Recently Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired by Mayor Kasim Reed. Cochran is devout in his Christian faith, and wrote a small book reflecting his beliefs. In his book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?”, Cochran expresses his Christian values, including the belief that homosexual acts and sex outside of marriage are morally wrong.
From the New York Times “At a news conference, Mr. Reed said that Mr. Cochran’s ‘personal religious beliefs are not the issue.’ But Atlanta’s nondiscrimination policy, the mayor added, is ‘nonnegotiable.’”
‘Despite my respect for Chief Cochran’s service, I believe his actions and decision-making undermine his ability to effectively manage a large, diverse work force,’ Mr. Reed said. ‘Every single employee under the fire chief’s command deserves the certainty that he or she is a valued member of the team and that fairness and respect guide employment decisions.’”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Mr. Reed as saying the decision to fire Cochran had nothing to do with his faith: “His religious (beliefs) are not the basis of the problem. His judgment is the basis of the problem.” Yet there is no evidence that Chief Cochran discriminated against his employees in any way, nor did he show bad judgment in his leadership as Fire Chief.
The mayor doesn’t understand the paradox of his statements; Cochran was absolutely fired because of his “personal religious beliefs”. In the mayor’s convoluted thinking, the Christian belief expressed in Cochran’s book that homosexual acts are defined by the Bible as “vile, vulgar, and inappropriate activities” that “dishonor God”, prevent the Fire Chief from effectively leading his employees and prevent him from fostering the feeling among his employees “that he or she is a valued member of the team and that fairness and respect guide employment decisions.”
It seems Mayor Reed is the one guilty of bad judgment; in seven years as Fire Chief, not one complaint was filed against Cochran for discrimination, or for failing to treat his employees with fairness, dignity and respect. Even though the Fire Chief presented the Mayor with a copy of his book, submitted a copy to the city’s ethic officer and received permission to publish, Reed claims permission was never granted and claims the Chief exhibited ‘bad judgment’ by publishing the book.
Photographers, bakers, and wedding facilities have been fined, shut down and forced to undergo ‘sensitivity training’ because of their Christian views. It seems Christians are on a rapidly escalating collision course with political correctness. As those opposed to Christian values become more rabid and aggressive, it will take more and more courage to stand up for the truth. One must be firmly anchored in their faith to be able to be a ‘living sacrifice’ and not back down when facing persecution.
I have distant relatives up north and went to visit them on the death of a beloved great-uncle. When it came time for services on Sunday, I asked my cousin if she would mind dropping me off at the Catholic mass, while they went on to their Presbyterian Reformed Church. My great-aunt asked on the way if I would reconsider and attend their service. I explained the importance of receiving the eucharist, and didn’t think anything more about it.
Apparently my great-aunt was highly offended, and called my sister vehemently stating that she never wanted to see me again. And she hasn’t. This stubborn, headstrong woman vowed to utterly reject me simply for wanting to attend mass. To stand up for your values means risking your job, income, status, family, and sometimes your very life.
At least for now, in the United States, Christians have only been kicked out of colleges and lost their businesses, it is rare to be imprisoned or suffer martyrdom. This certainly isn’t true of middle eastern Muslim dominated nations, or in Communist countries, such as China. I was particularly outraged back in 2008 when the Olympics were held in China in spite of their atrocious oppression of religion. Catholic priests, bishops, protestant ministers and other Christians have been imprisoned for decades under torturous conditions.
Since 2004 the Chinese government has been escalating persecution of Christians by launching raids of churches; consequently Christians are going underground to avoid the widespread arrests. For several decades the number of Christians in China is growing; subsequently the government is trying to stamp out this perceived threat to their authority. The heinous consequences of defying the Chinese government are fines, imprisonment, torture and death.
From St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr in the first century, to the thousands of martyrs in the third and fourth centuries by Emperors Decius and Diocletion, to the present day, Christians are persecuted more than any other religion, according to a recent Pew Study.
CNS News recently reported that “North Korea remains the world’s most restrictive nation in which to practice Christianity,” followed by Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen. More than ‘5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion,’ Pew noted, ‘up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007.’ The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.”
The Holy Spirit poured courage into centuries of martyrs who decided their faith was worth dying for. A reminder of our history reminds us not to be surprised when we lose our job, or family, or are called vile names because of our Christian values, which are diametrically opposed to our culture. Indeed, St. Peter reminds us in 1st Peter 3:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you.” Persecution and suffering are interwoven with our faith.
Wikipedia explains that with the gift of courage “we overcome our fear and are willing to take risks as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or physical harm. The gift of courage allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil. So “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” (1st Corin. 16:13) I can guarantee the road ahead is going to really get bumpy, so tighten your seat belt and ask the Holy Spirit for the supernatural gift of courage!
China’s Christians Suffer for their Faith
Christians are World’s Most Oppressed Religious Group