August 31, 2004

This Week in Church History

September 2, every year.

The second of September is celebrated as Martyr's Day in Papua, New Guinea. This holiday has different dates wherever it is celebrated, and is, in most cases, very similar to the US holiday of Memorial Day. Many martyrs that are celebrated were, in fact, political victims. Many, however, are Christians.

I think that it's fitting that we look pay and pay tribute to the martyrs who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their faith. From the Reformation-minded Protestants who died rather than surrender sola fide, sola gratia, sola Christus, sola Scriptura, sola Deo Gloria, to the Catholics in post-Reformation England who died accused of treason. Missionaries the world over, who gave their lives in unknown places for the sake of the gospel.

Maybe we can get something started among Godbloggers. On September 2nd, post something about a martyr -- famous or not. Maybe we can have September 2nd declared the Internet Day of the Martyr. We remember those who gave their lives for the cause of their country; we shouldn't forget to honor those who surrendered their lives for a much higher call.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 03:43 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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August 17, 2004

This Week in Church History

August 14, 1670. (OK, so technically this is last week. It's within the last seven days, so I say it qualifies. Besides, it's my blog. ;-) )

On this day in London, England, two Quakers were arrested for preaching in public. One was a man named William Meade. The other was a young man who would become famous for his accomplishments in an entirely different continent -- William Penn.

When they were brought to trail, Penn demanded to hear the law that they were charged with breaking. He was told they were being tried under Common Law. He demanded once again to hear the law that he and Meade had broken, but the court refused. penn refused to enter a plea. As long as he didn't know what he was being charged with, he would not enter any plea. He was finally taken from the courtroom under protest, crying that what was being done to him could be done to anyone in England.

Meade echoed Penn's arguements, and he was dragged away as well. The jury was told to find both defendants guilty of preaching to the people and dreating a disturbance around them in public -- what we would now call disorderly conduct. The jury, perhaps inspired by the defendents' actions, found them guilty of preaching only. They were locked away with only bread and water, in an effort to get them to change their verdict, but they did not. Finally, the jury was arrested and thrown in jail. Penn and Meade were released. England's highest court ruled that the jury should not have been tampered with, and the jurors were set free.

Christians today are faced at times with opposition in the form of people who think they know the law. I'm reminded of a student that my wife taught in Georgia who was told that she couldn't read her Bible during free reading time -- by her English teacher. Her parents told her to keep her Bible at home; they didn't want to cause a fuss. My wife and I told her that we'd back her up if she wanted to go after the school -- I knew that the ACLJ would have loved to get in on that suit. But it didn't happen.

Christians need to be aware of their rights. We ARE allowed to pray in public. We ARE allowed to pray in schools -- as long as we don't force anyone else to pray. Students can pray whenever they want -- again, as long as they do not coerce anyone else. Teachers in public schools are permitted to honestly answer questions about religious faith, especially in the context of a history class. We have rights and privileges that we are not using, because we are ignorant of them, and we don't care to defend these rights.

Penn and Meade knew their rights as Englishmen. They knew that they had done nothing wrong, and they were willing to rock the boat to defend their rights. Because, as Penn states, if they can do it to one person, they can do it to all of us.

In a society that is increasingly hostile to public displays of religious devotion, we need to be aware of our rights as citizens, and we must be willing to defend those rights, for ourselves and for others.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 09:09 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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August 05, 2004

This Week in Church History

August 4, 1792.

A liberal's dream came true in France on this day. The ruling body that had taken over France in the wake of the Revolution declared all churches closed. Many were used as prisons. Some were used for more ... inappropriate uses.

The French revolution was, from it's inception, anti-Christian and anti-Church -- but especially the latter. The Church in France at the time had become corrupt, with bishops ruthlessly persecuting Hugenots and other non-conformists. Most of the bishops were from the upper class of society, and abuses of their power abounded. They were very good at illustrating the wrath of God, but His grace and love were absent.

So the philosophers embraced Deism, with it's absent clockmaker God, or outright agnosticism and atheism. Rationalism and Deism became the state religions, and an oath of loyalty was soon required. Anyone who refused to swear loyalty to the new secular government was exiled from France. Churches were destroyed, priests were harrassed, and Christians were ridiculed and openly persecuted.

This is NOT a pretty day in church history. This isn't a day to remember with pride. It is a day that the failings of a church that had gotten proud of itself, that had decided that the people were beneath it, came back to haunt it.

There is an attitude about the church today that is similar to that of the French philosophes. I wrote about Mr. Kristoff and his plea that Christianity become more tolerant and inclusive, and let go of the exclusivity of the gospel. I've talked about that subject before, a long time ago when this blog was new. People want to neuter religion, and to make it harmless.

We aren't without blame. Every day, you can read about Christians who haven't been living up to expectations. Christians who are not showing the love of Christ. we fail -- we're human, after all. But we like to cover things up. We need to admit to the world that we are far from perfect, but that in spite of our failings God wants to have a relationship with us. We have been forgiven, and they can be too.

We need to learn from the example of France. Take a look there now. It is one of the biggest mission fields in the world -- and one of the hardest to work in, from what I've heard. Christians need to stop giving people a reason to ignore us, and start giving them a reason to listen to us -- Jesus Christ, proclaimed unashamedly.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 03:32 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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