The attempts to exterminate Christians and the images of their faith have a long and bloody history, and certainly have not been confined to pre-modern Japan. While persecution has remained a constant of Christian history since the time of Jesus and the apostles, iconoclasm, the concerted attempt to rid a given civilization of Christian religious images, has been a recurrent issue, especially during the eighth and ninth centuries. During that time period, imperial legislation of Byzantium attempted to bar the use of figural images. Existing icons were destroyed by those who had a theory that sacred images were "graven images," and therefore idolatrous.
But some scholars believe the rise of Islam, which forbids religious images, coupled with the Byzantine emperors' desire to make the State rather than the Church the sole authority were at the heart of the iconoclastic movement. The movement aimed at destroying religious images gave the political rationale necessary to justify the persecution of Christians who would not bow to the almighty State. Stomping on or eradicating Jesus' image indicated subservience to the government and its imperial leaders.In an age when many were illiterate, and books were rare and expensive because each one had to be copied by hand, icons were a way of teaching the people about the life of Jesus, and of explaining his saving grace to each of us who believe in him. As such, icons are not "graven images" forbidden in the Bible, but teaching aids. Take away the teaching aids, the aids to evangelizing and preaching, and you undermine the faith.
Ms. Voshell explains all of this as a prelude to her real message: The Christian community has been too meek in its reaction to the vicious attacks both here and abroad to the Christian faith. In Egypt, for instance, while the President hands over military hardware and millions of dollars, Coptic Christians are being slaughtered. In Syria, amid the civil war, a genocide of Syrian Christians is proceeding apace. Meanwhile, here at home, nobody has been killed yet, but Christians are under attack. Every year at Christmas, there are cities who want to ban Nativity scenes, or put up "holiday trees," as if the name "holiday" did not derive form Holy Day. People everywhere urge us to drop "Merry Christmas" and instead use "Happy Holiday." I am always torn here because much of the Christmas symbolism is pagan in origin, but has become so attached to Christmas that many think somehow a lighted tree is somewhere in the Christmas story. In the end, like the icons of old, if putting up a tree and decorating it allows parents to teach their young about the miraculous birth of Jesus, who am I to complain. Now, of course, the atheists have taken aim at the central event of the Christian faith: Easter. Of course, decorated eggs have nothing to do with Easter, which is about the Crucifixion, dying, and Rising of our Lord and Saviour. He is Risen. Again, if coloring eggs, and hiding them in the lawn allows parents to teach their children about this miraculous event, who am I to complain.
Christian response (to the attack on Christianity) has generally been weak. There are many reasons for the lack of concerted outrage, but there are at least two reason Christians are allowing their immense contributions to American society and its culture to be attacked and sidelined.
One is the generally pacifist view many Christians have toward conflict of any type. Most denominations embrace a view of Christ that is gentle, meek and mild, a Christ that advised patience with one's enemies. Jesus did advise patience. But many forget the Christ who excoriated the leaders of his day for their oppression of the masses and who strongly confronted their idiocies with scalding contempt. Almost forgotten as well is the Christ who condemns and judges evil and who is committed to its complete eradication.This attitude wasn't always so. I remember as a child the many hymns that used military metaphors to teach Christian theology. Onward Christian Soldiers, and A Mighty Fortress are examples of hymns that no longer feature in the regularly sung hymns of the Church. We need to revive the image of Jesus as a strong, masculine man, who was attractive to both men and women. We also need to revive the image of the Jesus who experienced the full range of emotions we all deal with. He could be tender with women and children. He could be angry with the money changers. He could be understanding of the tax collectors, and saddened by the rich young man who would do what it took to follow Him. He could be compassionate with lepers and the lame. He could be frightened of His coming Crucifixion, yet courageously take all our sins unto himself, and ask His Father to forgive those who had crucified Him.
There is only one way to stop the marginalization. There is only one way to stop the iconoclasm of the Left that would eliminate Christian symbols and influence from society. That way is to fight, because if Christians don't resist with all their might the attempts to deprive them of their symbols of faith, their constitutionally protected right to express their faith and their right to influence the society in which they live and work and worship, the next step by the iconoclastic Left will be overt persecution and attempts at elimination from any significant role in society -- and seventeenth century Japan shows how far human beings are able to go down that path.As Christians, we must become more militantly so. Yes, we must be like Christ in all things, but we must be prepared to defend our beliefs at every turn as well.