It was political strategist James Carville who coined the now-famous phrase that helped catapult Bill Clinton to the presidency, incessantly reminding him that, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Any candidate seeking to unseat President Obama in the 2012 elections will surely follow this same strategy.
After all, the economy is in shambles and Americans are fed up with the latest congressional efforts to reduce the deficit. Unemployment is nearing epidemic proportions, gasoline prices are outrageous, spending is out of control, and for the first time, our national credit rating has been downgraded. Worse still, if foreign money was pulled out of our economy, we would have a massive, coast to coast collapse.
Political pundits commonly warn candidates, especially Republican candidates, that voters today are not as concerned with social and moral issues as much as they are concerned with the economy. In that respect, Carville’s sage advice to Clinton is nothing new. After all, Hebert Hoover’s 1928 campaign slogan was, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Has anything really changed since 1928 in terms of what Americans care about the most?
Surely, it still is “the economy, stupid.” Or is it? Could it be that there’s more to the story? Could it be that we make a serious and fundamental mistake when we separate economic issues from moral issues? Could it be that we are often treating the symptoms rather than the cause? There was bipartisan disgust as the nation watched the president and both political parties wrangling over a solution to the current financial crisis, and in the end, all we got was a very small, largely ineffective band aid. As one political cartoonist depicted it, the congressional “solution” was like slowing down the speed with which the Titanic was sinking.
Across party lines, there was a feeling that we were not really getting to the root of the problem, but few, if any were suggesting that it is impossible to separate economics from morality. Eventually, our moral choices will have a definite and direct impact on the money (or lack thereof) in our pockets.
A successful businessman recently suggested to me that some of the roots of our economic problems include:
1) Instant gratification. It was Jim Morrison of the Doors who once proclaimed, “We want the world and we want it now!” That was 1967. Today, we really want it now (as in “instant”; think “messaging” and “downloading” and more). If I want it, I will find a way to get it, and I will get it now. Yes, it’s true that I’m out of work, but I will get that iPad, I will be at the movie theatre this weekend, and I will find a way to buy the latest, trendy threads. Thank God for credit cards!
2) We have become consumers rather than producers. One website claims that, “Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as 2 Japanese, 6 Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians, 370 Ethiopians.” And, “Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily, enough to feed 3 third world countries.” Of course, some of this has to do with the fact that we have a lot more at our disposal than, say, the average Ethiopian. But a lot of this also has to do with our selfishness, greed, and lack of discipline. Do our political leaders dare address those issues?
3) The breakdown of the family. Two generations into the sexual revolution (which has brought us to the point of sexual anarchy), and two generations into no-fault divorce, the “traditional family unit” is an increasingly threatened species, and at a high economic cost to our society. Author Frank Turek points out that kids raised by their mom and dad are: “a. Seven times less likely to live in poverty; b. Six times less likely to commit suicide; c. Less than half as likely to commit crime; d. Less than half as likely to become pregnant out of wedlock; e. Develop better academically and socially; f. [Are] healthier physically and emotionally when they reach adulthood.” You had better believe the breakdown of the family has massive economic implications.
4) Abortion. With all the concerns about Social Security defaulting, very few leaders are talking about the 800 pound gorilla missing from the room, namely, multiplied millions of working Americans who are not here to pay into the system and contribute to the economy because their lives were cut short in the womb. Yes, there is an economic consequence to abortion as well.
Perhaps, then, it would be wise for political candidates who really care about what’s best for America to change their slogan to, “It’s the morality, stupid.” Or is this slogan too true to be good?
Michael Brown is host of the daily, syndicated talk radio show, The Line of Fire, and author of A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.
“…. he that has seen Me has seen the Father….” -John 14.9
In the October 30th selection of My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers gives us this awesome thought:
Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction, we cannot have faith in Him; but immediately we hear Jesus say- “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” we have something that is real, and faith is boundless. Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The darkness that marks ‘god-seeking’ cultures is profounder and more tragic than we know. Even in modern evangelicalism, there is enough of a measure of humanistic thought that in most cases believers remain unbroken over the condition of mankind. If one were to survey the nation of India, for instance, and the number of gods or goddesses men pursue there, it would become clear that the whole of the nation is pursuing “God” as a mere abstraction.
Men will spend weeks standing on one leg, days and sometimes months in fasting, whole nights in meditation and reading of ancient texts, or cut and pierce their bodies in numerous ways, just for the positive sense it gives them in knowing that their souls are bent in a spiritual direction. From one village to the next, their deities change name and form, and most of the time there are multiple gods to worship in each household. There is no spiritual stability, no answer to the problem of sin, no consciousness of God’s holiness and love, but instead the bewildering pursuit of the divine in mere abstractions. Paul did not see these kinds of religious pursuits as valid in any way, stating that they were literally worshiping “demons” whether they knew it or not. (1 Cor. 10.20)
We cannot have faith in God until we have seen His Son for who He is, and believed in Him unto salvation. The nations are groping in darkness, incapable of finding anything but false and fading lights, and not until the Church has penetrated their darkness with the light of truth in Christ will they have any hope at all. The darkness is not bound to idolatry in India, but is the plight of mankind in every culture and in every form of life where Christ has not become the center. Across the board men are seeking their gods in abstraction, be they wooden statues or cars, homes and big screen T.V.’s, and only those who have come into communion with the One true God through the Gospel have the unfading hope of true Light. Only we have stability and certitude about eternity, for it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and it is founded upon the revelation that God has given in the Scriptures. Do we dare keep this great light to ourselves?
They must know of His great love. They must know of His power to break the stranglehold of sin and shame. They must know that He has come in the flesh, died, raised, and ascended, and that He’s coming again. They are groping about after “mere abstractions,” when the revelation of God the Father has already been given. They must hear of the Man, Christ Jesus!
How can we live so indifferently, so numbly, so stingily. Have we failed to realize that unless the nations see God through the revelation of the Gospel they will only pursue Him through abstractions, and will fall totally short of the glory of grace altogether? Do we really believe that unless they come into the Gospel they will perish, forever?
We need to be freed from humanistic mixtures and hollow hopes for their progressive improvement, and brought onto the grounds of apostolic certitude. Paul shed blood and tears, took stones in the face and lashes on the back, for the singular purpose of setting forth the Man Christ Jesus to those who were seeking God in mere abstractions. We need the same sight, the same courage, the same burden, the same faith, and the same missionary spirit, or else they perish forever. It’s time to wake up, saints. It’s not a dream. It’s not an option. Woe unto us if we preach not the Gospel.
“If sinners be damned at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. Let them go with our arms around their knees. Let no one go there unwarned or unprayed for.” -Charles Spurgeon
PUNE, India, October 29 (CDN) — After more than a decade of severe persecution, India’s Christian minority is growing increasingly concerned over the mushrooming of newer and deadlier Hindu extremist groups.
Gone are the days when Christians had to watch out only for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, which are closely linked with the most influential Hindu extremist umbrella organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). With voter support faltering for the RSS’s political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), moderate and extremist sections within the Hindu nationalist movement are blaming each other, and militant splinter groups have emerged.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….” -Rom. 12.10-11
From the nation of India decades ago, Amy Carmichael gives us this staggering story:
It was convention week in a hill station in India. The afternoon meeting was just over. A few Christian station-people, some English-speaking Indian friends and the sixty or seventy missionaries who had been listening to the Bible reading were hurrying out to get a cup of tea before the evening meeting. An Indian lady lingered in the empty hall, and the writer, seeing her alone and thinking perhaps she had no friend at hand and might be feeling lonely, sat down beside her. Conversation turned to Bible reading. The Indian lady’s face darkened and she said bitterly, “What is the use of such meetings? You missionaries say one thing and do another!’ It was easy to see she had been wounded and soured, but not knowing her history, I could only urge that meetings were held just because we recognized our need….
But this did not satisfy her, and in quick, eager sentences she began to explain herself. She said that her people had noticed that when a missionary first came out, he was usually warm and loving and keen to win souls. Then gradually, she said, it was noticed that he cooled.
“And who can say,” she concluded, with an intensity that went through the hearer, “…. who can say you missionaries live specially holy lives? We Indian Christians observe. We observe you not only when you are at work but when you are off work too. Is there anything remarkable about you? Are you burning-hot people? We look to you to show us patterns and you are showing us crooked patterns.”
The words scorched. Discount what we may because of some inward hurt or warp; and granted, thank God, that the picture painted thus is not wholly true, there was enough truth left to lay at least the one who listened low down in the dust.
I believe this story is intimately applicable to most American believers. We need to hear the questions of the little Indian woman:
“Do you lead specially holy lives?”
“Is there anything remarkable about you?”
“Are you burning-hot people?”
We sell the our lives short by reducing the faith to a cute and dainty religion that we practice a few times a week. We are supposed to be a burning-hot people, fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord! Our lives are supposed to be separate from the world in a manner sufficient to raise questions in the hearts of our neighbors and relatives, “What is it about those people? There’s a humility…. there’s a moral clarity…. there’s a joy…. there’s a no-nonsense mode of living…. there’s a wisdom…. there’s a reality in their eyes that I have found nowhere else, and their lives testify to it.”
Let us consider the tear-stained exhortation that Amy gives to follow up her story:
Comrades in this solemn fight- this awful conflict with awful powers- let us settle it as something that cannot be shaken: We are here to live holy, loving, lowly lives. We cannot do this unless we walk very, very close to the Lord Jesus. Anything that would hinder us from the closest walk that is possible to us till we see Him face to face is not for us. We need to be sensitive to the first approach of the hindering thing. For the sake of the souls that may be stumbled if we turn even ever so little aside, for the sake of our Master’s glory- dearer surely to us than all else- let us ask Him not to show us whether in anywise we have been showing “crooked patterns.”
Dear reader, what is the temperature of your life? Have you settled into a cool spirituality that is unconsecrated and casual? Have you more passion for entertainment than you have for the Scriptures? Has the Spirit of prayer become foreign to you? Have you left your “first love” and latched onto idols that now sap all of your affections for Christ, and leave you barren and numb at heart? We must return to Him with whole hearts, forsaking the “crooked patterns” that have too long marked the Church in our nation. Let us cry out from a place of brokenness, that He may have for Himself a people no longer “lagging behind in diligence.” A people who are “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….”
He is faithful to respond to the heart that hungers and thirsts after Him! He will fill your heart with new life, and cause His heart to be expressed through you. He will kindle a flame in our hearts that all the schemes of hell cannot begin to quench. He will have for Himself a people.
A people leading specially holy lives, empowered by His Spirit. A remarkable people. A burning-hot people. Amen!
Hindus in Madhya Pradesh, India, have accused Pastor Kamlesh Tahed and three other Christians of murdering a young man who was killed in a fight between two locals, according to Compass Direct News.
On Aug. 8, Roop Singh Baria was killed during violence between the Baria and Tahed clans regarding 1,000 rupees (US $20), which had been borrowed by one of the Tahed family members. When members of the Baria clan filed a report with the police about the incident, they implicated Pastor Tahed, Kasna Tahed and two other believers, Ramesh Tahed and Vasna Tahed, in the murder. The four men and other locals insist that the Christians were not present when the murder took place.
Following the incident, Pastor Tahed said, “I once was one of them, but in the 20 years since I became a Christian, they have been dragging me into false cases and hate me for my work of evangelism.” In 2001, Pastor Tahed was jailed for 20 days on false charges of “forcible conversion.” He was released after a costly court battle, which proved his innocence. At last report, he was in hiding and the three other accused believers were in police custody.
God, shine your light of truth and righteousness on this situation.
As we seek to establish communities of faith in America and the West that are worthy of the Master, feed your soul on some recent stories of persecution from Voice of the Martyrs. Let these stories do more than make you feel sympathetic to these believers’ plights… these brave saints have much to impart to us:
Pakistan – Young Christian Woman and her Father remain in Prison
Twenty-year old Sandul Bibi and her father Gulsher remain in prison in Pakistan despite four court hearings, according to VOM contacts.
“On Feb. 24 Sandul and Gulsher had another court appearance and nothing significant was determined,” VOM contacts said. “This has been the outcome for the last four court hearings.”
Sandul and Gulsher are charged with violating section 295-B of the Pakistani legal code, the ‘blasphemy’ law. Sandul is falsely accused of ripping pages from the Quran. On Oct. 9 a large crowd of Muslims attacked Christian families at a church, throwing stones and firing guns. They were shouting, ‘Kill Gulsher and his daughter Sandul.’ Sandul and her father, Gulsher Masih, were arrested after a mob from the local mosque surrounded their house. Loudspeakers from different mosques broadcast accusations that Christians had disgraced the Quran, calling Muslims to attack and burn their homes. The angry crowd threw stones and set fire to Sandul’s home. Christians believe Sandul and her father were targeted and arrested because they were aggressively winning villagers to Christ.
“Nothing will happen to me. They know and respect me. Nobody will harm me.”
Those were the last words Pastor Kantheswar Digal spoke to his son Rajendra and his wife, Karpul.
A Christian for more than 50 years, Pastor Digal was one of the few believers living in the small village of Sankarakhole, in Orissa state, India. He was well-known by the Hindus who shared his neighborhood. Yet, his son says, the family lived there in relative peace.
“We had no enemies there,” Rajendra told our VOM workers about his small hometown. “We could practice our faith in Christ comfortably with no problems with anybody locally.”
Nonetheless, on Aug. 24, 2008, when Hindu radicals began violent attacks against Christians throughout Orissa, venomous threats by agitators forced the Digal family to leave their village.
“They told my husband you better leave,” says Karpul. “He should leave his house and go away if he wanted to stay a Christian because they were not going to allow any Christians to stay in our village.” The Worst of the Worst
The brutality against Orissa Christians spawned by Hindu fundamentalists was unflinchingly complete. Homes were burned. Churches were destroyed. People were killed. The entire Digal family fled their small village in the Kandhalmal district to the slums of the state’s capital. All eight members were forced to live in a one-room, wooden shack.
On Sept. 20, 2008, Pastor Digal left his family in the makeshift shelter they had carved out for themselves. Over their objections he went to their home village to check on their house and livestock.
Pastor Digal was traveling on a local bus to his destroyed home when it was stopped by 18 Hindu radicals. What happened next was a horror unimaginable.
The radicals dragged Pastor Digal off the crowded, dusty bus. They ignored the sickening crunch of bone as both his legs broke. They proceeded to torture him, demanding that he return to Hinduism.
“I am a strong believer in Jesus Christ,” Pastor Digal said. “You may kill me but I will never become Hindu.”
The 18 men began to beat Pastor Digal. They tied his hands and legs. Witnesses watched as they stripped him of his clothes leaving nothing but a shirt. They burned his face and tortured him in unspeakable ways. Then they dumped this limp body in a creek where it floated for days. “We Never Got Angry”
Fourteen days later, after frantically calling around Orissa trying to find his father, Rajendra saw his mother on a local television broadcast. She held a black and white photo of his father. He was dead, killed by radical Hindus because he was a Christian. Even though she lost her husband Karpul says “we never got angry after hearing about the news about my husband’s killing.”
Her son agrees. “I do not carry anger towards them because my Jesus was once also killed on the cross for all mankind, for the entire sinful world,” Rajendra said. “My father dedicated his life for my village for people who still did not know Christ. I think for my village, my father also was killed. And by the sacrifice of his own life, they may know Jesus Christ and accept him as their only Lord and personal savior. ”
The Digals were one of the hundreds of people helped by VOM ministry partners, thanks to our readers. They received help with relocation, food and other basic necessities. But the aftermath of the horrific violence in Orissa has left tens of thousands of Indian Christians without homes, jobs or stability. In January the government closed the relief camps in Orissa leaving thousands homeless and without protection. Even with the uncertainty, Orissa Christians say they are strengthened by the prayers and love of Christians all over the world. Your love allows them to remain bold for Christ.
“We strongly believe that Christians all over the world are praying for us,” says Rajendra. “We are also praying for all of them. (Praying) that everyone should stand firm for witnessing for Jesus throughout their life.”
The Voice of the Martyrs has provided encouragement and financial help to “Mohammad” an Islamic apologist who converted to Christianity.
Before becoming a Christian, Mohammad wrote articles attempting to prove Islam was the only way to God. After they were written, however, Mohammad began to have doubts about Islam. He saw violence in Islam and heard his colleagues say that one day those who follow Islam will invade Europe and take their women. After hearing this, Mohammad was very disgusted.
Later, Mohammad met a Christian who invited him to his house. “He gave [Mohammad] a Bible and asked him to read. When he opened the Bible, the first verse he read was ‘And all who accepted Him, He gave them authority to be the sons of God,'” VOM contacts said. “Mohammad said it was like an electrical current went through his body when he read those words,” VOM contacts added.
“The word of God is powerful,” Mohammad added.
Following his conversion, Mohammad was arrested and imprisoned for two years. “He experienced miracles after miracles in jail,” VOM contacts said. “The authorities told the extremists in prison that he was a convert so one of them would kill him. But the Lord protected him and kept him day after day. During his time in jail, his wife accepted the Lord, his daughter who is in university and his son who is a teenager.”
Since Mohammad’s release from prison, many attempted to kill him. He has been receiving all kinds of threats from neighbor and his extended family since he was released.
VOM contacts added, “No one wants to employ him because he has converted to Christianity. Somehow, Mohammad found a job and he was doing great. Before the end of the month, his employer fired him without reason and did not even give him a salary. When he got home he received a phone call from the national security [office] warning him if he ever tries to work he will be killed. They told him, ‘You should be dead by now, be thankful that you’re not.'”
CARROLLTON, Texas, Mar. 19 /Christian Newswire/ — A large mob of anti-Christian extremists brutally attacked two Gospel for Asia-supported missionaries in Himachal Pradesh, India, on Saturday, March 14. After stripping them naked and beating Murari Jay and Atul Rajesh, the vicious group burned all their belongings and then had the missionaries arrested.
The mob of about 30 people barged into the place where Murari and Atul were staying. Humiliating the missionaries, the group tore the men’s clothes off and beat them. Murari sustained severe injuries to his back after mob members repeatedly kicked him, and Atul suffered acute head trauma. Other members of the mob set fire to everything the missionaries owned.
After assaulting the missionaries, their attackers grabbed Murari and Atul, forcing them to go to the police station. Authorities took the two men into custody. When GFA leaders in the area heard about the attack, they immediately went to the police station to help the missionaries. After much discussion, authorities released Murari and Atul at 11:30 p.m.
Even in this difficult situation, the missionaries were praising Jesus and told the GFA leaders that they felt the experience increased their faith in Him.
“It was a great privilege to be persecuted for the Gospel of Christ,” both missionaries responded when asked about the attacks.
The next morning, the two missionaries had to go back to the police station to clear the case. After investigating the situation, the police found no fault in the mob for the unproved beatings, and the missionaries were not charged with any crime.
Murari and Atul also received treatment at a local hospital following the attack. They are now home and, through medical care, are recovering quickly.
Gospel for Asia is an evangelical mission organization based in Carrollton, Texas involved in sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.
For the past five months, an underground campaign of violence directed against Christians has erupted in Orissa (one of the poorest states in India) and spread to several surrounding states as well. According to a London online newspaper as of November 20, 2008, there have been 67 Christians killed, thousands of homes burned, hundreds of places of worship destroyed, and there are now around 11,000 displaced Christians in refugee camps. The leaders of several Christian organizations in India have said that Hindu militants are offering rewards to those who commit violence against Christians. Allegedly the reward offered for killing a pastor is $250, and rewards of food, fuel, weapons, and money are being offered to those who hurt or destroy Christians or their property. They have also said that the Hindu extremist group, Bajrang Jal has set up training camps for training women to use weapons in order to kill Christians in rural areas. The Hindu groups have denied these claims, but according to the Times of India, the Indian government has found enough evidence to indicate a planned conspiracy of violence against Christians by the militant Hindu groups.
This string of violent activities was triggered by the assassination of Hindu extremist leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati. Despite the Maoist party claiming responsibility for the assassination, the militant Hindu group has continued to blame the murder on Christians. Following is some of the story and quotes from the interview with Maoist leader Azad by an Indian newsgroup:
“We killed Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati to avenge his villainous role in Kandhmal,” said Azad, a leader of Maoist outfit, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, in an interview to a leading Oriya daily on Friday.
Azad said ever since the December 2007 riots in Kandhmal, a predominantly tribal area, Laxmanananda and VHP secretary general Pravin Togadia portrayed Christians as Maoists and attempted to defeat the revolutionary movement. “Laxmanananda was taking the lead in Hindu fascist activities,” he said in the interview. “We appeal to the public to join us to fight exploitative organizations.”
According to this Maoist leader, the militant Hindu group (VHP) has portrayed Christians as Maoists, even though they are not, thus allowing them to shift the blame and focus for the murder onto the Christians rather than those who claimed responsibility themselves. Hindu extremist groups have a deep-seated hatred of Christians for converting Hindus from their religion, and claim that the Christians use coercion, bribery, and force to win converts, and it appears that they have been waiting for just such an excuse to justify a concerted attack on Indian Christians. Here is what one Hindu leader has to say to the Times of India on the subject:
‘People are bound to react when their leaders like Swami Laxmananda Saraswati are killed and fellow neighbours and friends brazenly converted.” … He was chillingly forthright when he said he will continue seeing the killers of Laxmananda as ”Christians”, not Maoists. Incidentally, three men, now arrested and calling themselves Maoists, have claimed responsibility for the murder of the Hindu leader on August 23 this year. ”Conversions have to stop, only then will violence (against Christians) cease,” he warned darkly… He went on, ”Tribals are being threatened, coerced, and cheated into becoming Christians. Even otherwise, the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (1967) prohibits it.”
All the leaders of Christian organizations in India have condemned the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, and assert that violence is never an acceptable way to solve their problems. However, the Hindu leaders promise that Hindus will react with violence whenever they are attacked, and it seems they reserve the right to decide who the attackers are without recourse to actual evidence. According to the London Newspaper covering the story, “Extremists said that if Mr Lakshmanananda’s killers were not caught by December 15 they would begin a day of violence on December 25.” The men who were ALREADY arrested by the Indian government for the killing freely claimed responsibility for the attack, but that has not satisfied the Hindu extremist groups who insist upon blaming Christians instead.
In Kandhmal (a region of Orissa), Hindu families have been flying saffron flags over their houses to distinguish themselves from the Christians, because houses without these flags have been vandalized or destroyed by angry Hindus. This seems very similar to the Nazi Germany’s identification of the Jews using yellow stars of David, albeit the other way around. All those without the “safety” of the saffron flag are in danger of violent attacks on their person or property.
In the next article, we will look at some of the reactions of the Indian government, as well as international reactions to this campaign of violence. As the threatened day of violence approaches on December 25th, let us not forget to pray that this violence will be averted, and the glory of God manifested in great power within India! Pray for our brothers and sisters, many of whom have suffered violence for the name of their Savior, and pray that they will be peacefully restored to their homes and not have to suffer through the winter in refugee camps. Pray for those who have been blinded by fear and/or hatred, that they would encounter the love and reality of our Messiah Jesus and live transformed lives, devoted to the Lord. He is our great God, able to do so much more than we can ask Him! Pour out Your Spirit, Father!