We've all heard about how Christians were thrown to the lions during the reign of the Caesars. But it is very doubtful that Christians were feeding one another to the lions. Alas, it appears that should this kind of Christian persecution become vogue in America, many Christians would doubtless join with these modern-day Caesars and gladly feed their own to the lions.
How did it happen? How did Christians lose their love? Of course, our Lord predicted that the day would come when "the love of many shall wax cold." (Matthew 24:12) Sadly, this truism also obviously applies to many of us calling ourselves Christians. But how did it happen? How did Christians lose their love for souls? How did they lose their love for the Brotherhood? How did they lose their love for truth? How did they lose their love for peace? How did they lose their love for liberty? How did it happen?
I sat aghast as I watched the Republican Presidential debate in South Carolina and listened to hundreds of the GOP faithful (which included a great number of Christians) boo Congressman Ron Paul when he injected the Golden Rule into the discussion of America's foreign policy. To say I was stunned is the understatement of the year! Christians booing a Presidential candidate (who, himself, is a Christian) for suggesting that our country practices the Golden Rule? Egad! What's next? Christians cheering when people are thrown to the lions? I confess that I am flummoxed beyond words to describe!
I was raised in a Christian home by Christian parents who never missed Sunday School or church. My dad saw to it that I began memorizing scripture before I started kindergarten. I have heard the great Bible stories taught and re-taught. And while Christians have always differed on the nuances of particular Bible doctrines, the fundamental principles of God's Word were universally taught and accepted.
Universally, Christians believed and taught, "God is love." We understood the virtue and necessity of loving God and our fellow man--especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Universally, we accepted the primacy of the Golden Rule, which states, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)
So, what has happened? How is it that the people who cheer the loudest for ever-burgeoning wars of aggression overseas are Christians? How is it that Christians will be the first ones to boisterously sing the chorus with John McCain, "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran"? How is it that it doesn't seem to cross their minds at all that the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women, and children were killed, wounded, and maimed by our government in a needless and unconstitutional war of aggression? How is it that the US government can wantonly wage war with an almost unlimited number of nations--killing and maiming thousands upon thousands of innocent people in the process--and Christians cheer? Some even join with the likes of Madeleine Albright and pompously spout: it is "acceptable collateral damage." How did this happen?
So deep is our bloodlust that when a Republican Presidential candidate (Ron Paul), who is the only military veteran in the entire GOP Presidential field, by the way, introduces the Golden Rule into a political debate, he is booed and jeered--by Christians! What in God's name has happened to us?
Is war sometimes justified? Yes! Do 2000 years of Western Civilization and even all of Biblical history recognize the right of men to protect and defend themselves, their families, their communities, and their country? Yes! Christians on the whole have never been pacifists. A few have been, but they have always been the exception to the rule. In the strict definition, the Lord Jesus Christ was not a pacifist. He proved that when he removed by force those moneychangers from the Temple. In the South Carolina debate, was Ron Paul suggesting that America not protect and defend itself? Absolutely not! Dr. Paul proudly supported Ronald Reagan's "Peace Through Strength" initiatives. He simply asked, should not our dealings with foreign countries reflect the principles of peace and goodwill as exemplified and taught by our Savior? And for that, Christians jeer and boo him?
I believe there are a couple of mitigating factors in this propensity of today's Christians to relish in bloodlust. First, many Christians have lost respect for their own character. When men give in to hatred, bitterness, jealousy, resentment, etc., they do more damage to their own soul than to anyone else's. Our Lord said that if we hated our brother we murdered him (in our hearts). So, what do we commonly see in our churches today? Envy, bitterness, resentment, gossip, rancor, and hatred! Rightly does the scripture state, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (I John 4:20)
If we Christians take delight in "murdering" our "friends" and fellow believers through our bitterness, envy, and hatred, why should we lose any sleep over the deaths of thousands of unknown people who live halfway around the world? And nevermind that many of these innocent victims are also our brothers and sisters in the Lord! For example, most Christians in the United States refuse to even acknowledge the fact that there is far more state persecution against our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq since the US-backed puppet regime took power. Far more!
People who allow their heart and soul to be taken over with bitterness and hatred become angry, vengeful, and even dangerous. People with the love and peace of Christ in their hearts do not salivate for war; they do not desire violence. They seek peace with their fellowman. Oh yes! They are prepared to defend themselves against the wolves and lions who seek to prey on their neighbors. Yes Sir! For sure! But that is a far cry from hollering out for war against people who have not even harmed us--or who may not even have the capability of harming us. And it is a far cry from booing a Christian man who actually believes in the Golden Rule.
One of America's great warriors, General Douglas MacArthur rightly said, "War is a scourge." Why would Christians cheer for a scourge unless, as King David said, "I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war." (Psalms 120:7)
Secondly, many Christians have developed a Caesarean "might makes right" philosophy regarding patriotism. But from the earliest days of our nation, our leaders respected Saint Augustine's "Just War" doctrine. Daniel Webster and other American statesman gave eloquent tribute to the necessity and importance of never fighting unjust wars.
Was Pharaoh justified when he ordered the deaths of thousands of innocent babies? Was King Herod justified when he ordered the deaths of thousands of innocent babies? Were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung justified when they ordered the deaths of millions of innocent men, women, and children? Is violence against innocent people justified merely because the one ordering violence is powerful enough to get away with it? If so, will somebody please tell me what those Nuremberg trials were all about?
If power-mad potentates of history were unjustified in the manner in which they ignored the moral, Natural Law principles of God, how can Christians rejoice when power-mad leaders in the United States do the same thing? Do we really think that God has given some sort of special dispensation to America?
Missouri Senator Carl Schurz gave what must regarded as one of the truest and most insightful oratories regarding genuine patriotism ever given. In a speech delivered at the Anti-Imperialistic Conference, Chicago, Illinois, October 17, 1899, he said, "I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves, too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: 'Our country, right or wrong!' They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: 'Our country--when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.'" Schurz, Carl. The Policy of Imperialism. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1913. Print.
Instead of cheering when we see our country's leaders ignoring the Golden Rule, constitutional government, and the Natural laws of God, we Christians should be on our knees begging God to forgive and mend us--and vociferously demanding that these leaders cease and desist their illicit conduct! The same trepidation that filled the heart of Thomas Jefferson should fill our hearts also: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever."
Figuratively speaking, Christians in South Carolina threw Ron Paul to the lions. They tried to boo him off the stage when he proposed that America follow the Golden Rule in its dealings with foreign nations. I shudder to think what they would have done if he had quoted Jesus saying, "Blessed are the peacemakers."