Archive for July, 2008

Battling to Win, Even the Losing Battles

We have to learn to define victory and defeat.  It is easy to take the word of the powers that be that the victories and defeats are what they tell us they are.  We have learned from childhood to trust those in charge.  We have learned to conform to the common will. 


This can lead to confusion when we find ourselves fighting the common will.  That is where I am right now.  The battle for religious freedom in the western world is rapidly becoming an uphill battle. The more secularized our culture becomes the less value we see in the ancient religious traditions or any religious tradition at all.  The more secularized we become the less likely we are to even tolerate those who live their lives according to any faith or principles thereby formed.


In Germany that is the battle.  It is a battle between secularism and religion, particularly Christianity.  The first level of the battle is against the most compromised among us.  These folks are the home schoolers.  They are often from families larger than the European norm—sometimes as many as 10 or 12 children in one family.  Often they have a very fundamental, almost backward approach to life and their religion—even when they are educated well.  Often they do not look as good as their more modern neighbors.  These are easy marks.


When they are persecuted few care.  In fact, many people believe they have it coming.  It is the government choosing the weakest among us to attack.  One would think the Germans would be weary of such governmental pograms.  Yet, here we are, the German government battling less than 400 families who are choosing to educate their children at home.


Why is this battle going on?  There are several reasons.  First, this is the continuing battle to secularize the west.  It is about the dominance of non-Christian beliefs—the rise of humanism to the pinnacle of all faiths.  Do not be deceived, we are not currently wining this battle.  You can see it in the declining influence of the church in America. 


Sundays were once sacred in America.  Now, our church attendance is dropping rapidly.  It will not be long before we are at European levels of church attendance.  Now, I do not believe that attending church makes you a Christian any more than walking into a McDonald’s makes you a hamburger, but it was a standard of measurement.


Our Christian foundations have nearly been completely destroyed and few of us have noticed it.  We have ministries that lead us.  They are led by men and women who are only concerned with how to take our money from our pockets and get it into their pockets.


I was recently in Strasbourg, France where I heard an American tourist tell a French waiter that “American churches only want your paper money, they don’t want your coins.”  What a sad testimony—we are looked at as no different from anyone else in the world.  There are no changes in how we live our lives.  There is no difference in what we value.  There is no difference in how we measure success.


The truth of the matter is the statement about what American churches want is more like the phrase from the grocery store—“paper or plastic.”  Many of our churches are taking credit cards to make your gift.  Welcome to the new world!


We have let the secularized society reach into the church and take hold in our thought patterns and lifestyles.  Now, I am not saying that we need to return to a fundamentalism that does not allow women to wear pants or cut their hair.  I do not believe that women should be seen and not heard.  I do not believe that a woman’s place is in the home only.  I do not believe there is anything more sacred about the King James Bible than other more coherent translations of the Bible.


I am not talking about rushing out onto the streets and preaching the good news that everyone but us is going to hell.  In fact, I do not think that is the best way to go about being fishers of men.  


I have been fishing many times.  I never went fishing with bait that fish did not like.  I never used rocks to try and catch fish.  I never used an empty hook to catch fish.  I always found something to put on the hook that I had a reasonable expectation the fish would like.  Granted, I do not understand how fish enjoy the taste of worms, but they seem to enjoy it.  Catfish enjoy raw chicken livers, I do not understand that, but it works so I use bait that attracts the fish. Maybe they are so hungry that it does not matter what it tastes like.


I do not sit in my boat with a rock at the end of the line complaining that the fish are being hard headed or ornery.  I do not blame the fish for not biting.  I change the bait.


Yet we see people on the streets preaching the good news that you are going to hell, or that your wife is a harlot because she is wearing pants and Jesus wants to save you.  And then we cannot understand why there is not a more positive response to our ministry.  Jesus said he would make us fishers of men, not stoners of men, not haters of men, not sowers of strife.   


While we cannot compromise the message, we have to find a way to present it in such a way that it can be received by those who are our target audience.  The Apostle Paul wanted to become all things to all men that he might win some. How much more do we need to take the same approach?


When Paul came into Athens he looked through the city and found a way to minister to the people of Greece from their own folklore and religious traditions.  He did not come in with both barrels of condemnation blasting.  He “reasoned” with them and sat with them in their market square, presenting them with a way to find God through the fog of religiosity in Athens. 


Some people need to be pulled from the flames.  Others need to be loved into the kingdom. 


We need to have the wisdom and the humility to discern the difference and govern ourselves accordingly.


The Next Case Before The European Court Of Human Rights

Tomorrow I am filing an application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.  This is the second case I have filed here in the month of July and the third case this year.  This case involves the right of parents to control the education of their children according to the dictates of their religious beliefs.


It is a home schooling case, but you should not turn me off now.  The German school system is unchristian in ways that the American system has yet to imagine.  It is important to these families that they educate their children in the academic subjects while maintaining their Christian base for moral issues.


We are standing with these families and making sure we do everything we can to protect the right of parents to raise their children in a Christian environment.


These cases are part of a larger spiritual battle that is going on in Europe right now.  The secular governments of Europe, particularly the European Parliament, are seeking to compromise the role of Christianity in the lives of everyone in Europe.  We cannot stand back and let this happen, we must make a stand while we still have a chance to keep the door open for the proclamation of the Gospel in the place where evangelical Christian was first born.


The Apostle Paul first brought word of the Christian faith into Europe on his early missionary journeys into Turkey, Greece, and Italy.


We do not want to see Europe return to its days without any Christian influence.  That is why I do what I do.

A Partial Victory In Germany

We have just received a partial victory in Germany.  The Brause family home schools their children for religious reasons—they disagree with much of the anti-Christian curriculum in the sex education, science, and new age religion areas.  They have stood on their Christian principles and they have paid dearly for it.


Nearly two years ago the Youth Welfare Office went to court and had the custody of the two youngest Brause children taken from the parents the purposes of where the children live.  This means that any time the Youth Welfare Office decides to they can come to the Brause home and remove these two children.


The only solution for the Brauses, short of winning a court victory, is to surrender their principles and place their children in the public schools.


Until today the Brause parents were scheduled to have their day in court on July 24.  They have been charged with “intentional child neglect.”  The sole evidence proving this criminal claim is that they home school.  That is right, German officials consider home schooling to be child neglect because the parents are failing to educate the children in the location German officials consider proper.  This, in spite the fact that Germans working abroad for the government are encouraged to home school.


It is an interesting concept to think that a German family, in German, is neglecting their children when they are doing what the government encourages their own employees to do.


This is an incredible double standard!


Today the court has indefinitely postponed the case.  The reason, an attorney representing the Brause parents on behalf of the International Human Rights Group, in a legal brief filed last week, seems to have convinced the court that the prosecution has not presented enough facts to prove their case.


So, the court has postponed the hearing and we see this as a partial victory for the family.  After all, the children are still at home and the parents are still home schooling them.


Please continue to pray for this family as they stand strong against educational tyranny!

And Now The Appeal

            I knew this was going to happen, from the moment Petar and Larry were arrested.  I knew we would have a trial.  I knew we would present good evidence that they should not have been arrested.  I knew I would leave the courtroom convinced that our clients should never have been arrested.


            After all, we had shown a thirty-five minute video of the alleged “crimes.”  We had testimony from both Petar and Larry as to the legitimate reasons they had to be on the streets.  We had cross examined the three police officers who testified during the course of the trial.  We had shown their testimony to be inconsistent.


            Then we had made good legal arguments in our close that would have moved most courts to realize that when someone is exercising their freedom of expression the police do not have an absolute right to order them to leave the area.


            The problem was that we were in Norway and peace on the streets is the rule at all costs.  When the police give an order it has to be obeyed.  It does not matter that you are doing something perfectly legal.  It doesn’t matter that you have a right to be where you are.  The police cannot be questioned.  This is how life works in the European police states.


            So, on Monday when I heard that we had lost at the trial level, I was not surprised.  We had taken the case I knew we would win or lose it on appeal rather than at the trial court.  In fact, I do not expect to win the case before we get to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.


            We fight because it is the only way to keep the door for the proclamation of the Gospel open.  We do not have any guarantees of the victory.  I only know that if we do not fight we will lose.


            Therefore, we will fight until we win.  Case by case, country by country.

Criminal Trial in Oslo, Norway

Petar Keseljevic is a Norwegian evangelist who is compelled to share his faith in public places, particularly in his home city of Oslo, Norway.  Larry Keffer is an American evangelist who is also compelled to share his faith.  He and Petar decided to share together in the public places of Oslo in May of this year during the Norwegian Independence Day Celebration.


Unfortunately for them, the people and ultimately the police of Oslo decided that the Gospel message was incompatible with a public political gathering.  So, to stop the speech the police arrested the two evangelists and charged them with failing to obey a police order. 


The police order was simple, you must stop speaking, take down your banner, and leave.  In other words, no free speech rights were permitted in Oslo during this celebration.    The police failed to tell them that failure to follow this order would result in arrest.  How do I know this is true?  Larry Keffer videoed the entire encounter so that you can hear everything that is said by the police.


The hearing was set for July 1, 2008 and I was able to participate as the attorney representing Larry Keffer.  I was able to help formulate the arguments for both Petar and Larry.  I was able to read Larry’s statement into the record in court in Oslo.  I was permitted to cross examine the witnesses in open court.  Finally, I was permitted to present a 30 minute closing argument during the trial.


The prosecutor told me after the hearing that she thought this was the first time in Norwegian history that an American had given arguments in the criminal court in Oslo.  I do not know if that is true, but it was certainly an honor to be able to represent two fine Christian men in court in Norway.


We find out on Monday, July 7, what the decision of the judges is.  I will keep you informed.

Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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