By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE
“When I found your words, I devoured them;
they became my joy and the happiness of my heart,
Because I bore your name,
O LORD, God of hosts.
I did not sit celebrating
in the circle of merrymakers;
Under the weight of your hand I sat alone
because you filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain continuous,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook,
whose waters do not abide!”
A man quite knowledgeable in deception and propaganda, George Orwell captured nicely the painful consequence of telling the truth in a corrupted society when he said, ““The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” During his own day, in which the propaganda machines of Soviet Russia and Communist China sought to win world approval while the Democratic West counteracted that with its own propaganda, discerning the truth became particularly difficult for the average person. Historians would feverishly rewrite the past, reporters and journalists would rewrite the present, and politicians and community leaders would rewrite the future. In a world where everyone perpetuated fantasy, many serious thinkers simply gave up on reality and truth; they indulged in the solipsistic approach of defining their own realities and their own truths, much to the applause of everyone around them. They wrote novels without plots, created paintings and sculptures without a subject, composed music without structures, developed ideologies without humanity, and thought up religions without God. Their world has become our world, but now we have the technology to successfully multiply the levels of unreality and confuse matters further.
As Orwell predicted, those who hold fast to the truth suffer. Living much earlier than Orwell and the modern world, Jeremiah had to contend with the delusions of his day. The Jews in Israel lost faith in God because of the threats facing them from Egypt and then Babylon. God appointed Jeremiah to restore some sanity to the Israelites who had nothing but their faith in the one true God to keep them afloat. Jeremiah tried to appeal to thereligious sensibilities of his people, but the people preferred to place their hopes on politics. In worshipping pagan deities, the Israelites hoped to find the gods that could put them in the good graces of the superpowers surrounding them. They detested Jeremiah’s prophecies and abused him repeatedly before finally killing him. Only after living in exile, after seeing their capital utterly destroyed, and after realizing that they killed God’s prophet did they finally take Jeremiah’s words seriously.
Jeremiah rightly complained of this kind of suffering. He did the right thing, followed the right course, had the right attitude, and spoke the truth for all to hear, but only suffered. His charge against God sounds similar to Job’s who also suffered for doing the right thing. As with Job, God recompensed Jeremiah with something better than material prosperity; He actually responds to Jeremiah and encouraged him: “For I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD.” All people desire to hear this whether they know it or not. To hear God say “I am with you” means that that person is speaking and acting in Truth; and in a world riddled with lies and death, acting in Truth has more value than anything.
Curiously, those prophets who speak the Truth suffer most from their own countrymen. One the biggest mistakes when trying to understand history is thinking that people can claim solidarity with one another without sharing a love for God. Despite common ancestry, common land, common history, and all the other components that make up one’s culture, those who strive to do God’s will immediately find themselves separated from those who do not. Tradition holds that it was not Babylon or Egypt who killed Jeremiah, but fellow Israelites. Perhaps they killed him to stop his prophecies from coming true – because the exile they experienced was somehow not enough to repent and turn away from idols and political movements.
The killing of Christians in Iraq and Syria reminds us that the dangers accompanying the Truth never go away. Like Pontius Pilate, most people in the West, including many Christians, simply wash their hands of the matter. They mutter that these poor people should have left when they had the chance, that there is nothing that can be done, that religion has led them to this point. Those that feel a small twinge of guilt blame Bush for intervening in the area, or Obama for not intervening, and think that blaming in itself settles the issue. Most people thought democracy and pluralism were self-evidentrealities, but we now know that these things are tied to religion and culture after all. All the while, the beheadings and crucifixions continue.
These Christians should not die in vain. Their suffering and death for the sake of Truth should not go unremarked. Their persecutors and their accomplices should be ousted and their cruelties exposed and condemned. If Islam is a religion of peace, then Muslims have something very serious to account for. Nothing excuses the terror against innocents, particularly against Christians; as Christians, we should refute any corrupted person who would say otherwise, fight their propaganda with our Truth. These people need our support, whether that be through aid, through prayers, through spreading awareness, and promoting policies that will not leave them at the mercy of cold-hearted savages who revel in their own bloodshed.
In the end, God will reward these martyrs because He is the Christian’s “refuge on the day of distress.” These people have truly made the sacrifice of the man who finds treasure in the field, or the merchant buys the pearl of great price. They have given up their lives to practice their faith while their murderers take their lives to create a terrorist utopia. In their sacrifice, those Christians have gained Truth; in their violence, those Islamists have proven just how false their claims to Truth really are. For our part, while we still can, we should not be fooled, and we should not tolerate it.