The Persecution Continuum: Vandalizing Churches

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Deacon Greg Kandra had the story of churches that were vandalized in Brooklyn this week. The police have already arrested a suspect and charged him with a hate crime.

That is exactly the right charge. The increasingly widespread vandalizing of churches is indeed a hate crime. Where is this rise of hatred directed at people of faith in general and Christians in particular coming from?

I believe it is inspired by the virulent anti-Christian ethos in our halls of higher education, the mass media, and at least two social movements.

Christian-bashing hate blogs lead easily-led not-so-brights into hatred, support of discriminatory practices against Christians and verbal hazing of Christians. This kind of we-are-special and the people-we’ve-picked-out-to-hate-are-less-than-human incitement has historically been able to create fanatic followings of mental and moral midgets who will do anything to anyone to prove their “specialness.”

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Cheap demagoguery is not new and it is certainly not a sign of intellectual prowess. Falling for it and following it is actually a sign of emotional immaturity and the inability to think for oneself. If ever anyone was being brain-washed today it is the millions of people who have fallen into the Dawkins pit of “mock them; ridicule them; in public; with contempt.” Following this kind of leader does not prove you are intellectually superior. It proves that you are morally and developmentally challenged.

Vandalizing churches is just the next, highly-predictable step in the march toward violent persecution. For people in this country to dismiss these things because it’s not so bad here as it is in Kano Nigeria, is a little like someone looking at a pot of water sitting on the stove with steam rising off the water and saying, “It’s not boiling,” as if that means it isn’t on its way to a boil.

The social movements that have taken on a cloak of animosity toward Christians are the gay rights movement and the abortion rights movement. Their behavior seems to be basically a reaction to that simple fact that Christian teaching is that homosexual sexual activity is disordered sexuality and that abortion is the killing of a human being.

These people — who are closely allied with one another politically — appear to be angry because the Church will not redefine its teachings to tell them that their sins are not sinful. In the beginning they expressed this as anger because Christian people exercised their free right as American citizens to lobby for laws against abortion and in favor of traditional marriage. This has since morphed into demands that the law force Christians to participate in abortions and same-sex marriages against their will or face loss of their livelihoods and businesses.

As such, these social movements have begun waging war on the freedom of conscience of those who disagree with them.

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This has become so heated and crazy that both the gay rights movement and the abortion movement have increasingly aligned themselves with the christian-bashing-hazing-insulting-sickos of extreme secularism. This despite the fact that both their movements are based on common claims to human rights that arise directly from the Christian teaching that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God.

They might do well to consider the history of extreme secularism and atheism when it is ascendant. Atheist/secularist movements have historically aligned themselves with ideas such as readily available abortion and the rights of groups that feel marginalized. However, when they take power, oppression of homosexuals and state control of human reproduction always seems to follow.

The result of these various forces in action has been a steady march from verbal attacks and verbal hazing toward legal discrimination and now an uptick in vandalizing churches. Most of these instances of vandalism appear to be just that: Vandalism.

One interesting thing is that almost all of them are being covered by local and community press. The larger press is ignoring them, primarily, I would guess, because taken individually, they seem to be isolated incidents of vandalism. It’s the sheer number and consistency of them, combined with the social/political/educational hazing of Christians, that makes them significant.

I don’t think these vandals are organized. However they so often replicate one another that they are appear to be coming from a central set of ideologies and attitudes. If you wonder what that is, just watch the subtle but ubiquitous jibes at faith on almost every television channel, sit in on a lecture or two at your local university, or visit some of the hate blogs and witness their steady, bam-bam-bam drumbeat of Christian-bashing and hatred.

I did a simple Google search this morning on vandalized churches. This is a completely unscientific list of news stories about churches that have been vandalized this summer. The common things the vandals write on the church walls, statues, etc, are Nazi insignia and comments about religious “brainwashing.”

Washington National Cathedral

On July 29, a vandal splattered the organ of historic Bethlehem Chapel and the gilded, hand-carved altarpiece in Children’s Chapel with bright green paint. Damage is currently estimated at $15,000.

Brooklyn, NY

NEW YORK (WABC) – Police arrested a man in connection with the vandalism to a number of houses of worship in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn Tuesday morning.

55-year-old Chris Papadimitropoulos is charged with six counts of criminal mischief as a hate crime, 12 counts of criminal mischief and 12 counts of making graffiti.

Wilmington, DE

A trio of Wilmington churches were vandalized with red spray paint on Saturday morning, WCVB initially reported and a town official confirmed to Patch.

“Brainwashed” was stenciled onto statues, doors and stairs and other church property at St. Dorothy’s Church, St. Thomas of Villanova and Wilmington Congregational Church.

Union County SC

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Union County Sheriff David Taylor says the Buffalo United Methodist Church at 108 Hill Street in Buffalo was vandalized.

Taylor says German swastikas, graffiti and satanic symbols were spray-painted throughout the church.

Bibles inside the church were also ripped apart.

Charleston, SC

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A South Carolina man said he was “mad at God” when he took out his frustration on 17 churches in dozens of acts of vandalism over the past five years, according to a local newspaper.

Lincoln Township, PA

LINCOLN TOWNSHIP — The pristine face of a 19th Century church was scarred by a vandal Saturday.

 An original stained glass window at Christ Casebeer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lincoln Township was broken with a large rock. The church was built in 1845, according to Rev. Dennis Doebler.

Lee County, FL 

The search is over for three men responsible for breaking into St. Raphael’s Church. Lee County deputies detained and charged three juvenile men early this morning.

Deputies responded to St. Raphael’s Church on Lee Boulevard May 25th after it was broken into and restroom walls and doors were vandalized.

“I can’t of course repeat some of the things that were written on the wall; but they were needless to say obscene,” said Father Dennis Cooney, of St. Raphael’s. “It was something that was done out of pure viciousness.”

A donated Cadillac in the parking lot was also spray painted.

St Paul, MN

Two St. Paul churches were apparent crime victims recently.

According to a police report, someone tipped over a concrete statue of Saint Juan Diego at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 401 Concord St., breaking off its head. The damage occurred sometime between 6 p.m. Monday and 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, according to police. The statue is valued at $1,000.

Police are also investigating the theft of copper gutters valued at $1,000 from the First Church of Christ Scientist at 2315 Highland Pkwy. The theft is believed to have happened sometime between July 25 and Thursday.

Aurora, CO

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) Investigators searching for the vandal or vandals responsible for heavily damaging a church in Aurora on Easter Sunday are looking into some DNA evidence in their attempt to solve the case.

So far there’s no description for who the vandal who damaged St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church on March 31 was, but the priest there thinks he knows how they did it.

Father Jim Gilchrist told CBS4 he thinks they took a rock from the prayer garden, smashed a window and crawled in, and then trashed the place.

They ransacked the worship area, shot off fire extinguishers and stole cash and checks from the office.

Buffalo, NY

The Union County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the vandalism of a church in Buffalo.

Sheriff David Taylor said someone broke into Buffalo United Methodist Church on Hill Street overnight and spray painted swastikas, upside down crosses, pentagrams and Satanic messages around the church, splattered red paint on statues, tore pages out of Bibles and turned crosses upside down. Damage was found in the sanctuary and Sunday school rooms.

Roswell. NM

ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – Roswell Police are searching for suspects in a string of churchvandalismovertheweekend.
According to police, one church received a threatening letter and another had a bunchofwindowsbroken.
“Everybody is kind of stunned that nothing is sacred anymore,” said Deacon Howard Herring of St. Peter’s Catholic Church. “Even churches are under attack.”

Hampshire, TN

HAMPSHIRE, Tenn. - It’s a place where people come to worship, but police said they’re investigating why a mid-state church became the target of vandals, even starting a fire inside.

Investigators said they will be looking at whether this was a prank or something much more serious at Dry Fork Church of Christ.

In a town like Hampshire, Tennessee, church is more than just a place of worship.

“Dry Fork Church of Christ was established in 1850 and we presently have served in this location since 1973,” said Shirley Green, who has been a member of the church her entire life. “Our parents and grandparents went here and now our descendants are here.”

The congregation was shocked to find their church had become the target of vandals.

Batavia, NY

BATAVIA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Batavia Police are on the hunt for a graffiti vandal who targeted three churches. The three calls came in to police between 8:30 and 9:15 a.m. Monday.

Someone spray painted on Batavia Assembly of God, Grace Baptist Church and City Church with the message “Religion is a mind virus.”

Pastor Marty MacDonald of City Church said, “I am hoping to meet with this person and go out to lunch and hug him and pray for him, because that’s what the Bible tells us to do.”

Westlake Village, CA

Cleaning crews worked swiftly to remove derogatory graffiti that was placed on property belonging to the City of Westlake Village and St. Jude Catholic Church on Easter weekend.

Vandals targeted the 32000 block of Lindero Canyon Road sometime between Fri., March 29 and Sat., March 30, authorities said.

The graffiti included a reference to homosexuality, several four-letter words and a swastika, a source told The Acorn. One scrawl reportedly said, “God is gay.”

Gastonia, NC

GASTONIA, N.C. — The pastor of Covenant Baptist Church said it is a place of hope and faith, and it is disappointing that someone decided to put a negative message on the church wall.

Obscene words with a reference to God and satanic images are covered with a towel on one wall of the church. Power washing did not wipe them away. The cloth does not cover the framework of the disturbing graffiti.

Savannah, GA

 SAVANNAH, GA (June 13, 2013): Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Detectives are searching for 24-year-old Michael Christopher Garko, believed responsible for thousands of dollars in damage to a Savannah church.

At 8:35 a.m. Monday, Metro officers responded to The Church at Godley Station, on the 1600 block of Benton Boulevard. Officers observed a broken window on the front door and several shattered glass windowpanes around the building. It did not appear that the suspect made entry.

Shelton, CT 

SHELTON – St. Margaret Mary Church, located at 380 Long Hill Ave., was vandalized overnight, police said.

A maid discovered the damage Monday around 6:30 a.m. and called police.

Extensive damage was done to the interior of the church. Several religious statues inside and outside the church were destroyed. Two vehicles in the church’s parking lot were vandalized, police said.

Read more: http://foxct.com/2013/06/10/church-in-shelton-vandalized-statues-destroyed/#ixzz2av5q9GxZ

Omaha, NB

A vandal appears to have used a Holy Cross athletic field near 60th and Center Streets to turn donuts, leaving behind a trail of damage.

Employees discovered the vandalism Thursday morning.

“This damage was definitely purposeful,” said Katie Holmes, office manager for Holy Cross. “It looks like someone was doing donuts on the grass and lost control.”

A section of the field was torn up by the tire tracks. A church-owned garage door appeared to have been backed into, and some nearby heavy city equipment was damaged, she said.

It was the second time in the past year that church has dealt with damage at its field, Holmes said. In the earlier incident, a driver ran into the fence.

Brooklyn, NY

A graffiti vandal painted a large letter “X” on two statues outside St. Anselm’s Church on the corner of 82nd Street and Fourth Avenue last week, but cops have faith they’ll catch the culprit, who was caught on video in the act, and who now has a price on his head.

Union, SC

UNION, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Graffiti, torn Bibles and other vandalism was found in a Union County church early Tuesday morning, according to deputies.

Union County Sheriff David Taylor said furniture was damaged, swastikas and satanic phrases were spray painted on the walls and several Bibles were torn apart.

The phrase “Christ is dead, Satan is alive” was spray-painted on one wall.

Christian Persecution: Six Quick Takes

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This week’s six quick takes on Christian Persecution include one that I’m not entirely sure about, another that deals with a 100-year-old genocide, and the usual dismal roundup of wanton killings, abductions and imprisonment of Christians around the globe. 

I think there are two reasons why Christianity is attacked. First, as President Obama said in a speech a few years ago, it is revolutionary. His complaint at the time was that the Sermon on the Mount, would, if it was followed, lead to disarmament.

Indeed.

Governments the world over have tried to control the revolutionary message of Christ in one of two ways: Co-opt it, or attack it. Hitler was an example of co-opting coupled with attacks against those who didn’t buy into his program, while Stalin and the Communist states are examples of outright attack.

That division seems to hold up right to this day and even here in America. Right wing politicians are more prone to claim their religiosity while attempting to twist the Gospels to support their goals and left-wing politicians tend to veer toward limiting religious freedom with ironic claims of inclusion and tolerance.

Christianity has a better record of standing up to outright attack than it does co-option. I suppose that’s only natural. If somebody punches you in the nose, you know you’ve been hit. But if they flatter you and tell you how great you are while they ask you to sign the title to your house away, it’s harder to catch. Or, at least it is for some people.

The second reason is that Christianity is attacked is that it is true. Jesus really is the Son of God. He really did die for our sins and He really did rise again on the third day. He really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

It is politically incorrect to say that, but taking offense to the truth does not make it untrue. People resent the claims that Jesus makes on their hearts and their lives. They want to be their own little gods, but they are unwilling to admit what that means. So … they attack the only hope they have.

Pope Francis talks about satan more than is politically correct, even for a Pope. But he is right to do this. Christianity is attacked because it is the Light, and the darkness hates it.

This week’s quick takes focus mainly on the nose-punching type of attack on Christians, rather than the soft-soap of the co-opters. As always, there’s a heavy dose of persecution from the Middle East. I decided to include the Armenian genocide because these people have been forgotten in the name of political expedience. I’ve read that out of a population of 2 million Armenian Christians, 1.5 million were murdered. Their blood, like Abel’s, cries out from the ground. 

I also included a story about the Pentagon blocking the Southern Baptist web site. I had read about this in several places, but only decided to take it seriously (I’m still confused by it.) because Fox News carried it. Note: I was wise to doubt this story. The Pentagon has explained that their computer detected malware on the SBC website. They say they were not blocking the site. You can read about that here

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Here are the Six Quick Takes about Christian Persecution this week. I hope that you read each of them prayerfully. 

1. NIGERIA 

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18 More Followers Of Christ Slaughtered By Muslim Attackers In Christian Village Of Mile Bakwai

Morning Star News – “Hosea Mashaf was resting in his village of Chirang Mangor, Nigeria, when area Christian youths told him that armed, Muslim Fulani herdsmen were attacking the Christian village of Mile Bakwai.

The 45-year-old farmer and other Christians rushed to Mile Bakwai, three kilometers away in the Bokkos Local Council Area of Plateau State, the night of March 27 to see how they might aid the Christians there, he told Morning Star News.

‘When we got there, the gunmen had already retreated,’ Mashaf said. ‘I saw dead bodies scattered all over the village. I counted the dead bodies we recovered, and in all we had 18 Christians who were killed by the Muslim attackers.’

They found five of those bodies in a minibus, he said.

‘They were travelling in a bus back to our village when they ran into the attack going on at Mile Bakwai village,’ Mashaf said. ‘They were killed by the attackers when they shot at the bus, which crashed into a building, but the attackers went to the place where the bus was and shot the occupants. Five of them were killed, while two others were injured.’

Dead were Geofrey Mafuyai, 35; Mahana Jamok, 50; Arandon Yusuf, 18; Dung Dalyop, 38; and, Mbata Machif, 36. Maju Mahana, 25, and Nanle Enoch, 18 were wounded and received treatment at the ECWA Evangel Hospital in Jos, he said.

The 18 slain were members of Nigerian Baptist Convention, Christ Apostolic Church and Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregations, sources said. The Rev. James Danladi Mahwash of the Bishara Baptist Church in Mile Bakwai village said five of his church members were killed, including the financial secretary of the Men’s Missionary Union of his church, 25-year-old Jamle Benjamin Sunday. (Read more here.)

2. USA

Cross Flag

Pentagon Blocks Access to Southern Baptist Website

By Todd Starnes

NOTE: A reader passed along the Pentagon’s response to this. They say that the problem was a result of their software detecting malware on the SBC’s website. You can read that story here.

The U.S. Military has blocked access to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website on an unknown number of military bases because it contains “hostile content” — just weeks after an Army briefing labeled Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics as examples of religious extremism, Fox News has learned.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination known for its support of the pro-life movement and its strong belief in traditional marriage.

Southern Baptist chaplains reported that SBC.net   had been blocked at military installations around the nation. An Air Force officer told Fox News that when he tried to log on to the website he received a message that his Internet usage was being logged and monitored for trying to access a blocked site.

The censorship was made public after an Army officer tried to log onto the denomination’s website and instead — received a warning message.

“The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content,” the message read.

Team CONUS protects the computer network of the Dept. of Defense. The SBC’s website was not blocked at the Pentagon.

It’s unclear what the “hostile content” might have been. The SBC is pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage. (Read more here.)

3. EGYPT

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Egyptian Muslims murdering Christians with impunity

Ten people are dead following clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt. The people have been killed over the past few weeks which have seen spates of violence between Christians defending their churches and homes from angry Muslims. Few Muslim attackers ever face justice.

CAIRO, EGYPT (Catholic Online) – Clashes between Muslims and Christians have claimed 10 live in Egypt where sectarian violence between the groups has been renewed in the face of Mohammed Morsi’s administration.

The most recent spate of violence started after children drew crosses on the walls of an Islamic institute in Khosoos, just north of Cairo. That acts of children’s vandalism sparked a bloody retaliation from Muslims in which four Christians and a Muslim were killed.

At the Christian funeral, Muslims struck again, this time carrying on until they reached the Coptic cathedral and damaged the structure. More Christians were murdered. (Read more here.)

4. TURKEY

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The Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s Attempt to Deny It

From 1915 to 1917 the Young Turk regime in the Ottoman Empire carried out a systematic, premeditated, centrally planned genocide against the Armenian people.  One of the documents authenticated by Turkish authorities in 1919 is a telegram sent in June 1915 by Dr. Sakir, one of the leaders of the secret organization that carried out the planning and implementation of the Genocide.  He asks the provincial party official who is responsible for carrying out the deportations and massacres of Armenians within his district: “Are the Armenians, who are being dispatched from there, being liquidated? Are those harmful persons whom you inform us you are exiling and banishing, being exterminated, or are they being merely dispatched and exiled? Answer explicitly….”

The evidence of intent is backed also by the outcome of the actions against the Armenians: it is inconceivable that over a million persons could have died due to even a badly flawed effort at resettlement.  Moreover, the pattern of destruction was repeated over and over in different parts of Turkey, many of them far from any war zone; such repetition could only have come from a central design.  Further, the reward structure was geared toward destruction of the Christian minority: provincial governors and officials who refused to carry out orders to annihilate the Armenians were summarily replaced.

More than one million Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse.  A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large-scale genocide of the twentieth century.  At the beginning of 1915 there were some two million Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000.

Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of survivors, denial of the Armenian Genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.

The basic argument of denial has remained the same, it never happened, Turkey is not responsible, the term “genocide” does not apply. (Read more here.)

5. SYRIA

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Kidnapped bishops raise fears of Christian nightmare in Syria

ICC Note: Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, condemned the kidnapping of two archbishops and said Pope Francis is “following [the] events with deep participation and intense prayer.” The bishops were abducted by armed rebels on Monday in the village of Kfar Dael, near Aleppo, Syria while carrying out humanitarian work. The bishops are the most senior church leaders abducted in the conflict which has now killed more than 70,000 people across Syria. The kidnapping “is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living,” Lombardi said.

By John L. Allen Jr.

4/23/2013 Syria (National Catholic Reporter) – Rome on Tuesday reacted with alarm to the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops in Syria, fearing it may mark the beginning of the nightmare scenario: that Syria will become the next Iraq, meaning the next Middle Eastern country where Christians emerge as primary victims of the chaos following the disintegration of a police state.

A Vatican spokesman called the kidnappings “a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living.”

According to a report from the Asia News agency, the two bishops were stopped at gunpoint by armed men Monday on their way to the city of Aleppo. A catechist traveling with them was shot to death while the two bishops were forced out of the car and taken away.

The prelates involved are the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Msgr. Youhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Msgr. Boulos al-Yaziji. Both are well known in Rome as veterans of ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic church.

The identity of their kidnappers remains unclear, but sources in Syria say kidnapping of Christians has become a growth industry as various armed factions look for ways to fund their activities. (Read more here.)

6. CHINA: 

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Seven House Church Leaders Sentenced to Prison

4/21/2013 China (ChinaAid) – Also in Henan, seven house church leaders were sentenced on April 1 to prison sentences ranging from three to 7-1/2 years, according to the well-known Christian lawyer Li Baiguang. Their defense lawyers received the verdict and sentencing papers just last week.

Han Hai, 7-1/2 year sentence, male, aged 60, previously administratively detained twice, was also sentenced to a labor camp for three years. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Hu Linpo, seven year sentence, from Singapore, male, aged 49, the house church’s main preacher, was detained in 1989 for 30 days. Criminally detained on April 18 and is now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Yang Lianbing, three-year sentence, male, aged 23, working in Zhengzhou. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Zhang Mian, four-year sentence, female, aged 37, owner of the residence where the church meets. Criminally detained on April 20, now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Cao Xia, 3-1/2-year sentence, female, in her 50s, owner of another residence where the church meets. Police seized from her home CDs of Hu Linpo preaching and a computer used to make copies of the sermon CDs. Police also confiscated a Chinese-made Liebao SUV parked outside Cao’s home that belonged to a Christian man who was there to listen to the preaching. Cao was criminally detained on April 20 and is now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Wang En, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, said to have helped make copies of Preacher Hu’s sermon CDs. Held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Li Dan, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, probably for copying CDs. Held in the Pindingshan Detention Center. (Read more here.)

 


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