From State of the Church

Encourage your minister


‘Encourage him.’ Deuteronomy 1:38

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 13:17–19

Why do you leave your own minister? If I see one come into my place from the congregation of another brother in the ministry, I would like just to give him a flea in his ear such as he may never forget. What business have you to leave your minister? If everyone were to do so, how discouraged the poor man would be. Just because somebody happens to come into this neighbourhood, you leave your seats. Those who are going from place to place are of no use to anybody; but those are the truly useful men who, when the servants of God are in their places, keep to theirs, and let everybody see that whoever discourages the minister they will not, for they appreciate his ministry. Again, let me say by often being present at the prayer-meeting you can encourage the minister. You can always tell how a church is getting on by the prayer-meetings. I will almost prophesy the kind of sermon on the Sabbath from the sort of prayer-meeting on the Monday. If many come up to the house of God, and they are earnest, the pastor will get a blessing from on high; it cannot but be, for God opens the windows of heaven to believing prayer. Never fail to plead for your pastor in your closet. Dear friends, when you mention a father’s name, and a child’s name, let the minister’s name come forth too. Give him a large share in your heart, and both in private and public prayer, encourage him. Encourage him, again, by letting him know if you have received any good.

For meditation: The apostle Paul was greatly encouraged by people who stood by him, like Onesiphorus and Luke (2 Timothy 1:16–17; 4:11). Are you faithful to your minister or do you leave him in the lurch, as Demas and others did to Paul (2 Timothy 4:10,16)?

N.B. This sermon was preached at Cornwall Road Chapel, Bayswater, to the congregation pastored by Spurgeon’s brother, James, since the opening of the chapel on 1 July 1863. For sermons assumed to have been preached for the first and third anniversaries, see readings on 3 and 1 July respectively.

Sermon no. 537 / 17 October (Preached 18 October 1863) —   Charles Spurgeon

- Bible Gateway.Com

The church aroused


‘Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’ Ephesians 5:14

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 13:8–14

Some people can walk in their sleep, and walk in dangerous places, where waking men would be unsafe. They by some strange influence seem to walk steadily and calmly along the eddies and turn by the dangers beneath; even the howling of winds abroad seems to be inoperative upon their senses; and they therefore have a kind of security which more wakefulness would remove from them. O the fatal security of some professors, and the way in which they will dally with the world, and yet keep up an outwardly consistent character. O the manner in which some Christians will go as near to the fire of sin as well may be, and be scorched by it and yet not burned. O some of you are good, excellent, moral people in the judgment of men, but nevertheless, as Christians you do not seem to be awake to the interest of Christ’s kingdom.

And as a man can talk in his sleep, and walk in his sleep, there is another thing he can do better than other people, namely, dream in his sleep. He is the man to concoct plans, and find out new inventions. He can sketch out methods for building chapels, he can find ways of bringing out ministers, and doing all sorts of things, and yet he is asleep all the while. The waking man does it, and proves that he is awake by doing it, but the slumbering man only calculates, so many pounds a week, so many subscriptions, and the thing will be done; but there is never a brick to show. He dreams deliciously, but as for activity it is not there. He could always manage a Sunday school, or build a Christian interest better than anybody else, but no Sunday school or Christian interest ever does spring up under his hand, because the man’s whole activity shows itself in inventions which are never executed, and in plans which are never carried out.

For meditation: If apostles could sleep in the midst of danger (Matthew 26:40–45), and if a half-asleep apostle could dream up foolish plans without knowing what he was saying (Luke 9:32–33), we also need a reminder to be spiritually awake and alert (1 Thessalonians 5:6–8).

Sermon no. 716 / 3 October (Preached 7 October 1866) —   Charles Spurgeon

- Bible Gateway.Com

A divided heart


“Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty.” Hosea 10:2

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:4-12

If we would provoke the anger of the Most High and bring down trying providences on the churches, we have nothing to do but to be divided in our hearts and all will be accomplished. If we wish that every vial may empty out its ill, and that every vessel may withhold its oil, we have but to cherish our bickerings till they become animosities; we have but to nurse our animosities till they become hatreds, and all the work will be fully completed. And if this be the case in the church at large, it is peculiarly true in those various sections of it which we now call Apostolic Churches. Oh, my brethren, the smallest church in the world is potent for good when it has but one heart and one soul; when pastor, elders, deacons, and members, are bound together by a threefold cord that cannot be broken. Then are they mighty against every attack. But however great their numbers, however enormous their wealth, however splendid may be the talents with which they are gifted, they are powerless for good the moment they become divided amongst themselves.

Union is strength. Blessed is the army of the living God, in that day when it goes forth to battle with one mind, and when its soldiers as with the tramp of one man, in undivided march, go onwards towards the attack. But a curse awaits that church which runs to and fro and which, divided in itself, has lost the main stay of its strength with which it should batter against the enemy.

Division cuts our bowstrings, snaps our spears, houghs our horses, and burns our chariots in the fire. We are undone the moment the link of love is snapped. Let this perfect bond be once cut in twain and we fall down, and our strength is departed. By union we live, and by disunion we expire.

For meditation: Believers are not to try to create “unity” with those who preach another gospel, but we are urged to maintain the unity that already exists between true believers (Ephesians 4:3; Philippians 1:27). What would somebody have to report about your church (and your own contribution in it)?

Sermon no. 276 / 25 September (1859) —   Charles Spurgeon

- Bible Gateway.Com

Religion is just a Patsy


From KHouse.Org

The Freedom from Religion Foundation recently wrote a letter to remove a large carved statue honoring WWII veterans from an Indiana state park. The large wooden statue of an eagle and a soldier includes a small cross as a symbol of those who died, and the FFRF argues that by putting up the statue, the state is endorsing Christianity. Governor Mike Pense and State Park officials have in turn given their support to the acceptance and placement of the statue, which was commissioned by local citizens:

“The freedom of religion does not require freedom from religion,” Gov. Pence said in a statement. “The constitutions of our state and nation more than allow the placement of this Hoosier artist’s sculpture on public land. So long as I am governor, I will defend the right of Hoosiers to display this sculpture in Whitewater Memorial State Park as a lasting tribute to the service and sacrifice of all who have worn the uniform of the United States.”

The FFRF constantly battles displays of religious symbols in the public sector, working to force secularization on what has historically been a Judeo-Christian nation. In August, the organization complained that the Eagle Nest Senior Center in Madison, Wisconsin included a Christian prayer before meals. Last week, the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of minister’s housing allowance tax exemption in a case originally brought by the FFRF. The FFRF has gotten known for their billboards that declare, “Imagine no religion.”

If it were not for religion, after all, there would have been no planes used as bombs on September 11, 2001. ISIS wouldn’t have been slaughtering children in Syria and Iraq this summer. There would have been no Spanish Inquisition, no Taliban, no Crusades, no human sacrifices to various and sundry gods. Religious wars would be conspicuously absent from world history and nobody would follow cult leaders in sipping down toxic Kool-Aid.

Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion spends the first page of the Preface going through the evils that have been done in the name of religion. Yet, while atheists love to blame zealous believers for the world’s sufferings, they have missed the true problem. Yes, much earthly evil has been done in the name of one deity or another, but religion isn’t the real problem. The real problem is … human nature.

Religion is a convenient scapegoat for the atheist, who wants to justify himself in a world of believers. The atheist has a serious problem in blaming the evils of the world on religion, though. For every complaint against religious people, there are plenty of complaints to be made against the faithless.

Swift to Shed Blood

CNN reports that, according to Human Rights Watch, 60,000 people were killed in the Mexican Drug War between 2006 and 2012. The slaughter of Mexico’s youth is the result of Mexico’s drug wars, which are absolutely not based in religion. They are based in the fact that drug sales to the culpable United States produce between $19 and $29 billion dollars for Mexican drug cartels. Religion doesn’t make human beings evil. Humans are that way all on their own.

Have people been slaughtered in the name of religion? Certainly. Yet, the Crusades are a drop in the bucket compared to the massive death toll caused by atheistic regimes. The leaders of the French Revolution shoved God out of their social justice crusade, and the result was a blood bath. Stalin is responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million of his own people, and Mao Zedong’s death toll runs upwards of 40–70 million. From Pol Pot in Cambodia to the Kims in North Korea, governments freed of “religion” — those utopias of atheistic communism — have murdered millions upon millions of people. People of various religions continue to fight all around the world, but, anti-God governments streamline human death. Any time people get starry-eyed about imagining “no religion too” they need a little history lesson.

None Righteous

The problem isn’t religion or even lack thereof. The problem is humanity.

We all have that destructive sin nature inside us by birth. It’s there, and we spend our lives fighting it. If we were naturally good, it would be easy to be good and kind, generous and patient. If we were naturally good, it would be a heavy effort to be rotten. But, we find that we are just the opposite, always struggling to do what is right and constantly falling into that corruption that most people want so desperately to avoid.

Even the atheist wants to escape the corruption according to the sense of right and wrong inside him. Atheists have consciences too, after all.

Paul writes:

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;”

— Romans 2:14–15 (KJV)

Atheists and humanists are quite capable of morality and moral decision making. Yet, in rejecting the one true God, humanists make themselves their own gods. Because they have no greater yardstick to measure by, it often happens that they reject one evil only to turn around and embrace something far worse.

The poor in France had good reason for anger against the spoiled aristocracy and opulent church in the late 18th century. But, having only man’s reasoning to depend on — and hearts full of vengeance — thousands of innocent people were murdered. The atheist has nobody but himself and the local legal system to help him do the good he wants to do. If the good he wants to do requires getting the Kurds out of the way, or the using an iron fist to keep his subjects in line, that can lead easily into gross error. Humankind has excellent thinking ability, but we too often use that brainpower to justify doing the destructive things we want to do rather than the good we should.

Religion Is No Answer

Yet, the atheist is not too far off when he looks at the religions of the world and feels massively unimpressed. The world’s salvation is not found in religion, but in the person of Jesus Christ.

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

— Gal 5:16,22–25

Life on this planet is hard, and Jesus never promised us anything different. He said we would have many troubles in this world, but he also said he had overcome the world. If people can see Christ in us, they won’t want to imagine a world without him.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”

— 2Cr 4:6–8 (KJV)

Related Links

  • Mexico Drug War Fast Facts
    — CNN
  • Christian Faith is Not Hate


    From American Thinker.Com

    Liberals have found a greater threat to the world than even ISIS: A Baptist pastor quoting the Bible. On September 3rd, 2014 dozens of liberal websites all posted some version of the same sentence: “Megachurch Pastor calls for the death of gays!” In a remarkable display of mass hysteria coupled with mind-blowing dishonesty, the articles all claim Pastor Robby Gallaty of Brainerd Baptist Church, aggressively and hatefully called for gays across America to be discriminated against and brutally killed.  The Daily Beast referring to Gallaty as the ‘hateful pastor’, “Don’t be too shocked by megachurch minister Robby Gallaty’s hateful sermon. There’s a hard core of evangelicals that aren’t evolving on homosexuality, let alone same-sex marriage.” The Raw Story: “A pastor of a large Southern Baptist church near Chattanooga, Tennessee said this week that Christians would never repent for discriminating against gay people like they had for racism because African-Americans could not change the color of their skin.”

    The most charming article, which actually contains the video in question, on Addicting Info said “And why should innocent gays and lesbians be put to death? Well, according to Gallaty, they have made the choice to be gay, thus rebelling against God’s plan. Touching on the comparisons some Christians make in to racist beliefs and homophobic beliefs, Gallaty responded just as you’d think; insulting those who can see a legitimate comparison between two hatreds.”

    The Addicting Info article, spread around facebook due to its particularly aggressive and alarmist tone, contains the following gems: “I guess the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” doesn’t ring true to Gallaty, who has proven himself to be another faux Christian who blankets his hateful beliefs in the word of God.  But don’t say that to the religious right. They’ll jump to his defense faster than anything else.  Why?  Because religious freedom, that’s why.”, “Just another mega church moocher who will peddle anything to keep banking off stupid people” and “As he preaches the genocide of gays, I wonder if he will touch on the fact that he sinning as he wears a pair of denim jeans and a cotton shirt.  He probably won’t though because that doesn’t count in his tiny world of knowledge.”

    Interesting note, Pastor Gallaty is not wearing jeans in the video.  Watching the video provides a slightly different story than the one described above. Pastor Gallaty is shown reading a list of forbidden sexual activities in Leviticus which includes homosexual acts. He goes on to describe what the Bible says is the punishment for homosexual practices.  He at no time advocates carrying out the death penalty for gay people. As is common with most Biblical study, including my own Torah study just this weekend, it is important to understand the significance of activities G-d designates with the death penalty.

    From the articles it would appear the video would then continue on an aggressive rant celebrating the joy Christians can have in executing gays for G-d. Unfortunately for liberals, Pastor Gallaty disappoints, which brings us to their next hysterical proclamation: The pastor says gays deserve to be discriminated against because they can choose to be gay!  What he actually says is that there is a separation between homosexual activity and the person engaged in it. From the Biblical references he states that G-d refers to homosexual practices rather than homosexual people. He devotes a strongly empathetic discussion to the deep desires and struggle people with same-sex attraction experience while balancing their faith.  He compares it equally to not only his own personal desires and struggles, but to that of all humanity.  His obvious point is that as a ‘child of G-d’, the person with homosexual impulses is not ‘gay’ as much as he is a person who can choose how to act on said impulses.

    He attempts to make a clear separation between inborn physical qualities such as race and gender and controllable actions to demonstrate that the fallacy is in the homosexual identity.  He never even implies gay people should be treated poorly or even differently.  He is quoted saying “It’s the most lethal attack we have today against the family,”, “And if the enemy can ruin the family, he wins.”  He is actually quoting a Rabbi and places it into the larger context that a homosexual identity attacks not only the family structure but also what G-d intended for mankind. While debatable, it is a recognizable consequence of fluid identity, sexuality and politically correct appeasement that the ‘family’ in any religious context is severely altered culturally. But again he makes clear this is not an issue of the individual, but of the social construct of a homosexual identity that causes this issue. At the end of the video he indicates that all Christians must take a higher road and must choose to follow G-d regardless of their personal struggles or desires.

    There is absolutely nothing in the video presented that is threatening, hateful, cruel or the result of ignorance.  A person may be offended and there are certainly points to be debated but that is not evidence of ‘hate.’  What is remarkable is the level of panic and aggression towards this man who is not only merely reading aloud the word of his faith but is compassionately discussing ways to overcome personal struggles to better adhere to it. The simple statement of that faith is enough to be categorized along with Islamic terrorists currently beheading innocents and burying children alive. One particular facebook post is quoted as saying: “Forget ISIS.  Bomb Tennessee!”

    To be very clear, even if he were to call for the death of gays, it is inconsequential if no one acts upon it.  For a reference of the ineffective danger to gays across America due to hateful speech, just see the Westboro Baptist Church. If a person believes their sexuality is a permanent and solid part of who they are or completely defines their personality, why would it possibly matter what a Pastor says about the Christian perspective on the topic? Is the mere existence of ideas found offensive such a threat the entire liberal and gay internet must attack it simultaneously?

    Pastor Robby Gallaty is a strong and confident religious leader speaking to what he believes to be true and he is doing so with compassion, honesty and sincerity. Nothing in this man’s voice or action conveys malice.  It is vital that men and women like him not be shamed into silence to satisfy the irrational insecurity and bigotry of the left willing to openly lie about a video they describe in the same article.

    Chad Felix Greene (@Chadfelixg), author of Jewish Children’s Books, Non–Fiction and Social Commentary


    Planned Parenthood Supporters To Host Prayer Rally For Abortion


    From Prophecy News Watch.Com

    A group of Planned Parenthood supporters and so-called faith leaders are hosting a prayer rally today at the Ohio statehouse to entreat God’s blessing on the organization’s work, including the abortion of hundreds of thousands of children each year.

    “Ohio faith leaders will culminate a week of prayer on issues that affect all Ohioans on Thursday. Join Planned Parenthood supporters and faith leaders from across Ohio at a Statehouse prayer rally,” a page on the Planned Parenthood Action website states.

    The rally will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the state’s capital.

    “Moral Mondays was started in North Carolina by Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, to protest that state’s failure to enact the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and other policies that were ‘morally indefensible,’ including attacks on women’s rights. Recently, Rev. Barber put out a call to spread the movement to other states with a week of actions at the end of August,” the website continues. “This week of action provided an opportunity to focus on issues relating to civil rights and social and economic justice.”

    It then includes a form for visitors to acknowledge their intention to attend, stating, “I am a person of faith and I understand how my religion calls on us to protect the health care, including reproductive health, for all Ohioans.”

    But not everyone is supportive of the event.

    “We are greatly concerned if anyone prays against protections for unborn children in our state,” Kate McCann, director of communications for Ohio Right to Life, told reporters. “We hope that the spirit of prayer will move them to join us in protecting the innocent, and we ask Ohio and the country to pray with us for Planned Parenthood and their change of hearts regarding the value of human life.”

    Today’s rally is not the first of its kind. As previously reported, approximately 50 abortion supporters are stated to have joined in a prayer gathering thanking God for abortion at the Iowa State Capitol Building last September.

    Des Moines abortion activist Midge Slater helmed the prayer, which she appeared to read from a written statement.

    “We give thanks, O Lord, for the doctors both current and future who provide quality abortion care,” she said. “We pray for the 45 million American women who have had safe and legal abortions. May they stand tall and refuse shame.”

    “We pray for our elected officials that they may always support a woman’s right to to make our own medical decisions,” Salter continued. “Today, we pray for better access to all forms of birth control. … We pray for increased financial support for low income women to access contraception, abortion and child care.”

    Slater then began to ask God for an increase in abortion access overseas.

    “Today, we pray for women in developing nations that they may know the power of self-determination. May they have access to employment, education, birth control and abortion,” she entreated. “We give thanks for the strong women in our lives who have given us examples of good decision making.”

    “Today, we pray for the families who have chosen; may they know the blessing of choice,” Slater declared. “We give thanks and celebrate that abortion is still safe and legal.”

    Some were shocked by the content of the “prayer,” commenting that “Any person that would celebrate the slaughter of 45 million unborn children is mind boggling.”

    Will China Be World’s Largest Christian Nation By 2025?


    From Prophecy News Watch.Com

    Fenggang Yang is a sociology professor at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival Under Communist Rule. He believes that “China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon.” By his calculations, the number of believers in the People’s Republic of China will rise to 160 million by 2025 and 247 million by 2030. If so, the country would be home to more Christians than any nation on earth.

    When I visited Beijing a few years ago, I was told that the rate of Christian growth is even higher than Professor Yang documents. By some measures, as many as 100,000 Chinese people come to Christ every day. Growth there is hard to document, given the large underground Christian movement in the country. Some observers believe that there are more followers of Jesus in China than members of the Chinese Communist party.

    When missionaries were expelled from China in 1949, there were less than four million believers in the country. Many predicted the death of the church. In the decades since, the Christian movement has exploded in growth, defying all odds and persecution. Recent attacks on church buildings in China are the enemy’s latest response to the advance of God’s Kingdom in this ancient land.

    What has led to China’s spiritual renaissance?

    First, Christians in China have learned to depend fully and unconditionally on the power of God’s Spirit. When I visited Beijing, I was astonished by the passionate spiritual depth I encountered. In a culture where there is little cultural support and active government resistance, believers must turn to God. Mother Teresa was right: “You’ll never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”

    Second, Chinese Christians have paid the price of perseverance. They have weathered waves of persecution and opposition with steadfast resolve. Such commitment has deepened their community and their faith. Albert Schweitzer observed that “one who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.” Albert Einstein believed that “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

    How has God called you to engage your lost culture with his truth and love? The higher your calling, the harder you must climb to fulfill it. But Charles Spurgeon was right: “If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe him at all.”

    Do you believe God today?

    Learning From Young Atheists: What Turned Them Off Christianity


    From Prophecy News Watch.Com

    It’s something most Christian parents worry about: You send your kids off to college and when they come back, you find they’ve lost their faith. The prospect of this happening is why many parents nudge their kids towards Christian colleges, or at least schools with a strong Christian presence on campus.

    But in many ways, the damage has been done long before our children set foot on campus. That’s the message from a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly.

    My friend Larry Taunton of the Fixed Point Foundation set out to find out why so many young Christians lose their faith in college. He did this by employing a method I don’t recall being used before: He asked them.

    The Fixed Point Foundation asked members of the Secular Students Associations on campuses around the nation to tell them about their “journey to unbelief.” Taunton was not only surprised by the level of response but, more importantly, about the stories he and his colleagues heard.

    Instead of would-be Richard Dawkins’, the typical respondent was more like Phil, a student Taunton interviewed. Phil had grown up in church; he had even been the president of his youth group. What drove Phil away wasn’t the lure of secular materialism or even Christian moral teaching. And he was specifically upset when his church changed youth pastors.

    Whereas his old youth pastor “knew the Bible” and made Phil “feel smart” about his faith even when he didn’t have all the answers, the new youth pastor taught less and played more.

    Phil’s loss of faith coincided with his church’s attempt to ingratiate itself to him instead of challenging him. According to Taunton, Phil’s story “was on the whole typical of the stories we would hear from students across the country.”

    These kids had attended church but “the mission and message of their churches was vague,” and manifested itself in offering “superficial answers to life’s difficult questions.” The ministers they respected were those “who took the Bible seriously,” not those who sought to entertain them or be their “buddy.”

    Taunton also learned that, for many kids, their journey to unbelief was an emotional, not just an intellectual one.

    Taunton’s findings are counter-intuitive. Much of what passes for youth ministry these days is driven by a morbid fear of boring our young charges. As a result, a lot of time is spent trying to devise ways to entertain them.

    The rest of the time is spent worrying about whether the Christian message will turn kids off. But as Taunton found, young people, like the not-so-young, respect people with conviction—provided they know what they’re talking about.

    Taunton talks about his experiences with the late Christopher Hitchens, who, in their debates, refrained from attacking him. When asked why, Hitchens replied, “Because you believe it.”

    I don’t know what that says about Hitchens’ other Christian debate partners, but it is a potent reminder that playing down the truth claims of the Christian faith doesn’t work. People don’t believe those they don’t respect.

    Here’s something that one of the students told Larry Taunton; he said, “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven’t seen too much of that.”

    Folks, that’s pretty sobering. This puts the ball in our court. Are we living lives that show our children that we actually believe what we say we believe? And here’s another question—do we actually believe it? I have to say, as a parent I’m taking this very seriously.

    China Establishes New ‘Christian Theology’ To Control Its Christian Population


    From Prophecy News Watch.Com

    In a country known for quixotic public campaigns, China’s latest surely ranks among its most creative. The government will create a “Chinese Christian Theology” to guide the practice of Christianity in the country, the China Daily reported Thursday.

    Although the government has yet to provide any details into what this new theology entails, its purpose is clear: Speaking to China Daily, Wang Zuo, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, said, “The construction of Chinese Christian Theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.”

    On the surface, it may seem strange that an officially atheist state would create a new theology. But the endeavor provides a glimpse into an increasingly religious country, and a government’s desire to deflect any potential challenge to its authority.

    Since relaxing prohibitions on religious faith in 1982, the Chinese Communist Party now recognizes five official faiths: Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism, Buddhism and Islam. Because much religious faith remains underground, it is difficult to establish the precise number of worshippers in China. But a 2007 survey estimated that 31 percent of the country’s population, a number exceeding 400 million people, practiced a religious faith of some kind. Each religion has an organized, government-sanctioned hierarchy that is headquartered in Beijing and under the direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party.

    Even with that structure in place, the government has occasionally felt the need to further exert its control over the country’s religious life. In recent years, this trend has intensified. In 2007, Beijing passed a law prohibiting Buddhists from reincarnation.

    (The government has thus far not revealed whether there have been any violations.) In Tibet, government minders have replaced monks as supervisors of Buddhist temples throughout the region, reversing a long-standing policy.

    In the far-western Xinjiang region, whose 9 million ethnic Uighurs practice a mild form of Sunni Islam, Beijing limits permission of Muslims to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, while in July China banned fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. And this month, in Karamay, the local government said residents wearing Islamic clothing, and men wearing long beards, could not legally board city buses.

    China’s religious repression in Xinjiang and Tibet has a clear political purpose: Beijing regards both regions as separatist threats, and has invested large sums of money in cajoling Uighurs and Tibetans toward loyalty to the Communist Party. But Christians, who do not have a specific geographical base in China, also experience persecution. In Wenzhou, government officials in April abruptly shut down a popular church without explanation, while police tore down crosses from thousands of churches throughout the city.

    China’s attempts to micromanage Christian practice in the country have done little to stem the religion’s popularity: By 2030, one influential pastor estimates, China will have nearly 250 million Christians. That would, at current projections, give the officially atheist country the world’s largest Christian population.

    For now, the Chinese government appears to recognize it cannot return to the Maoist era, which largely suspended all religious life in the country. But the creation of a bespoke Chinese Christian theology is an attempt to co-opt China’s newfound devotion into an explicitly patriotic enterprise.

    Still, in a country where Web searches for Jesus far outnumber those for President Xi Jinping, Beijing may have a major challenge on its hands.

    Self-Defense is a Religious Obligation


    From American Thinker.Com

    “Children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being hung and crucified. Entire Christian and non-Muslim communities are being decimated by the radical Muslim group, ISIS.” These are the words from reporters out of Iraq. What is our obligation to those under fire from Islamic terrorists? Prayer is good, but not enough. Words of support are welcome, but not enough. What can one do when terrorists are not moved by our prayers or words of support for the hunted? Our religious obligation is to fight.

    We fight because self-defense is a mandate from the Bible — the Torah, called by many the Old Testament. We fight to defend life. Because life is precious, the ultimate, we must defend it. The very definition of self-defense is permission to kill the one who is coming toward you to kill you. Self-defense is not simply our right to pray or support with words, but do whatever is needed to stay alive and protect our families.

    Those pacifists who are willing to personally die and would rather be butchered so as not to kill their butchers are free to so choose. But no one is allowed to demand or suggest that someone else allow himself to be killed so as to spare the life of the one presently doing murder.

    A war to defend and stop those coming to kill you is a moral war. It is called a Just War. And we defend not only ourselves, we defend others. The Bible, the Torah that is, says, “Do not stand idly by while the blood our brother is being spilled”. We also have permission to kill those coming to rape a woman. The Bible, Old Testament, tells us so in Exodus. It is our obligation.

    We have recently heard from some religious leaders that “No war is ever acceptable”. In contrast to some in today’s Catholic hierarchy, the Catholic college I went to 40 years ago talked about the Just War. My Protestant clergy friends used to agree about the right to self–defense. I call it more than simply a right, like the right to assemble. Indeed, it is a religious obligation, precisely because we venerate the life of those created in the image of God. Innocent life, that is, not the  terrorist while terrorizing and killing. He must be stopped.

    Pope Francis says that “violence is never the answer to violence”. I disagree: the justified war is the answer to wanton, barbaric slaughter. It is a religious obligation to eradicate the fire of Evil. Well, at least in the Torah it is.

    Sending a papal emissary to Iraq is a nice gesture, but a better gesture is to affirm to the world that it is morally appropriate to physically fight so as to save tens of thousands who will otherwise surely be killed. Tell the world to take up arms. Instill the world with moral confidence to stop the barbarism of the Crescent before more Christian communities are wiped off the face of the earth.

    Religion cannot simply be about the next world. It has to care about living life in this world as well. It can’t simply be about lofty spiritual concepts, but a flesh and blood willingness to defend and fight for one’s right tolive. It can’t only be about salvation and the Kingdom Come, but defense of the living in His earthly Kingdom here.

    Over a million Christians have been slaughtered by those doing so in the name of Islam in Africa alone. The Church has had a decade to condemn this, and do more than pray. But, up until last week it has been much too silent. Entire Christian communities have been decimated by Islam in the Middle East and parts of Asia; hundreds of women have been raped with glee by young men feeling entitled to do so because the women are “infidels”. Nothing much was said. I hardly remember any protests throughout the last years in front of the White House.

    What good is it to boast that one’s hands are pure if such purity allows the bloody massacre of tens of thousands of Christian victims? Before worrying about the purity of one’s own soul, it is important to worry about how one cansave the life of his brothers and sisters. Suchpacifism may be a comfort to those who wish to be above criticism, doing so at the expense of saving the lives of others. Thank God, the Israelis are willing to fight, physically fight in self-defense against the Islamist Hamas, which wants to destroy them. The Torah does not celebrate pacifism, it values innocent life. Innocent life is a category above these ersatz, high-sounding platitudes suited for ivory chambers.

    Religion is more than doing the nice things such as visiting the sick and healing the wounded. That’s Religion 101. Religion demands that we be a whole person, capable of the gut-wrenching actions in saving people, to begin with, from those who would make us wounded and sick. At times, God describes Himself as a “Man of War” to let us know that He expects us to physically defend ourselves and vanquish evil. This contrasts with President Obama who recently remarked regarding bombing ISIS that “We should not want a victor and a vanquished.” That type of moral relativism is anti-Biblical, will doom the entire Western civilization, and makes us glad Mr. Obama was not around when we had to fight the Nazis and Communists.

    We hear very often from the religious community regarding the absolute need to protect the life in the womb, the life of the unborn. Well, how about protecting the life of the already born, the living?

    Who will be the Christian religious leader who will boldly assert that it is a Christian principle, a religious obligation, to wage war to defend oneself from merciless attackers? How many more millions of Christians must die at the hands of Islam until a leader arises and says “Love is not only about loving your enemy, but loving your life aswell. Love demands that you physically fight for your children, your family and your friends. ”

    I cannot believe that God demands from his devotees that they allow others to kill them. Actually, Martyrdom in battle is the best form of martyrdom for a Cause. Leaders should not make others feel morally guilty or spiritually deficient for physically defending their loved ones.

    Rabbi Aryeh Spero, a theologian, is author of Push Back and president of Caucus for America.