‘And Ye Shall Be Hated For My Name’s Sake’
By Jack Kinsella
In Belarus in 1999, the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in Minsk had 1,000 members. After being driven from one building where it held services and being threatened to move from another, it has lost 400 worshipers. Most members stopped attending for fear of the government.
Private worship services are broken up by government thugs; Baptists are fined for singing hymns, Protestants are prohibited from purchasing property and Catholics are banned from using foreign priests.
Jews have suffered firebomb attacks on synagogues, and a government publishing house published a book considered to be anti-Semitic.
That is the state of affairs in the former Soviet Union State of Belarus under Alexander Lukashenko.
In August, Lukashenko’s government bulldozed a newly constructed church as parishioners were preparing for its consecration. The government claimed the church was a Christian denomination separate from the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church preferred by the Lukashenko regime.
But in point of face, while Belarus is Europe’s greatest religious oppressor, it is hardly Europe’s only regime to take aim at Christianity as a threat to the state. That was the same reason Rome persecuted the early Church.
In the last few years, hostility against evangelicals in Europe seems to be growing. In 1999, the French government passed an “anti-cult” law officially labeling evangelical groups as cults and sects.
There are several other European countries dabbling with anti-cult laws, including: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Romania, Portugal, Spain and a few others. In most of these countries, there are efforts to categorize evangelical churches as “cults”.
The issue of sekts (sects) is a growing concern among the Christian population in Germany. Sektenbeaufragers (sect commissioners) are priests and pastors of established churches who often speak out against new religious minorities.
Government officials are often accused of labeling groups with this term when “off-the-record.” In the German society, the word sekt often implies something akin to ” the most evil threat to society.”
Public opinion can turn against such a group and make them the target of violence and vandalism. Nothing is done by the government to stop slander of smaller, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian groups within Germany.
In France, a law entitled “To enforce the prevention and repression of groups of a sectarian nature” was passed by the National Assembly with only one dissenting vote. Evangelicals fear the passage of this anti-sect legislation because several of them had already been labeled as “sects,” in a list published in 1996.
Fearing that the term “evangelical” will be increasingly be equated with “sect,” several churches have already removed the word evangelical from their names.
The French National Assembly passed a bill that will give the state the power to dissolve religious groups and imprison and fine members found to be “creating a state of mental or physical dependence” among participants. The bill was designed to restrict the rights of evangelical groups, especially those active in proselytizing.
A list of 172 groups considered to be dangerous sects was leaked to the press. This list was compiled due to anti-cult hysteria in the French National Assembly after religious cults in other countries threatened national security.
One Baptist congregation on the list, the Institut Theologique de Nimes, lost the room they had rented for 12 years and two members of the congregation were fired from their jobs. Other groups named on the list suffered similar discrimination.
In Belgium in February of 2001, four American Pentecostal Evangel missionaries teaching at the International Christian Academy near Brussels were detained by Belgian authorities. They were ordered deported for not having “proper paperwork.”
Belgium has identified even more ‘dangerous Christian sects’ than the French have.
In 1997, the Belgian Parliamentary Commission on sects and the dangers they may pose to society and individuals released a large report. The report listed 189 organizations that fell under their definition of a sect, including many Christian groups.
In the report they defined three classes of sects, which included (actual) sects, harmful sectarian organizations, and criminal associations but made no distinctions on the list.
The report recommended the creation of two entities.
The first is a task force to help coordinate the intelligence efforts of law enforcement officials concerning sects.
The second is an independent center to monitor sects and propose legislation to combat the dangers they pose.
While these actions do not constitute an act of persecution, the classifying of individuals and considering legislation to punish them or restrict them due to their religious beliefs rather than their actions can be considered a precursor to more extreme actions.
As George Bernard Shaw once observed, ‘the one thing man learns from history is that man learns nothing from history.’
The Bible says that in the last days, the world will come under the power of a single, global religion, having ‘two horns like a Lamb’ but one that will speak ‘as a dragon’, we are told in Revelation 13:11.
A kind of ‘Christian’ ‘religiousity’ — but one that denies the fundamentals, like salvation and Biblical doctrines.
The Apostle Paul described it thusly:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” [1 Timothy 4:1-3]
Further, the prophet Daniel identifies the leader of the Roman Empire as the one who will use that coming global religious system as a tool by which to maintain power during his seven yeardictatorship.
It is therefore hardly a coincidence that, as that time grows closer, we are seeing a legislative tightening on groups labeled as ‘fundamentalist’.
And thanks to the war against al-Qaeda, passing legislation against any fundamentalist group of any religious stripe sounds like a good idea to protect national security.
We are living in the last days. The days of an underground church are already upon us in many parts of Europe. Trending precisely as the Bible said it would in the last days. Because these ARE the last days.
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on December 7, 2002