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Following the ouster of prayer in public schools in the 1960’s I don’t recall when secular forces began their quest to remove manger scenes from the public square. In their ignorant intolerance they used Thomas Jefferson’s * (whom they now decry!) letter of January 1, 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury Connecticut containing the phrase “a wall of separation between church and state” reassuring the Baptist that the government hands were tied from interfering with or in any way controlling the affairs or decisions of the churches in America. They used the wall phrase as a shoehorn into the constitution to turn freedom of religion into freedom from religion (note Thomas Jefferson never signed the constitution nor was he present at the constitutional conventions of 1787).

Over time they accomplished their goal: no manger scenes on public land -eventually, that leached out into – no saying Merry Christmas, no singing Christmas carols at school, no Bible reading at school and no writing reports about one’s faith in Jesus Christ. No crosses at certain cemeteries – no Ten Commandments on the wall – no Ten Commandments at the Mall!

Well, they’ve just about run out of Christian traditions and symbols to tear down or cast aside, so now they’ve come for America’s history in the form of statues and monuments – to a certain segment of the population for whom nothing is sacred. NOTHING!! is scared, not even life in the womb, police on the street, marriage, history, tradition, the Bible, the Church – But there is a common denominator: once we reject God as the cornerstone of life there is a no solid foundation upon which to build a life, a family or a nation – we can’t simply blame a godless culture for the state in which we find our country in 2017.  Each of us has played a part in the secularization of America. We’ve done it through apathy, compromise, capitulation and a spirit of rebellion against God and His word.

Three thousand years ago that same spirit rose in Israel. The prophet Samuel made his two sons judges but they were corrupt and dishonest (some swamps never drain!). The people asked for a king claiming distrust of the establishment as their reason. Yet their own words betrayed their real motive. They wanted a king like all the other nations. The Lord then showed Samuel the true reason behind Israel’s desire for a king: I Samuel 8:7, “they have rejected me that I should not reign over them”. I need to look into my own heart and life to examine where I have pushed God out: is it my time, my priorities, my devotion to prayer, study and meditation on the word, my thoughts, attitudes, sin, my attendance at church, have I given into my fears, worries, anxieties, stresses, negativism or my own will? The list is long but I must ask as others have: Is it me, Lord?

God has given us the freedom to choose -  we can accept or reject Him, heed or disregard His word, follow His leading, or wander off on our own! But choices have consequences. Thomas Jefferson wrote these words in 1781 and I think they are even more applicable today “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my county when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever”

First “they” came for the manger…now what?

*All Jefferson quotations from America’s God and Country by Wm. J. Federer published by Fame Publishing.

This is the first of a series of articles which come out of the experience of an artist whose work is in conflict with the dominant culture. Most of my paintings are of allegorical figures often inspired by the Renaissance and Romantic periods. Much of the great art of the past reflected, despite the Fall, humanity was still created in the image of God and therefore has great worth. But contemporary culture hardly reflects this exalted view of humanity, rather the subtext seems more like B.F. Skinner’s “To man qua man we readily say good riddance”. This diminished view of humanity runs through fine art as well as popular culture. It is most apparent in the culture’s morbid preoccupation with horror, the symbols of death certainly don’t reflect a reverence for life. I seem to be alone in recognizing the significance of these disturbing symbols in contemporary culture.

Christian ought to be interested in symbols since Jesus often used symbols in his teachings. For example, the Parable of the Sower uses the symbolism of seeds falling on different kinds of ground, some ground hinders the growth of seeds while other ground can nurture growth. The different kinds of ground can be interpreted as different cultural environments people live in. Some environments can nurture the spirit while others extinguish it. Unfortunately, it seems today, most seeds fall into what Max Weber called the Iron Cage.

On October 9, we celebrated Columbus Day in America.  Well, most of us did.

The Los Angeles City Council voted recently to eliminate Columbus Day from the city calendar because Christopher Columbus mistreated Native Americans.  It saddened me to think that we may one day have a country with no holidays.  I asked myself, “What is the purpose of a holiday anyway?”  My answer—to remember a significant person or event so that we can never forget the extraordinary distinction and always maintain a heart of gratitude for it.

If we are only going to celebrate holidays that honor righteous men and women, then all holidays celebrating particular persons will eventually be voted out—goodbye to honoring the birthdays of Martin Luther King Jr and George Washington.  Easter and Christmas celebrate a perfect man, Jesus, but His name alone offends too many people.

Labor Day offends lazy people, Halloween celebrates pagan gods and Thanksgiving includes the same Native Americans mistreated by Columbus.  At first, the celebration of our nation’s independence looks to remain on the list, but if you consider that the freedom we celebrate required bloodshed and death, then no way.  Those who are offended by killing will vote to eliminate Veterans Day and Memorial Day too.  Perhaps only New Year’s Day will survive, but eventually, the anti-firearms people may also become anti-fireworks people.  There you have it...a country with no holidays.

Don't despair, my friends…just be patient.  The Kingdom of Jesus is coming…the same one mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer…“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) where every day will be worthy of celebration, especially the day Jesus defeats Satan (Rev 20:10).

As Jesus looked forward in time to the closing days of time before the Rapture of the Church, He prophesied of a global atmosphere of angry emotions that would erupt: “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another”, Matthew 24:10.

The unrest around the world can be seen in microcosm in our own country – our nation is seriously divided politically and ideologically so much so that our disagreements have turned to violence. Cars have been burned, business storefront windows smashed, people injured and police attacked. Our political atmosphere has grown so poisoned that some think it’s actually acceptable to shoot political leaders, e.g. the June shooting of House Majority Whip leader Steve Scalise. More recently, a state congresswoman called for the assassination of the President! Political differences have now degenerated into a new level of personal hatred on display as we see in marches, late night TV hosts, cable news, newspapers, Hollywood and Broadway. The degree of hatred has risen to the point of a new art form branded as “assassination porn”, as demonstrated by the recent disgusting display of the mock up bloodied head of the President of the U.S. being held up “Isis-like” by a female comedian and a Shakespeare in the Park (Central Park, NYC) play in which actors viciously slash and stab a look-alike President Trump – Blood sprays everywhere. But the worst part of these examples is how Hollywood personalities are coming to the defense of the “severed head” stunts as “art” and the reaction to the mock assassination of the President on a stage in New York City – the audience “cheered wildly” as the President was butchered before their eyes. The unintended consequences of unrestrained anger give permission to people like the “fervent opponent of President Trump” who gunned down Congressman Scalise to take their hate to a violent end. All the while, millions of partisan citizens either cheer or jeer at these hate inspired events depending on their politics. It appears to me our nation is being driven by the sins of anger, bitterness, and hate, each of which if given enough fuel and enough fanning leads to violence. These are dangerous times for America! “But every man is

“But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, (desires) and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:14-15.

The antidote for hate is love: Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you”, John 15:12.

If it's true that the antidote for hate is love then the only love strong enough to displace and erase the level of hate today is the love of God – the culture may have given folks permission to hate, but Jesus has given us a commandment to love!

Violence and destruction are breaking out across the nation. None is more disturbing than at college campuses (U. C. Berkeley, Univ. Vermont).

As we see this stuff rolling out on T.V. screens we wonder…what's happening? But we are cautioned in Ecclesiastes 1:9 to remember: "...there is no new thing under the sun." These things have happened throughout history. There are two words which travel throughout scripture to shed some light and perspective on these times: murmuring and rioting, defined as:

  • Murmuring: grumbling spoken in low tones, indignant complaining, expressions of indignant displeasure.
  • Rioting: to cause to stand - dissension, insurrection, sedition, uproar, rebellion.

What begins as murmuring, history demonstrates, often culminates in rioting!

The children of Israel had not gone far from Egypt for forty days before they began murmuring, which eventuated in the death of thousands. Speaking to Israel Paul writes this: 1 Corinthians 10:10 "Neither murmur ye, as some of them... (Ex 16.2) "and the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness” ... also murmured and were destroyed (Num 14:37) of the destroyer (Ex 12:23).

Studying the books of Exodus and Numbers a definite pattern emerges, murmuring (complaining), if it is continually practiced, ends up in open rebellion.

Paul warns the believer against taking the first step that can lead to broken relationships--trouble in family and church. In the church, murmuring (gripping, gossiping) can lead to splits in the church and insurrection in the nation.

What starts out as an attitude problem progresses to silent resentment, an irritable disposition, low key complaining, secret meetings with other murmurers ending in expressions of resentment. Eventually, those resentments are voiced loudly, angrily, publicly and finally…acting out in violence.

Paul writes the believer must deal with "irritants" in a different way (Phil 2:14, 15, 16a): "Do all things without murmurings and disputings (arguing): That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke (stain), in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life..."

Our country is at a dangerous crossroad--divided, resentful and angry. We are just a few steps away from death and destruction. This is an opportunity for the church to be light and life and love and peace - the church must be the genuine, authentic representatives of Christ - we must let our light shine. There is no other hope, no other way than Christ Jesus, to end violence in our streets!

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