Happy Holidays

or Nailed to the Mast

Rachel Held Evans is a writer who likes the challenge of “asking tough questions about Christianity in the context of the Bible Belt” while consulting the howling void of modern culture for the answers. That is indeed a challenge. She takes Christians to task for referring to the de-Christianizing of Christmas as “persecution”, offering a helpful chart.

Doug Wilson provides some wisdom in response.

Part of the modern mindset is this desire to “classify” everything, to label it, which is fine, but in doing so we very often become blind to the relationships which all of these isolated things have to each other. Is minor persecution actually persecution or not? Do we have the right to complain about the castration of Christmas? I believe the Bible gives us an entirely different perspective.

Graded levels of persecution only matter if we are trying to avoid it. Paul did not see any level of persecution as an infringement upon his “life, safety, civil liberties or right to worship.” He saw every persecution, at every level, as an opportunity for legal witness to the resurrection and the Gospel of Christ, and therefore rejoiced in it. The bigger the persecution, therefore, the bigger the opportunity. But he did not pass up the little ones, either. Paul’s testimony, along with that of the apostles, ended the false witness of Herodian Judaism, and led to the end of pagan Rome and institution of the Christian calendar and its holidays.

A millennium later, with the Roman Church now corrupt as the Herods, it was the murder of the Reformers which resulted in the celebration of Reformation Day, a holiday which is seeing a revival in some quarters.

Persecution is also a misunderstood opportunity in the book of Esther. Under Mordecai’s instruction, the heroine did not take advantage of the little opportunities. She refrained from revealing her Jewish identity. This mask was the epitome of the attitude of the Jews, who were largely keeping their faith to themselves to avoid making waves. They failed to take advantage of the little opportunities, so God sent a really big one: genocide, with the sanction of the Emperor.

So, Mordecai and Esther failed at the start but God turned their failure into faithfulness. Added to this, there was the irony that Haman was not aware of the identity of the Queen, so God even used her lack of witness as the key to his downfall.

They ended up passing with flying colors. Indeed, their colors were nailed to the mast for every Jew from India to Ethiopia: Haman impaled on a pole, lifted up like a serpent. The end of the persecutors at God’s hand even resulted in a new festival, Purim, an extra “happy, holy day” which is still celebrated today.

Every seed that falls into the ground and dies results in a great harvest. Our God delights in “turning the tables.” Secularists should learn from history that anyone who challenges His work in any age always comes off second best.

So whether you are confronted with a sanitized “Happy Holidays” at the supermarket checkout, or hauled before the courts (which is coming), every level of persecution is an opportunity to move history forward, to let God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, the only courtroom worth worrying about. And, who knows, it might even result in a brand new Christian holiday. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

ART: Woodcut from the title page of a 1499 pamphlet published by Markus Ayrer in Nuremberg. It depicts Vlad III “the Impaler” (identified as Dracole wyade = Draculea voivode) dining among the impaled corpses of his victims.

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