Where Have All the Christian Soldiers Gone?

by Patrick J. Buchanan – July 29, 1997

“If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” Christ warned his disciples, who came to learn the truth of his words. Eleven of the 12 sent out to preach the Gospel after Pentecost died a martyr’s death witnessing to the truth that he was the Son of God and had a claim to man’s obedience and allegiance even greater than Caesar’s.

Christ’s words come to mind on reading about a report, extracted from a balking State Department, about the persecution of Christians in our own era. According to The New York Times, “A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed discomfort at the mandated focus on Christians alone. … ”

Remarkable. In August 1941, in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt joined hands to fight Nazi tyranny. To gain strength for the journey, they and the crews of the American and British warships sang “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Yet our State Department is miffed at having to document the brutalization of millions of Christians.

That persecution is “massive and vastly unreported,” contends Nina Shea of the human-rights group Freedom House, but “few Christian Americans even know about it.”

“There’s a bias among some of our political elites,” says Shea, “that if you are willing to die for the Bible, you’re a fanatic, but if you die in front of a tank, you’re a hero. The great lesson absorbed by the tyrants of the world from the collapse of the Soviet empire is that it was the churches that contributed to the … collapse of the empire. So you see a pattern of persecution in places like China and Saudi Arabia.”

Right on target.

The State Department report was to have been delivered in January, but it was delayed until Congress had voted to extend most-favored-nation trade privileges to the greatest persecutor of Christians on Earth. In official language, it dryly documents what the New Republic’s Jacob Heilbrunn vividly describes:

“Last year seems to have been a particularly busy one for China’s Christian hunters. … Police destroyed 15,000 religious sites in the Zhegiang province alone in 1996. In January, Father Guo Bo Le of Shanghai was sentenced to two years of re-education … for ‘saying Mass.’ … (D)uring Holy Week … security officials raided the home of the bishop of Shanghai and confiscated numerous religious texts, and in April, the authorities closed more than 300 home churches or meeting places. In the Jia

Beijing’s anti-Christian pogrom is ecumenical: “Protestant leaders in China say that 40 percent of the inmates in Henan labor camps are members of the Christian underground. The methods that the authorities use to re-educate these Christians include starving and beating detainees, binding them in excruciating positions, hanging them from their limbs and torturing them with electric cattle prods and drills. Sometimes, relatives are forced to watch the torture sessions.”

And what is the Clinton policy toward the devils who authorize such atrocities against men, women and children who only wish to witness to their faith in Jesus Christ? “Constructive engagement.” The rationale: By giving China’s communist rulers free access to U.S. markets and treating them with respect, we will introduce them to our Western values, and they will gradually come to see the error of their ways.

But the rebellion against communism in the Soviet empire did not come from the top down; it came from the bottom up. It was the Polish pope who inspired the Catholic working man Lech Walesa and Solidarity to rise up, not Archer-Daniels-Midland or Chase Manhattan. And if “constructive engagement” is the surest way to ease the persecution of Christians, why has it failed so dismally in Saudi Arabia, where we have been “constructively engaged” for half a century?

Americans developed the Saudi oil fields, sold Riyadh much of what the monarchy has used to modernize and sent half a million men — most of them Christians — to defend that country. And how are Christians treated? Writes Tom Bethell in the American Spectator: “There are three or four dozen Catholic priests in the country, all disguised as civilians. If Christian services are discovered, violent reprisals may be expected from the Mutawa, or Saudi religious police.”

According to Chuck Colson, Saudi citizens are “paid a bounty of $3,000 for exposing a home Bible class.” Former Foreign Service Officer Timothy Hunter says that even Americans caught practicing their faith have been beaten and tortured.

Would speaking out forthrightly about the persecution of Christians somehow jeopardize our access to cheap oil? What are our Saudi friends going to do with it if they don’t sell it to us? Or is religious freedom an inconsequential concern in a capitalist America where the commands of trade trump all other values?

Where have all those Christian soldiers gone?