Welcome back to Defender’s Voice. This is Paul Kattupalli. I thank you for joining us today. I have been reading your emails and have been praying for you. Please pray for our ministry. We are preaching the gospel and building the new churches. Also pray for our orphanage, Pallekona Orphanage in Pallekona, India. This orphanage has 300 children. Please help them with your prayers and donations.
Today I titled my message, ‘Sri Lanka, New Zealand and California’. Three different places in three different continents, yet they grabbed recent headlines with terror at religious centers.
First the mosque shootings in New Zealand. On March 15, 2019, in Christchurch, New Zealand an Australian man attacked two mosques and killed 51 Muslims. The gunman live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live. I watched part of it and it was very scary and terrifying.
Then the church bombings in Sri Lanka. On 21st April 2019, Easter Sunday, three Christian churches and three luxury hotels were targeted in Sri Lanka. Seven suicide bombers killed 253 people. ISIS praised the attacks and took the responsibility for these massacres.
Thirdly, the synagogue shootings in California. John Earnest, a 19 year-old Christian young man bought a semiautomatic rifle, five 10-round magazines, went into a synagogue and killed an elderly Jewish woman. After being injured by this gunman, a doctor went to do CPR on this woman. He was not even aware that she was his wife. When he realized that she was his wife, he fainted. I am a doctor and I take courses like ACLS and PALS to get trained in CPR. Every time I take a CPR course or do CPR, I wish to myself that I would never have to do this on a family member or a friend. This Jewish doctor had to do CPR on his own wife. That must be very heartbreaking. This Jewish woman goes to a synagogue to offer a prayer for her dead mother and an young man shoots her dead during the prayer service. Then he shot the rabbi, who was wounded in both hands and lost his right index finger as a result.
Mosques, churches, temples and synagogues, the religious places are increasingly being targeted in our time. I would like to give you 5 observations from these three terror attacks.
The Rise of Islamic terror
First from Sri Lanka, the rise of Islamic terror. Christians have been targeted by Muslim zealots right from the birth of Islam. It’s true that most Muslims are peaceful. There are also branches of Islam like Sufiism which is non-violent. But the Islam originally conceived by Muhammad has no place for tolerance. Christians were given only two choices: Convert to Islam or pay jizya, the tax for not converting to Islam. Sharia law was imposed on Christians and other non-Muslims. In the first three centuries, Islam spread from the borders of India all the way to Spain. Christians were forcefully converted, killed or threatened to live in subjugation. The Caliphate, which had been the spiritual and political authority over Islamic world, existed in one form or the other from 7th century till the 20th century.
The terrorist organizations in our time have been trying to restore this Caliphate. They are attacking thousands of Christians all over the world. Many governments are actively promoting the hatred of Jews and Christians.
Author Ali Rizvi wrote about how the hatred of Christians is taught in the textbooks of school children in Saudi Arabia. Let me quote a passage from his book,
‘In the eighth grade, students learned about dealings with Jews and Christians. “The apes are Jews, the people of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christians, the infidels of the communion of Jesus” By the twelfth grade, the students were ready to graduate and go out to face the world. “Jihad in the path of God – which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it – is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts of obedience to God.”
Right from the school years, children are being exposed to virulent anti-Christian and anti-Jewish myths and falsehoods. They are commanded to wage jihad. The hatred of Christians and Jews is coming right from the Quran and hadith.
2. The Rise of Christophobia
Then the rise of Christophobia. After New Zealand mosque attacks, the headlines were, ‘Muslims were killed’. But after Sri Lanka church bombings, the headlines were, ‘terror in Sri Lanka’ or ‘Suicide bombings in Colombo’ or ‘Easter sunday attacks’. President Obama tweeted, “The attacks on tourists and Easter worshippers in Sri Lanka are an attack on humanity. On a day devoted to love, redemption, and renewal, we pray for the victims and stand with the people of Sri Lanka”.
Please note those words. ‘The attacks on Easter worshippers’. Why can’t he say, ‘The attacks on Christians’. Hilary Clinton did the same thing. She tweeted,
“On this holy weekend for many faiths, we must stand united against hatred and violence. I’m praying for everyone affected by today’s horrific attacks on Easter worshippers and travelers in Sri Lanka”
Today’s horrific attacks on Easter worshippers? Can’t you just say today’s horrific attacks on Christians? Now, listen to what she tweeted after New Zealand attacks.
“My heart breaks for New Zealand & the global Muslim community. We must continue to fight the perpetuation and normalization of Islamophobia and racism in all its forms. White supremacist terrorists must be condemned by leaders everywhere. Their murderous hatred must be stopped.”
So, Hillary Clinton rightly pointed out that the victims in New Zealand attacks were Muslims. She did not call them ‘Ramadan worshippers’ or ‘Friday worshippers’. But in Sri Lanka, when Christians were murdered on Easter sunday, she called them, ‘Easter worshippers’. Someone wanted to show the difference and put up this tweet in response to Hillary’s tweet:
“My heart breaks for Sri Lanka & the global Christian community. We must continue to fight the perpetuation and normalization of Christophobia and Radical Islam in all its forms. Islamic terrorists must be condemned by leaders everywhere. Their murderous hatred must be stopped”
The political correctness that pervaded our politicians is just mind boggling. They think Christians are so privileged. They should never be identified as victims. Christians do not support abortion, they do not support gay marriage, they do not support gender fluidity, so when they get hurt, we are not going to say, ‘Christians got hurt’.
But folks, Christians are paying a heavy price in our time for standing up for their faith. All over the world, Christians are the largest persecuted group of people. Our politicians and our media do not even acknowledge this obvious fact.
3. Rise of Antisemitism
Then the rise of Antisemitism. US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar recently caused a big stir when she tweeted that America’s Israel policy is run by Jewish money. Recently New York Times published a very offensive cartoon.
In this cartoon, you can see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as guide dog wearing a Star of David on his collar, leading a blind US President Donald Trump, seen wearing a skullcap. America blindly follows the Jews. That is the message of this cartoon. The great New York Times, the bastion of human rights, is making the same point as Ilhan Omar.
We see how Islamic antisemitism and secular antisemitism converging in our time. Author Paul Berman notes that until recently many Arab cities used to contain large Jewish neighborhoods. He wrote ‘In Baghdad during the first half of the twentieth century, a solid third of the population was Jewish. The Iraqi Jews, almost all of them, fled for their lives, after a while (mostly to Israel, where refugees from the Muslim world constitute about half the Jewish population – and are routinely reviled, by anti-Zionists everywhere, as European colonists.) You can see the irony here. The Jews were forced out of Muslim nations and when these refugees go to Israel they were called European colonists.
The Jews are fleeing Muslim countries and also secular Europe. Then we have to talk about anti-Semitism coming from Christian communities. The shooter in the synagogue in Poway, California was raised in a Christian home. His name is John Earnest. He comes from a devout Christian home. He and his family attends an Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). Before his killings John released a seven page manifesto. He wrote, the Jewish people are guilty of killing Jesus and they deserve to die. He believed that killing Jews would glorify God.
There are many things to explore here. First let us start with the theology preached in some churches like OPC.
- The Jews failed to honor God’s covenant: But the truth is, every one of us failed to honor God’s commandments. If Jews are guilty, so are you, so am I. ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 3, verse 23. How did God save us? He wrote in verse 24,
‘being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’. Today both Jews and Gentiles are justified freely the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Jews killed Jesus: Jesus was born as a Jew. He grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. All his twelve apostles were Jews. Jesus told Samaritan woman in John 4:22, salvation is of the Jews.
If you read through the New Testament, the ordinary Jews in fact loved Jesus and followed him. It was the Jewish leaders who hated Jesus and plotted his murder. The ordinary Jews celebrated the arrival of Jesus. They listened to his sermons. They enjoyed his preaching. On Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem they danced with joy, sang psalms to God and threw their outer garments as Jesus rode on a donkey. They wept when Jesus was crucified. So, most Jews did not harm Jesus.
There are many fallacies we should recognize here.First, the fallacies of generalization.
You know, most violence happens intraracially. You are more likely be killed by a person of your own race. Jesus, a Jew was killed by a group of Jews who resented Him and delivered Him to the Roman authorities. We should not make all Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. Only one Texan killed John F. Kennedy. Can we say all Texans are responsible for the killing of Kennedy? Only one American killed Abraham Lincoln. Can we say all Americans are responsible for the killing of Lincoln? So, we should not make all Jews responsible for the killing of Jesus.
So, historically speaking only a few Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. But theologically speaking, we are all responsible for the death of Jesus. It is our sins which led Jesus to the cross. Before loading his gun, John Earnest should have read the words of John, who cried out, ‘Behold the lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
The Jews killed Jesus, so let us kill the Jews. This is a horrible lie persisting from the time Middle Ages down to our time. This lie sadly resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Jews in the hands of ignorant Christians.
- God would glorify if we kill the Jews: That is what John Earnest wrote in his manifesto. I will make God happy by killing some people. This is jihadi mindset. It does not reflect the heart of a Christian.
Roman governor Pontius Pilot questioned Jesus: ‘If you are a king, where are your soldiers?’. Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’. The kingdom of God is not through violence, guns and bombs.
The Great Apostle wrote in Romans chapter 9,
“2. that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.3. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
Those words reflect the burden of Apostle Paul for his fellow Jewish brethren. ‘I could wish that I were accursed from Christ’. I would rather go to hell for my brethren. Can you love someone like that? John Earnest broke the foundational Christian truths when he attacked that synagogue. The apostles went to the synagogues to preach Christ to their Jewish brethren. They never engaged in violence. They were often victims of violence, never the perpetrators.
- Finally the big lie, Christian church has replaced the Jews in the plan of God. Let us see what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 11,
“17. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree”
Apostle Paul used a beautiful illustration here to explain God’s plan of salvation. There are two olive trees. Israel is the first olive tree. We the Gentiles are the wild olive tree. God took some branches off the wild olive tree and grafted them into the original olive tree He planted in Israel. Please note this point. God did not pluck one olive tree and plant a new olive tree. He took some branches from the wild olive tree and grafted them into the original olive tree. In John chapter 10, Jesus explains this using a different illustration. He said, ‘Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold’ (John 10:16). I have other sheep. These are believers from gentiles. The original sheep is Israel. Two groups of sheep under one Shepherd. It is not like one flock replaced another flock. It is one flock moved into another flock under one Shepherd in one fold.
In verse 18, Paul says
‘boast not against the branches’
In verse 20 he wrote ‘Be not highminded, but fear’
We should not boast against the Jews. We should not be high minded. Rather we should praise the grace of God and humble ourselves lest we also fall and fail.
4. The Rise of White nationalism
Both New Zealand mosque attacks and California synagogue attacks were carried out by white nationalists. White supremacism is another sin. God created all of us in His image. So, one group of people believing they are superior to others is a sinful idea. In California synagogue shooting, we see this dangerous mixture of false Christian theology and white supremacism with deadly consequences.
5.The Rise of Atheism
Atheists are saying, ‘You see New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and California, religious people attacking each other. The world would be a better place without religion. There will be peace without God’.
Not really. Look at North Korea, an officially atheist nation. You remember how horribly they killed Otto Warmbier. This morning his mother said, on his beathbed, ‘my son’s eyes looked as if ‘he’d seen the devil’. Now, we know, most atheists are peace loving citizens. Yet atheism provides no justification for peace. Naturalism cannot explain why non-violence is moral and violence is immoral. Darwinism teaches us that we are the products of millions of years of violence. It does not say, ‘now, human beings, you ought to live like Gandhi’.
John Earnest clearly wrote in his manifesto that he did not learn his white supremacist beliefs from his Christian family. He got it from the social media rife with secular White supremacist and anti-semitic bigotry. Almost all of the recent white nationalist terrorists have been secular like Dylann Roof, Adam Lanza, the Las Vegas shooter etc.
John Earnest violated Christian faith and its fundamentals. In naturalism, you cannot violate any thing. You dance to your DNA. If pacificst genes dominate, you will be a peaceful person. If violent genes dominate, you will be a violent person. Naturalism does not elevate love above hate. That is only possible with God. That is only possible with Jesus who said, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’.
If you are supposed to give such treatment to your enemies, how should you treat Jews, who are not even our enemies?
Wrong theology will cost lives as the story of John Earnest showed us. There are two things in Christianity, Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. Right belief and right living. May God help us in both areas.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, our hearts are broken as we see so much blood spilled in the name of God. Help us to understand your grace, your love and your forgiveness. In your precious name we pray, Amen.
Paul Kattupalli MD is a physician and a Christian apologist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org