we often need the admonishment: “Remember!” We use it in slogans to bring to mind the lessons of history. Remember the Alamo. 9-11: Never forget. Or maybe for our Occupy friends: Remember, remember the 5th of November. The author of Hebrews exhorted his readers: “Remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them, and those ill-treated as though you too felt their torment” (Hebrews 13:3 NET).

This verse first impacted me nineteen years ago when my wife’s grandmother introduced me to The Voice of the Martyrs. Upon her recommendation I requested a copy of Richard Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ. I remember reading the book while flying on missions when I was in the military. When I finished the book I immediately called The Voice of the Martyrs and asked how I could help. Several months later I was passing out Gospel cassettes in Arabic to third-country-nationals working in Saudi Arabia.

Hebrews 13:3 came to my mind again this week as I read of yet another round of Islamic attacks upon Coptic Christians in Egypt. Loyalists to the Obama-backed Mohamed Morsi regime fire-bombed three churches in central Egypt on August 14th. Another church was attacked the next day. These are the latest in what some are calling a “war of retaliation” following the Coptic church’s support of Morsi’s removal. However, as one commentator has pointed out, “The Brotherhood is not ‘retaliating’ against Christians. Islamic supremacists are persecuting Christians . . . which is what they do in Muslim-majority countries.”

Meanwhile, the religious cleansing of Christians continues in Syria. Jihadists of the Obama-backed Free Syrian Army are intensely targeting Christians which has caused many of them to flee to the slums of Turkey. The Carmelite nun Sister Agnes-Miriam reported back in December that “an estimated 300,000 Christians have been displaced in the conflict, with 80,000 forced out of the Homs region alone.” Agnes-Miriam provided these figures in the same interview in which she told of a Christian, Andrei Arbashe, being thrown to the dogs after his kidnapping and beheading at the hands of Obama-supported rebels in Ras Al-Ayn.

Hebrews 13:3 calls upon Christians to remember these brothers and sisters in Christ as if we were feeling this torment ourselves. If I was experiencing this persecution I would want it to stop. I would want to know that help was on the way. I would want to know that I have not been forgotten. What can we do for these Christians who are being attacked by Islamists across the Middle East?

1) Call upon President Obama to stop his active support of the Islamist regimes who are violently cleansing their countries of Christians. Demand that Congress cease all funding for jihadist rebels who are using their resources to behead Christians and displace them from their homes. This week the activist community I co-created, Evangelicals for Liberty, reported on Sen. Rand Paul’s attempts to stop the billions in illegal foreign aid that is currently flowing into Egypt. Sen. Paul states,

 “While President Obama ‘condemns the violence in Egypt’, his Administration continues to send billions of taxpayer dollars to help pay for it. The law is very clear when a coup d’état takes place, foreign aid must stop, regardless of the circumstances. With more than 500 dead and thousands more injured this week alone, chaos only continues to grow in Egypt. So Mr. President, stop skirting the issue, follow the law, and cancel all foreign aid to Egypt.” 

 President Obama could have easily used the coup as a face-saving event to withdraw his financial support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt yet he refuses to do so. With elected officials returning to their home districts for summer recess, now is a opportune time to make our voices heard on American-funded attacks upon Christians in Egypt and Syria.

2) Support Christian ministries on the ground in areas of high persecution. In a recent article entitled, Syrian Refugees ‘Hungry for Message of Jesus;’ Christians Urged to Help, the Christian Post reported on World Compassion’s relief efforts in Syria. Executive Director for Terry Law Ministries, Eric English, explained, “It was just amazing because the Bibles went faster than the food did. They were very hungry for the message of Jesus Christ.” English continued, “The tragedy of the Syrian war has created a vast opportunity for the Gospel to be ministered in the Middle East. On a social level, we have a responsibility to respond to the crisis as Christians, and to help people who are in need.” Ministries on the ground in these areas have a tremendous opportunity to share the Gospel and provide relief but they need the support of Christians around the globe.

3) Educate yourself, your family, and your church about the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. The Voice of the Martyrs is a great place to begin your education. I encourage you to sign up for their monthly newsletter and ask to receive a free copy of the book, Tortured for Christ. VOM also has resources for children such as their website: http://www.kidsofcourage.com/. The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is the first Sunday in November. VOM states, “In September, VOM will offer several resources to help facilitate your IDOP event, including a short, inspirational video, brochures and prayer cards.” Now is a perfect time to prepare.

Christian persecution is running rampant in the Middle East. We owe it to our brothers in sisters in Christ to remember them as if we, too, were experiencing their torment.

This article originally appeared at ClashDaily and jeffwrightjr.com.

Going Liberal: The Church’s Magic Bullet for Keeping Millennials

Give Rachel Held Evans credit. She was able to generate a lot of discussion with her post, “Why millennials are leaving the church.” Evans’s contradictory article, however, is merely another polemic against the conservative evangelicalism she’s been battling for years. The solution to winning back millennials? Churches just need to follow her lead and go liberal!

Evans explains that young people are rejecting evangelical Christianity because it’s “too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” When she says “too political,” she means too conservative but Evans is just as political as she’s always been. She’s just switched teams. “Too political” comes down a desire to see evangelicalism embrace the progressive views of the day as she has done.

Specifically, Evans explains that “young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity.” Read: evolution. Evans has rejected her past views on creation and now embraces evolution so the church should too. “Evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules.” Who is obsessed with sex in the LGBT debate? I would argue LGBT proponents, such as Evans, are much more obsessed with the issue than conservative evangelicals. Apparently, if you hold to a biblical view of marriage, family, and human sexuality, you are obsessed with sex.

“Millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.” “Safe asking tough questions” sounds wonderful but what those like Evans often mean is a desire to hold any view on any issue no matter what Scripture has to say without being told they’re wrong. If you don’t believe all views are equally valid your church is not a safe place.

Evans mocks pastors who only focus on style updates and conclude: “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands.” Evans is merely continuing the narrative that those who don’t focus on “substance” by going liberal are old-fashioned dopes who just don’t get it. Evans continues, “You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.” Evans mocks these latte churches with a straight face even as her post begins with a hip promo pic of her holding a cup of coffee. Latte church for me but not for thee.

Evans summarizes what a change in “substance” looks like. “We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.” Progressives desire for an end to the culture wars is sort of like the Islamic understanding of peace: there will be peace when all have submitted to Islam. There will be an end to the culture wars when the conservatives have surrendered to the progressives. Evangelicals-turned-progressives like Evans haven’t stopped fighting the culture wars, they’ve just switched sides. Embracing progressivism is cast as being “non-partisan” and “independent” while conservatism is “too political,” “divisive,” and driving young people away from the church.

Evans continues, “We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.” Read: free to hold whatever view one wishes apart from any judgments of right or wrong, orthodox or heretical. “We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.” Again, Evans gets to vote Democrat, hold liberal views, and struggle for the advancement of her principles just as strongly as conservatives do but when she does it it’s non-partisan. “We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.” So abandon traditional biblical understandings of sex, marriage, and family in order to attract new members. Question: those who don’t hold to progressive views of LGBT are “truly welcome” to be leaders in their faith communities, right?

“Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.” Do we? Her theological understanding of humanity is very different than mine unless she’s talking about Christians specifically. If so, this is a version of Love Jesus But Hate the Church / Red Letter Christianity that doesn’t really take the entirety of Jesus’s teachings very seriously.

Even while mocking a seeker-sensitive approach to church, Evans concludes with this advice: “I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community. Their answers might surprise you” (drops the mic!). But, wait, wasn’t that the approach of the seeker-sensitive movement that she criticized earlier?

In “Millennials and Leaving Church: Really?,” Scot McKnight offered a helpful counter-perspective to deflate some of the “myth-making and fear-mongering” over millennials abandoning the church: “there is no compelling evidence for a cataclysmic change.” McKnight points out: “Young adults have always been less affiliated; when they get married and have children they return to their faith. Part of the life cycle is reflected in this.” Nothing to see here, move along.

Evans’s article is a dusted off version of what she and others like her have been complaining about for a long time: people are totally in love Jesus and would fill our churches to overflowing except mean ol’ conservatives won’t stop being judgmental against gays. If we can rid the church of conservatism, people will apparently flock to the church. More millennials may embrace the church by molding it into the image of the culture but it won’t be a church that has much to do with the Jesus of Scripture.

This article originally appeared at ClashDaily.com and jeffwrightjr.com.