Then They Came for the New Yorkers

There are about 50 churches in New York City whose only meeting places for Sunday worship are public school facilities. (This is normal for many small churches). But I was completely shocked a few months ago to learn that the city was moving to pass a law that would make these worship gatherings illegal. By creating a sloppily-written piece of legislation, NYC authorities intend to allow basically any organization to meet at these schools on weekends EXCEPT the church of Jesus Christ. If the legislation (which has been blocked by a U.S. District Judge for the time being) goes final, a weekend KKK meeting at these public schools would be allowed, and a worship service by followers of Jesus Christ would not. No, I’m not kidding.

Now, let’s keep our eye on the ball here – this is not a political blog. And it’s also not an overly dramatic blog. But let’s call this what it is:  persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Right here. In America. “One Nation Under God.” Hard to believe.

A typical reaction to these things is to say, “Ah, it’s not so serious! The churches can meet someplace else!” Well, probably not, but even if that were true, it is not the geographic meeting place I’m concerned about. It is the fact that the government of our nation’s most prominent city has raised its fist directly toward the body of Jesus Christ.  And if you are a Christian, I believe you have to do something about it. It takes half an hour to write and mail a letter to the mayor of New York. It takes half a minute to tweet at him. And it takes half a second to bring your eyelids to a close and start to pray.

Beware the attitude that says you need not speak out for your brothers and sisters.

I’m reminded of Martin Niemoller, a German church official during World War II. Early on, Hitler’s Third Reich was directly targeting and persecuting various factions – except the one Niemoller led. And although he was a good man, Niemoller was unwilling to proactively take the radical road of responding to the Reich Church when it did not immediately involve him. And many years later, once Hitler had indeed turned on him and imprisoned him, Niemoller penned the wistful words that would make him famous:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

And then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

Let me be very clear – our government is not the Third Reich, and President Obama is not Adolf Hitler. I’m not trying to draw those parallels. But I am (with a measure of urgency) saying that if you enjoy your freedom to worship Jesus Christ without fear in this country, you should come to the aid of your family in Christ – before things get worse. May Niemoller’s regrets not become our own. Let us learn from those who have fought this fight before us.



[Note: The city ban, as aforementioned, has been ruled unconstitutional by a District Court judge. However, the case is under appeal and the future remains uncertain for these churches. I encourage you to educate yourself on the situation and follow along. Google News, for starters.]

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