31 October 2012

Scorn the Scourge

In recent weeks, I have posted on two pieces regarding a pining for the “good old days” of Communism here in Europe. One was a European Union poster depicting the “hammer and sickle” along with a number of religious symbols. The other was a link to a news story regarding Communists making gains in the recent regional elections here in the Czech Republic. The nostalgia is neither limited nor isolated, as evidenced by essays such as this. What short memories have these human beings.

There are those, however, who “get it.” There are those who remember the death and repression associated with that evil period in the history of this region. 

Sandra and I visited the statues depicted here recently. They are easy to find in a section of the city well-traveled by tourists and residents alike. In fact, they are hard to miss.

It should also be hard to miss the meaning and import of the statues. It is explained well in English and Czech in the plaque shown below. There is also a bronze ribbon which runs up the steps toward the statues indicating the numbers of people killed, and deported, and imprisoned under the communist regime which held this land captive from 1945 to 1989. 

The stats run like this:
205,486 arrested
170,938 forced into exile
4,500 died in prison
327 shot trying to escape
248 executed.
Remember, this is only in Czechoslovakia.

Yet, “The Czechs´ relationship to their totalitarian past is a pretty complicated affair, writes Terje B. Englund, a Norwegian journalist living in Prague. To see the rest of this very interesting article by Englund click here.

Complications aside, the message portrayed by these statues, is plain. As the figures recede, so does their humanity. Their personhood is deconstructed piece by piece, as they fade into nothingness. Communism, in its various forms was (and still is) a crime against humanity. It is estimated that more that 100,000,000 (yes, there are THAT many zeroes in this number) civilians have died under the tyranny always associated with communist rule. We cannot possibly calculate, however, the destruction of the human spirit directed by the communist overlords who repressed religion, art, literature - and especially - family life.

Many Czechs are disappointed; some furious; at the way their government is functioning today. That's fair enough. Negative reaction to government waste, fraud, and inefficiency is normal and expected. Let’s remember, however, the difference between today and yesteryear. Today, the masses go out regularly and hold protest rallies and marches on Wenceslas Square - without fear of being shot. Cabinet members have been jailed for fraud (after real trials not the "show trials" of the Communist regimes). People have a voice.

A return to Communism would be a return to the dark ages of repression, incarceration, and murder. This scourge of humanity; this blight on humankind must not be remembered fondly or returned to power. It must not be allowed to gain foothold in those societies which have not yet experienced it. Communism must be banished to the dustbin of history, where it belongs.

19 October 2012

It's THAT Holiday Time!

Here in the Czech Republic, shoppers don’t have to wait for “Black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving) to begin their Christmas shopping. In fact, the shops are already displaying all sorts of items for that holiday, including candies, Advent calendars, ribbons and wrapping papers, sales on toys, and other things. The lines at the PoŇ°ta (Post Office) are already long.

But, wait. There is still one holiday in the way. Yes, it’s Halloween! It’s not just American anymore. They’ve been celebrating it here for around a decade. They have advertising for costume shops; a “Monster Ball,” and all the trappings of a properly ghoulish affair. So, I thought I’d trot out the essay I have published numerous times in varied places regarding this celebration of evil.

Why I Won’t Be Celebrating Halloween

I’ve always been uncomfortable about a holiday that makes light of witches, goblins, and death. The holiday which is celebrated by many in this country at the end of October is viewed as nothing but a little fun, but there are other ways to have fun.

In God’s Word we are told, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Any one who does these things is detestable to the LORD….” (Deut. 18:10-12a). That’s quite a catalog of dabbling on the dark side. While we do not claim that those who dress up as witches are joining them in their detestable practices, we must still ask the question, “why emulate these things which God detests?”

This is why I recommend, instead of the prevailing holiday, a commemoration of the beginnings of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the University Church in Wittenburg, Germany. This set off the chain of events we today know as the Reformation. 

Many heroes of the faith stood up against a corrupt church and tainted governments during the sixteenth century. They brought the church back to believing in Christ as the Head of the Church and the Bible as His Word. They also were responsible for the acceptance of the Bible being printed in the languages of the people. The Reformation has spawned many remarkable movements, including free education and modern governmental systems.

As with every historical movement, the Reformation had its excesses. Wars were fought, brothers offended, exiled and excommunicated. The Reformation, however, was a movement of saintly men and women being moved by the Holy Spirit of God.

I propose that this be the holiday we all celebrate at the end of the month. If you’re invited to a costume party, why not go as a sixteenth century character. Do some research; be able to tell people about your character. Even better, why not throw a Reformation Party. Sixteenth century snacks (no knives and forks), clothing, maybe even games could be a part of your party. This seems a finer way to honor God and His people than that other alternative.

04 October 2012

In Search of A Leader

The Anglican Church is in need of a leader. Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, is retiring from the position in December, to become Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University.

The sixteen-member Crown Nominations Committee (CNC) which has the task of handing to the Prime Minister the name of a nominee and an alternate to fill the position of leader of 80 million Anglicans worldwide, is deadlocked. After a three day meeting at the end of  September, the committee retired with no candidate and no schedule for future meetings announced. While there is no time limit set for the announcement of the new Archbishop, it is certainly hoped that the new Archbishop will be named before Williams leaves the post.

This is a communion in need of healing. Williams’ tenure has been marked by battles over ordination of homosexual clergy, same-sex unions and the elevation of women as bishops. His statements on Sharia Law have astounded many. Anglicans worldwide are divided. Theologians and politicians alike are split as to their opinion of the 10-year term of Williams.

The outgoing Archbishop has said that his successor should have the “constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros.” That is certainly true. The church is a rough and tumble environment, especially for those who would lead.  The Anglican Church is large, diverse, and divided. No leader will please all parties. We can hope and pray for a leader who will please God.

All Christians should be in prayer for this church. You don’t need to be an Anglican or an Episcopalian to understand the enormous impact a strong, Christian leader could have on communities around the world.

May God bless the CNC and the man chosen to lead the Anglican community.