Over the past several months, while our nation burns and our emperor fiddles, there is one story that has escaped the media’s attention: America’s churches are literally being set on fire. At least 93, to be exact.
Consider this from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: Between May of 2020 and August of 2021, churches in no less than 28 states have reported incidents involving “arson, statues beheaded, limbs cut, smashed, and painted, gravestones defaced with swastikas and anti-Catholic language and American flags next to them burned.”
It is indisputable. Hating the Church is now in vogue or at least vandalizing it is not viewed to be vile enough to warrant our intelligentsia’s attention.
In the face of such anti-religious hatred and media indifference, what are we to do? How are the remaining faithful to react?
The answer is found in the message of the first-century Church, a Church that faced many of the same cultural challenges that we do today.
Facing storms that had an eerie resemblance to some of the same dark clouds we now see on our nation’s horizon, Saint Paul told the early Christians in Rome to “not repay evil for evil but to do good!” He said the same thing to the first believers in Galatia, and then he said it again to the persecuted faithful in Jerusalem. Time and time again, the Church was admonished to simply heed the words of Christ and “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
And by doing so, the followers of Christ changed the world. Orphans were adopted. Widows were loved. The sick were cured. The poor were fed. The dying were comforted. Women were honored. Children were wanted. Hospitals, schools, and colleges were founded. And slaves were freed.
In the midst of plague and pandemic, drought and disease, war and famine, dustbowls, and stock market crashes, Christians throughout the ages have just kept doing good.
Saint Athanasius, whom many have called the author of the Nicene Creed, once wrote, “Seeing the exceeding wickedness of men, and how little by little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves … [Christ] took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity.” He went on to conclude: “Lest the creature should perish, and the Father’s handiwork in men be spent for naught [God] took unto Himself a Body,” a body that not only endures, lives, and breathes in His resurrection but also in His Church.
Even those who openly place themselves somewhere along the atheist-agnostic continuum have to admit the redemptive power of the Body of Christ. For example, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld, who describes himself as “non-religious,” says, “I haven’t been to church in years, but there is one thing I know: The Church is a positive influence in [our] communities.”
Any honest reading of history proves that the Church has preserved culture in the midst of disease, debauchery, and despair. It has been a beacon of hope in the darkest days of violence and oppression. The Church has stemmed the tide of evil time and time again. Amid plague and contagion, it has been the apex of care and compassion. In times of terror and war, it has been God’s “mercy on our infirmity” and His “pity on our race.”
Frankly, our track record is pretty good. It is the Church that stopped the widespread practice of human sacrifice in polytheistic religions. It is Church that converted barbarians, evangelized the Vikings, and tamed the Wild West. The Church has done good, a lot of good, and who could argue that our world is not better for it?
Jesus tells us—indeed, he promises us—that the “gates of hell will not prevail” against his Church. Nothing can stop the “manifest power” of “a living God at work.” He is not a “dead or static thing,” but alive and well. Arthur W. Pink once wrote, “Nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass otherwise than God has eternally purposed. Here is a foundation of faith. Here is a resting place for the intellect. Here is an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast. It is not blind fate, unbridled evil, man or Devil, but the Lord Almighty who is ruling the world, ruling it according to His own good pleasure and for His own eternal glory” through His Church!
So, let them burn our buildings! Maybe a little “heat” is actually a good thing. In fact, it’s been said that history shows when the Church “sets itself on fire [by doing good], the world will come from miles around just to watch us burn” and then give glory to our Father who is in heaven!
• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host. He is the author of “Not a Daycare: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery) and, most recently, “Grow Up: Life Isn’t Safe, But It’s Good.”
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