As the story goes, Nero set Rome on fire and fiddled while it burned, with the plan to blame the Christians and justify their persecution. While the violin was not invented until later, many historians have blamed Nero for at least using the calamity as a pretext against a religious “sect” that refused to acknowledge his divinity.
An Approaching Threat
The smoke of that fire has come to symbolize the approaching threat to Christians. While it may be unthinkable to most of us to imagine that actual persecution of the kind visited upon the early Christians could come upon us, even a cursory look at the present landscape makes it clear that this ominous smoke has returned.
The message of the early Christians threatened the established order and the agenda of the powerful. Consequently, they were despised, ridiculed, discriminated against, and eventually persecuted. It was fashionable, entertaining, and even politically advantageous to bash Christians while it was unpopular as well as both politically and physically dangerous to support them. This persecution grew in scope and intensity until it reached savage levels before it stopped.
Once again, we see the licking flames of hatred, discrimination, and persecution of Christians. While it has always blatantly existed in parts of the world that were never Christianized, what is alarming today is the way a once subtle undercurrent in the United States has lately become explicit and straightforward. The vitriolic nature of the “separation of church and state” debate, the media's delight in bashing Christian (especially Catholic) beliefs, and the double standard consistently applied against Christians and Catholics in judicial appointments and public office all point to this increasingly direct attack against Christianity.
Is this a this a strategy to return Christians to the Coliseum? That remains to be seen, but what is very clear is that a campaign is under way to systematically banish and eventually eradicate Christianity from the face of this once-Christian nation.
The Nero Blueprint
The first step is replacement of the Christian way of life with the secular. Religious beliefs are consistently unfavorably compared with humanistic and atheistic views. For those poor benighted souls who must cling to some spiritual life preserver an innocuous New Age pabulum is offered. These alternative philosophies, once seen as odd or esoteric, even downright crazy, are injected into everyday life until they become commonplace. A crucial step is the indoctrination of children through a public educational system designed to present these philosophies as normal and accepted, questioned no more by future adults than videos and computers are today. The mainstream media cannot be underestimated in its power to shape our way of seeing things. The look you get if you say that you do not have a VCR, DVD, cable, or a cell phone is enough to illustrate this ability to dictate what is “normal.” Eventually, you will get that same look when you say you pray, disfavor the “gay” lifestyle, read the Bible, or believe in Christ or maybe you do already!
Second, during the process of “de-Christianization”, the Christian way of life must be mocked, and then increasingly painted as intolerant and extremist. Any legitimate concern or fear can be hijacked and twisted to fit this program. Politicians and members of the media who would not dare to lump all Islamic citizens in with the 9/11 hijackers have no problem branding Christians as “domestic terrorists” and comparing them to the Taliban. Thus fear of terrorism based on the news of the day is deftly combined with anti-Christian sentiment in the media. In short order Christians have been transformed into dangerous, intolerant outsiders. Of course anti-Christian groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, etc. have all exhibited the kind of intolerance they accuse Christians of, but don't look for the mainstream media to call them on it. Look for liberal politicians to use the terrorist label to ward off “intolerant, extremist” pro-life protesters and protect “kind, innocent” abortionists serving “women's rights.” It is freedom of speech to exhibit movies and art sacrilegious to Christian beliefs, but “The Passion” must be stopped.
This process of marginalizing Christians, embraced by an out-of-control federal judiciary, has led to the progressive banishment of Christian views and symbols from the public arena. “Out of sight, out of mind” is the slogan of this effort. The double standard in federal judicial appointments is also apparent here. Apparently, any Christian or especially Catholic appointed to public or judicial office would allow “personal beliefs” to color decisions (quite unlike the secular federal judges who daily and arrogantly drive their views down our throats).
If not checked, the progressive social, economic, and political isolation of Christians will be turned into physical isolation like the Warsaw Ghetto of World War II. Those who do not abandon their faith in the face of these assaults may face the final step: actual persecution and elimination. If anyone reading this does not think that this can happen, he or she need only look at places like China.
Nero considered the Christians to be “haters of all men” and treacherous villains who should be put on public display and executed. The more rabid among the secularists today are little shy of the same opinion. In our own domestic arena it has become good sport to ridicule Christianity, and the names of God and Jesus are seen as a scourge instead of a blessing. The smoke rises, and Nero's mythical violin now plays for us.
The Best Defense…
History eventually turned the tables on Nero, and it will do so again. We know that God will not abandon his people despite the ominous signs around us, and so we begin with trust and faith in His Word. At the same time, we owe it to coming generations to do our best to stem the tide of anti-Christian sentiment by defending our faith and tradition on four fronts.
First, we must resolve to stand firm in those traditions, and not waver or compromise in order to appease those wishing to wipe out Christianity. History has shown us that appeasing opponents does little to stop them, and actually encourages and accelerates their agenda. This was clearly shown in World War II. We should be all the more bold in publicly declaring exactly who we are and what we believe.
Second, we must unite to assertively support and present Christian ethics and ideals, making our voices heard in issues such as abortion, marriage, the family, and the proper role of religion and believers in public life. Christians may have their differences, but their common ground is worth fighting for. The savvy use of political power can push the Christian position on key issues for the general good, even of those with limited capacity to discern it.
Third, we must aggressively fight the obvious double-standard applied to Christians in political and judicial arenas. Our opponents seek to limit our influence by keeping us out of the political and judicial arenas under the pretext that we will impose our values and beliefs on others given the chance. The irony is that our opponents are already imposing their values and beliefs to limit our influence on societal issues. We must counter the absurd separation of church and state myth perpetuated by our opponents, and demonstrate that we can be objective and positive participants in the democratic process.
Finally we must fight for the minds and souls of future generations by maintaining and developing our Christian education systems. Our opponents main objective is to eradicate Christian values and ideals from all education and foster secular and even anti-Christian views in our schools. We must fight to keep Christian schools open and Christian ideals alive in our public schools. Our educational system will either be the soil from which Christianity is revitalized or the cemetery where Christian ideals and values will be buried.
Our opponents may want to economically, politically, socially, and even physically feed us to the lions, but we must show the hearts of lions in defending ourselves.
© Copyright 2003 Catholic Exchange
Gabriel Garnica is a licensed attorney and educator with over 20 years teaching experience at the college, business school, and middle school levels. He has a BA in Psychology from St. John's University in New York and a J.D. from The New York University School of Law. Mr. Garnica writes extensively on spiritual and educational issues and conducts seminars on time management, leadership, and personal development.
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO OUR READERS
Catholic Exchange is free—but it is not free to produce. Advertising revenue covers only a fraction of the cost to generate reliably Catholic commentary and news, inspiring videos, a selection of the best Catholic blogs, and daily meditations and prayers.
To give us the strength and stability we need, Catholic Exchange is turning to you—our loyal reader—and asking you to become a monthly contributor.
Whether you can give $5 or $25, $50 or $100 each month, please leave something behind so we can continue—and strengthen—this important apostolate.
We are deeply grateful for one-time gifts, but we encourage you to choose “Monthly” on the drop-down menu. Your support will ensure that Catholic Exchange will be here during this most critical moment for the Church and America.