The City of Crosses

city crossesA man living in a third-world country got the opportunity to move to America. Before becoming a citizen, he had certain stipulations. Upon arrival, he talked to the mayor of the town he wished to live in. “I don’t mind enjoying the freedom and opportunity America has to offer. Just don’t push your religious ideas on me.”

The mayor assured him. “America is a melting pot of ideas and religions. You will have opportunities to learn of different ideas, but we will not push anything on you.”

One week later, the foreigner stormed into the mayor’s office. “When will your town stop pushing your religious symbols on me?” The mayor sat down and tried to understand what the foreigner meant by this; however, things got lost in translation. Feeling ignored and patronized, the foreigner stormed out, promising to write the president a letter.

A week later, the president opened the letter from the foreigner. The spelling and grammar had been done by a secretary for the president to clearly understand.

Dear Mr. President,

I appreciate the welcoming arms and great opportunities your country has to offer. Unfortunately, I must complain about a certain town. This town has erected a large wooden cross, a symbol of religious belief. I thought I could avoid this symbol to embrace my own beliefs. Instead, I found another wooden cross in front of a library, another at the theatre, and more crosses at every turn. When speaking to the mayor, he said this cross was a symbol of great power. Horrified, I demanded these intolerant symbols be taken down, or replaced with a universal symbol. The mayor told me it would be dangerous and costly to take the symbols down. That it would leave many in the dark.

How, Mr. President, could you allow such an atrocity? I will consider leaving this country if something is not done immediately!

Sincerely,

Mr. Foreigner.

The president did not hesitate to call the mayor. Without letting the mayor speak, the president strictly ordered the mayor to cut down the offensive wooden crosses immediately. One month later, the president got another letter, this time from the Mayor.

Dear Mr. President,

I respect the fact that you are the head of this country. We have followed your orders completely. I hope you will at least send emergency aid. Since we have cut down every last telephone pole in our town, every last citizen is without power. Businesses suffer, traffic has halted, food is scarce, and people are literally in the dark.

Sincerely,

Mr. Mayor

Immediately the president flew in to the town to see the wreckage himself. The mayor met him at the airport. The president froze. “Isn’t that a telephone pole in the distance?”

The mayor grinned. “I did think about carrying out your orders, Mister President. But then, I thought about the one pole that carried electricity to the fire house where we keep the voting machine. I thought you might want that one standing.”

The president seemed more relieved, but still ghostly pale.

“Oh, and we thought about last year, when you came and visited the plant to offer more jobs. We thought you might like that to be running as well. Honestly, we wondered if every potential voter in this town would think better of a president that offered electricity. I lied when I said we took down every last telephone pole. We did not take down any. I hope you don’t mind my foresight in this matter.”

“Mister Mayor, of course I would never hurt anyone in this great country. You must know that I feared a great offense of another kind, imposing its values on innocent bystanders. But, this foreigner, how is he taking this?”

“After the whole town pitched in to get him a refrigerator, television, and juicer, we haven’t seen or heard of him.  I guess you could say he’s seen the light.”

The news cameras had gathered by this time, aiming their sights on the president.  He tried in vain to form a diplomatic response.  Involuntarily he choked up the word “Thanks.”

“Oh, don’t thank me. It looks like you’ve been saved by a large wooden cross, one that carries more power than your or I.”

 

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Martin Luther King Jr. and What He Really Said

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The famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. shook the heart of America with his visionary speeches.  Ironically, the words that propelled a monumental freedom movement are now bound up under legal copyright issues.  The words ringing of freedom are not free for public use; the videos are available at a financial charge, so your poverty level just might keep you from envisioning the key to your shackles.  For those of us who grew up in America during King’s profound influence (lasting years after his death), we carry his words in our soul.  I still remember the concept of not judging a person by their skin; as a child I could easily accept and grant this equality to my fellow classmates.  However, many Americans have seen the abuses of taking a positive flame of this bright candle and throwing its fire onto the carpet.  Of the wonderful revelations Martin Luther King Jr. gave us, some of them stand vulnerable to being discarded by those of ignorant haste.

The first revelation reminds us that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not only a devout Christian, but a Reverend who looked favorably to Jesus Christ.  An honorable man of values, he preached against moral relativity, a troubling trend in our times.  In fact, his famous dream that his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin” binds with the dream that they would be judged “by the content of their character.”  To say that we should not judge at all is a treacherous slope that even this civil rights leader would not tread.  We can judge character and even use wise judgment to promote hard-working people of any background.  The question of judgment boils down to the consistency of the human being.  Are we, as some scientists propose, entirely chemically driven, pulled by DNA strands like strings of a puppet?  Or is there a human soul, taking the invisible software and making physical impressions upon the hardware in the chemical being?  If we are to take the American civil rights leader seriously, we believe in a higher existence.  There is a part of our physical being that cannot change (e.g. skin) because it has no bearing on our moral character.  Then there is a part of the human that wants to love alcohol or the neighbor’s wife.  Calling this a genetic disposition will not make it as permanent as skin color.  Even the chemical tendencies are subject to a higher part of our being, the soul.  We hear the call of Jesus to be an overcomer, and we strive to find our character judged with “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Another revelation gets stampeded by the skeptic’s ignorance of the Bible.  They see God as some bullying ethnic cleanser, perhaps due to their own prejudices.  What lenses should we even put upon our modern eyes, when reaching back to a time and place so far removed from our own?  If anything, we understand that the Hebrews were the minority with no homeland, escaping slavery to roam in tents across the wilderness.  This being the very reason Martin Luther King Jr. felt no shame in associating his people’s rise from slavery with the Israelite’s rise from slavery.  Furthermore, he could equate the non-violent takeover of American freedom with the warfare-engaged takeover of the infamous Promised Land.  How did he do this?  The same way Christians have been doing it since Christianity started!  Christians swiftly understand Jesus non-earthly kingdom of spiritual battle, of putting down the sword and turning the other cheek.  Church history has temporarily departed from this ideal as cults do, when blinding the masses to the entire truth of the Bible.  But if we dare to study further, we find God to be a defender of the bullied, choosing the weaker people in order to prove His power.  Paul Copan deftly argues against the hasty accusations toward this God.  http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201004/201004_138_Canannites.cfm

There are surely more misuses of “civil rights.”  So how have we taken the powerful ideals of King and turned them around to the point where such misinterpretations of “hate speech” would incriminate the Reverend King in his Biblical stance?  Extremists on both ends of the spectrum have undoubtedly grabbed the microphone in violent ambition.  “You’re going to hell” should never be the first words heard from a Christian tongue; “You’re politically incorrect” is just as stifling.  As an American, I have a dream.  I dream that we can respect each other in word in deed.  Let’s see past the preconceived images.  Let there be open doors to the poor, open hearts within the rich, and solid ground for the rest of America.  The open door of opportunity was Martin Luther King’s check due to be cashed in.  Let’s speak freely from the heart, issuing the truth in love.  Let’s renew the desire of discovering our value in God’s Word.

Though many of King’s words are for sale or copyrighted, here is one of the public sources remaining:  http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

Tolerance in Syria

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Beneath the surface of the political struggle, Syria is engaged with persecution. In a part of the world where Christianity is a minority, religious persecution gets a back-row seat to world powers.  But religious persecution is nothing new to the area.  On the way to Damascus, nearly 2000 years ago, a religious man with political ties determined to obey the laws of his God.  The man named Saul determined that these laws ordered him to wipe out a rising sect of Jews.  Later on, this sect would be known as ‘Christians’ – followers of Jesus Christ (A name still cursed internationally.)  On the way to Damascus, a power stopped Saul in his tracks.  The power was not political, chemical, or legal.  The power was a person, a person of divine nature.  Jesus himself revealed his glory and presence, blinding Saul.  Saul became physically blind but spiritually aware of a greater battle waging behind the scenes. The battle, as it has always been, is over the souls of men.  After his conversion, Saul took on the name Paul, not a follower of a new religion, but a follower of a living person.  His new vision of the powers we struggle against would inspire him to write:

Ephesians 6:12 King James Version (KJV) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

And from prison, Paul wrestled in a kneeling position, utilizing the great weapon of prayer.

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How different is the Western viewpoint, where ‘persecution’ is simply speaking one’s belief in front of an offended listener.  I see the TOLERATE bumper sticker, and I wonder if it’s in the wrong place.  Maybe these cars should be cruising through the Middle East.  Car-bombings, imprisonment, destruction of homes and churches are far from tolerance.  Start in the areas of the world where persecution is the harshest.  Then come back to America and take in the refreshing air of religious freedom.

http://www.worldmag.com/2013/09/persecution_in_syria_no_comment