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SoVaNow.com / July 10, 2014
(Editor’s note: The News & Record is reprinting this letter by George Hayes, which he originally submitted with the title “The Cross,” because the headline was changed to “Visit Us and Verify.” The N&R apologizes to our readers and to Mr. Hayes for this error and for other typographical errors as well.)
This letter is in response to the June 19th letter by Mr. Ron Miller in the News & Record, entitled “Not Much of a War.” Since then, Mr. Miller has walked back this letter “a little” in his June 26th clarification. I would be interested to know from whom he learned that the real reason for the little crosses “popping up” all over South Boston and Halifax County is about a protest against a “mythical war on Christianity.” Also, he claimed a local “benefactor” had been passing them out. To me, his implication was that this “benefactor” is a shady right-wing conspirator, stirring up a phony controversy. Actually Mr. Miller, these “benefactors” are First Presbyterian Church, First Baptist Church, Saint Paschal Catholic Church and several other churches. The Mission team at my church, First Baptist, took on this project and started passing out crosses in early April prior to Easter. In our church bulletin we have a paragraph: “The Cross.” You are encouraged to take a cross and display it in your yard to tell the world that you are a believer. We would be happy for Mr. Miller to visit First Baptist, to worship with us and to verify this statement.
Mr. Miller’s second paragraph, which sites his research, quotes the number of churches, mega churches and Christian TV programs through out the United States. He goes on to cite the percentages of Christians in the federal government at 85% and even concludes that the percentage of Christians in Halifax County “is just shy of 100%.” Where did he get that figure? This seems to distort the reality and suggest that U.S. Christian churches are flourishing and nearly every one is a Christian, which is simply not true.
Many churches are facing declining attendance and are missing young families and youth. They are struggling with finances and maintaining programs. In a 2013 survey by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, it was found that 32% of all U.S. adults under the age of 30 have no religious affiliation at all and that 29% of all U.S. adults seldom or never attend church. In 1972 Protestants made up 62% of our population, in 2013 it was only 48%. The decline of the church closely parallels the demise of the American family.
Mr. Miller declares that there are Christian leaders “who exhort their congregations to shun, ostracize and even persecute those whom their faith finds unacceptable. Businesses are urged to deny these people services, products and jobs.” Who are these Christian leaders? Please name them. I have never heard this or any politics from any pulpit. Mr. Miller is painting with a very broad brush here and seems to have an anti-Christian agenda while claiming to be the champion of tolerance. The Bible says to despise the sin, but love the sinner and we are all sinners.
When Mr. Miller claims that Hitler “was expressing his Christian views” when he killed the Jews, that just goes too far. This is beyond distortion and it unfairly relates Christians to an evil deranged madman. Besides, God has decided if Hitler was a Christian, not Mr. Miller!
Through out the world, there are an estimated 100,000 Christians killed each year because of their faith. Our believers are driven from their homes, their property stolen, their churches burned, women and girls kidnapped and raped and their leaders abducted and murdered. An estimated 200 million Christians live under real persecution. This is indeed a war on Christianity and the vast majority of the violence is attributed to Islamic extremists in the Middle East and Africa. Our government has done little to nothing to curb or discourage this violence.
In his final paragraph, Mr. Miller writes: “No one is attacking Christianity ... only those who use Christianity as a convenient shield behind which to hide while they spew bigotry, hatred and ignorance and who have no tolerance for other beliefs.” Sure, please reread your letter. While I am sure there are some bad actors in every religion, even among atheists, I am disappointed that Mr. Miller has chosen to unfairly criticize Christians and associate them with these acts. First Baptist emphasizes God’s love and forgiveness. Several churches partner with First Baptist in the “Good Samaritan” to give out clothing and food, furniture is now collected for victims of house fires. In early June, three of our local churches traveled with First Baptist on a mission trip to Southwestern Virginia to replace a needy family’s roof, do work for a church and remodel a homeless shelter. The First Presbyterian congregation has built a beautiful playhouse that they plan to donate to a community in New York/New Jersey when they go on their mission trip to help Hurricane Sandy victims later this summer. God’s Pit Crew from Danville displays God’s love when they respond to disasters. There are so many other examples that I don’t know about. Mr. Miller, I just don’t see all this bigotry, ignorance and intolerance that you claim to see.
As a Christian I found your article to be offensive and distorted, but you have the right to say whatever you like. We have the right to have a cross at our business and at the entrance to our driveway. May God continue to bless America.