“A mighty fortress is our God,” proclaims Martin Luther’s sixteenth century hymn.
Invulnerable within Himself is the Lord, but not so much, anymore, the worshipers inside His earthly houses. Pews, it turns out, make bad barricades.
Today, across two-thirds of The Big Blue Marble, Christ is a crime, and His followers are executed hourly in thrashing droves. Safely elsewhere, tense and empty, urban post-Christians shelter among the dregs of what used to be the Free World, fashionably scornful of the church while having never once in their entire lives drawn one breath not made fruitful by Judeo-Christian values and Judeo-Christian culture.
Churches once grew up on sites made sacred by what living martyrs suffered there. So much so, fourth-through-seventeenth century English law recognized churches as sanctuaries from civil arrest. The Right of Asylum turned back armed men closing in on fleeing criminals and cornered rebels, if only for as long as the outlaws loitered within sacred cloisters.
The spirit of the Middle Ages waned. Around the world, by the nineteenth century, armies often trampled down churches, although, on March 6, 1836 in America, we remember the Alamo made a valiant redoubt in the battle for Texas liberty. During World War II, the German Luftwaffe intentionally targeted three beloved seventeenth century churches designed by Christopher Wren. The City of London landmarks were demolished to wound British tradition and pride, not primarily to kill local parishioners.
Everywhere today it is both the physical churches and now their congregations, too, being torn and gutted. The 21st century goes harshly for lambs of God, as it also does for the free-market capitalism by which they prefer to bake, sell, and buy their daily bread. It gathers a fateful dark momentum, this world war on Christ, but is not new. As always, China is strenuously inhospitable to the Bible, but, ruthless as Communism can be, even state-sanctioned persecutions lack the raw slaughter of the Middle East and Africa, where the humblest churches pass for killing floors.
Within the last decade, reports The Vatican and Center for the Study of Global Christianity, every single year an average of 100,000 Christians were murdered in “a situation of witness,” meaning: “for motives related to their faith.”
Over the last ten years, for daring to love Jesus, every twenty-four hours an average of eleven Christians per hour — men, women, children, infants — have been cut down by cheering, jeering, dancing savages. And along with them, billions of others, in their savage hearts, also rejoice. We know, too, there has been torture: some of the cruelest martyrdoms since the Coliseum games of ancient Rome. Goes unreported internationally.
Where’s the outrage? To the degree that the existence of a Christian Holocaust is at all officially acknowledged, muted global reactions run a predictable gamut from institutional protests, to private negotiations, to picking up a gun yourself. Pope Francis, in May 2013, spoke of his concerns, his anguish, but what can even he do? Aside from a personal body guard of one hundred Swiss Guards, as Stalin famously sneered: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”
At the opposite end of the scale, we acknowledge contemporary Christian soldiers like biker Sam Childers, “The Machine Gun Preacher,” who protected South Sudan children by fighting along side of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army against war-criminals who styled themselves the Lord’s Resistance Army.
And what characterizes most Americans’ immediate reaction to slaughtering religious world war? The shrugging indifference of a participation-trophy generation blinded by their own reflections in a wilderness of flat-screens. Government schools spew out millions who believe they are free from superstition because they sneer at religion while being taxed to extinction by politicians who tell them the weather must be appeased so Gaea is safe.
Human life striving under heaven, as seen by Eighteenth Century visionary William Blake, is an intertwining of Each with All as sensitive as a spiderweb: “A dog starved at his master’s gate/ Predicts the ruin of the state.” Similarly, the public dismemberment of a church-goer in Uganda simultaneously publishes a death warrant for some anti-theist New York hipster whose sentence is stayed only incidentally by lack of the purchase price of a few hours of inter-continental airline travel.
…Your eyes brush over the words, but let’s be frank. Personally, you don’t care about not feeling bad about not caring. Not caring about church or God or Christmas. Your kind has a name. Look, you, where the bony finger points.
Whose name is chiseled on that headstone, Scrooge?
Tip of the fedora to Elena, who challenged me, this year, to do “Christmas — Past, Present, and Future.”