Warring Against God

Congressman Tom Lantos knows firsthand what religious persecution is like. When the California Democrat was 12 years old, his native Hungary was invaded by the Nazis. Lantos, who is Jewish, spent the next five years in the anti-Nazi underground movement. Lantos’s experience left him with an unshakable conviction: that religious persecution is everyone’s business. That’s why Lantos is joining Congressman Frank Wolfe and Senator Arlen Specter in co-sponsoring the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. This bill will be introduced in both the House and the Senate this week—possibly today. Lantos’s personal story is a powerful reminder of why we need this law—of why, when it comes to persecution, we must all be our brothers’ keepers. Lantos is alive only because a foreigner made the fate of Hungarian Jews his business. As the Second World War raged, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, a Christian, issued fake passports to Lantos and other Jews. Wallenberg’s timely action kept them from being deported to Nazi death camps. The Freedom from Religious Persecution Act would make it the business of the United States to fight persecution. The act would create a White House agency, with a director to be confirmed by the Senate. This agency would monitor religious persecution around the world, and if it found that a country was persecuting its citizens for their faith, the U.S. would crack down with tough economic and diplomatic sanctions. By promoting this bill, Lantos and the other sponsors are doing more than fighting religious persecution, vital though that goal is. The experiences, half a century ago, of Lantos and other European Jews are helping Americans understand why dictators persecute people for their faith. As Harvard professor Jon Levenson points out, in waging war against the Jews, the Nazis were in reality waging war against the God of the Bible. Reflecting upon the writings of the German poet Thomas Mann, Levenson says that nazism represented the revolt of ancient paganism against the biblical faith—a faith that had brought a new moral order to the German tribes. This moral order stressed humility, servanthood, and nonviolence—qualities that were diametrically opposed to paganism’s warrior ethic. The Nazis viewed biblical faith as a form of weakness; they longed to reinstate the old pagan values. As Levenson puts it, the Jews were a witness to the God who had vanquished the pagan deities the Nazis emulated. We all remember the tragic consequences. Today dictators in China, Sudan, Indonesia, and elsewhere are waging war against God by attacking His people. Like their Nazi predecessors, today’s persecutors are trying to create their version of the perfect society. But the very presence of "the people whose God is the Lord" is a reminder of the futility of this task. The presence of people who, like the biblical Daniel, refuse to bow down before manmade idols, still sends tyrants into genocidal rage. Powerful business and political interests will attempt to defeat the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. I ask all of you to call your representatives. Urge them to get behind this Act. Tom Lantos and his colleagues are right: Persecution is everybody’s business.


Chuck Colson


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