After toppling, beheading and vandalizing the statues and icons of historical figures said to be associated with colonialism and slavery, rioters affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement and other similar anti-establishment groups such as Antifa have moved on to new targets: churches, religious monuments and statues.
This development was first documented in Washington, D.C., where protesters, for the second time, vandalized and defaced St. John’s Episcopal Church – their way of scoring revenge against Episcopalian slave owners, according to a report by the Washington Examiner. Coincidentally, this was the same church where President Donald Trump held up a copy of the Holy Bible just minutes after dispersing a crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets.
This was followed by an incident in California, where several Native and Black protesters tore down a statue of Junipero Serra, a Spanish priest whom Pope Francis canonized as a saint back in 2015.
The toppling of the Serra statue, which San Francisco archbishop Salvatore Cordeleone described as “an act of sacrilege” and “an act of the Evil One,” has led people from different Christian communities to air fears that the attacks on Christian monuments and symbols will continue unabated.
“Statues of Jesus are next. It won’t end. Pray for the USA,” Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, said in a tweet.
Statues of Jesus are next. It won't end. Pray for the USA
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) June 22, 2020
Shaun King, an author, Leftist civil rights activist and a prominent figure in the Black Lives Matter movement, further fanned the flames of speculation and panic among Christian communities after tweeting that taking down statues of Jesus would be acceptable — especially if these statues and icons depict Jesus as white.
Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down.
They are a form of white supremacy.
Always have been.
In the Bible, when the family of Jesus wanted to hide, and blend in, guess where they went?
Tear them down.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) June 22, 2020
“Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down,” King tweeted, adding that such depictions of Jesus are nothing more than propaganda that promotes the idea of “white supremacy.” (Related: Anti-Christian Left calls for toppling of Jesus statues.)
King failed to mention in his tweets, however, that depictions of Jesus and the saints often vary from culture to culture, with each artistic depiction taking on characteristics and visual cues from the societies it was made in.
As a response to these incidents, as well as the previous removal of Confederate statues and other historical monuments that have been deemed “racist” by radical Leftists, President Trump signed an executive order granting federal protection to public monuments and other statues of historical figures.
“They’re looking at Jesus Christ, they’re looking at George Washington, they’re looking at Abraham Lincoln, they’re looking at Thomas Jefferson,” Trump said during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the White House’s Rose Garden, vowing to stop the toppling of monuments and statues carried out by rioters.
The order, which was signed by the President on June 27, not only mandates the prosecution of people who have been proven to have rendered damages to federal monuments, but also, the potential withholding of federal funding from state and local governments in case they fail to protect any public monument and statue within their jurisdictions.
The order, Trump said, will also be retroactive.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 27, 2020
While most Christian denominations have reacted with panic and anger over the recent incidents surrounding religious monuments and statues, some, such as the Church of England, have chosen to react in a more tempered fashion.
The Church of England, for instance, which has more than 16,000 churches and 42 cathedrals, noted that following the resurgence of the global Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd, monuments celebrating people who were involved in the “discrimination or exploitation based on race” during their lifetimes could be removed.
“We acknowledge that dialogue alone is not sufficient and must have real outcomes. These may include the alteration or removal of monuments,” Becky Clark, the church’s Director of Cathedrals and Church Buildings, said.
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, meanwhile, said that their review of the histories of the individuals depicted in the statues and monuments will be conducted “very carefully” to assess if they should be retained in their places or not.
Clark stressed, however, that the removal or alteration of “problematic” statues and monuments must be done in a safe and legal manner, a reference to the violent dismantling of statues that happened across America and in some places in Europe within the past few weeks.
“Dialogue has to be open and honest. Churches and cathedrals are considering how they can address the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and which demonstrations and direct action have brought into such sharp relief,“ Clark noted.
Nathan Stone, in a column for The Federalist, stated that the current trend of anti-Christian violence and iconoclasm exhibited by rioters is rooted in Marxist thought and ideology.
“The reason for the attacks becomes clearer when considering that Black Lives Matter and Antifa are Marxist organizations and [that] Marxism is an enemy of Christianity,” Stone said, noting that atheist ideologies such as Marxism often consider transcendent religions like Christianity as “the enemy.”
“It’s why the Soviet Union was an atheistic state, which replaced God with the Communist Party,” Stone said, referring to the violent religious purges initiated by Communist leaders Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev.
Another reason, Stone said, for the current spate of anti-Christian violence manifesting in America, is the hatred that Marxism holds for the evils that Western Civilization has committed against the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, Marxism’s reaction to the wrongs committed by the Western world is not rooted in the latter’s reform, but rather, its total obliteration.
“Marxism assumes that because the windows are dirty and cracked, the entire house must be demolished,” Stone said, adding that if the current trend of violence against Christianity and other religions is not stopped, the United States may soon bear witness to church burnings like the ones committed during the French Reign of Terror.
Despite calls for calm and temperance, several individuals have adopted a more militant stance in response to what they say is modern-day persecution of Christians.
“If they try to cancel Christianity, if they try to force me to apologize or recant my Faith, I will not bend, I will not waver, I will not break,” Jenna Ellis, a constitutional law attorney and senior legal advisor to the Trump 2020 campaign, said in a tweet, in reference to the torture of Christian martyrs during the days of the Roman Empire.
I’m going on record now:
If they try to cancel Christianity, if they try to force me to apologize or recant my Faith, I will not bend, I will not waver, I will not break.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand.
And I’m proud to be an American.
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) June 22, 2020
Ordained minister and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, believes the current spate of hate and violence toward religious iconography would only serve to strengthen the Christian faith.
According to Huckabee, while rioters and protesters can take down the images and art depicting Jesus, they can never take “the true spirit of Jesus Christ” out of the lives of His followers.
“Historically, under oppression and persecution, the true faith begins to show even more dramatically. It’s because in the midst of darkness, [the] light becomes more obvious,” Huckabee added.