Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Starbucks, among the most liberal left companies in the country, a company that spares no occasion to virtue-signal to the PC gods, is now in the midst of a national controversy.

Starbucks, so goes the charge, is “racist.”

Of all the thousands of Starbucks stores around the country, a racially-oriented incident at a single location, in South Philadelphia, has sufficed to give the entire corporation a black eye (no pun intended).

According to reports, a white female manager informed two black men within the store that unless they planned on making a purchase, they would have to leave.  They refused to do both. Consequently, the manager called the police who, in turn, made the men leave.

Had these black men been white, so goes the conventional wisdom, there would have been no issue.

Not unlike everyone else who is weighing in on this incident, I’m not privy to all of the facts of this situation.  That being said, not only do I have no reservations about drawing a conclusion.  I draw it with the utmost confidence.

And the conclusion is this:

This story is but more grist for the mill that is the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC)

Like the cases of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Freddie Mack, and legions of other high-profile racially-charged media concoctions, once the dust settles and the media moves on to its next news cycle, this latest Starbucks brouhaha will be seen for what it is: grease for the vast machinery of the Racism-Industrial-Complex.

None of this is meant to be a defense of Starbucks.  The latter’s PC posturing can’t fail to engender some measure of Schadenfreude in those of us who reject the prevailing leftist orthodoxy.  Still, the truth is that the idea that Starbucks employees in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—a large, historic, largely black city—deliberately targeted two innocent, unassuming black business men just because they are black stretches credibility to the snapping point.

In other words, no way, no how did events unfold as the RIC agents among activists and within the media would have us think.

 

The comic book industry sure has changed since I was a kid.

Today’s comics, which price from anywhere between $4.00 and $15.00 and which can only be purchased in book stores and from collectors, are more often than not referred to as “graphic novels,” a term wasn’t even on the horizon the 30-plus years ago when I regularly bought comics for 50 or 60 cents a copy at local convenience shops.

Yet there is a more dramatic—and distressing—change that the industry has undergone: DC and Marvel have become politicized.

More specifically, left-wing, Politically Correct writers have infused comic books with their ideology:

Ta-Nehisi Coates announced in February that he would be taking over duties on Marvel Comics’ Captain America title as part of Marvel’s Fresh Start Initiative that promised “new fresh ideas, new creators.”

At the time of the announcement I believed it was a terrible decision to put Coates on Captain America. Not only does Coates have a track record on Black Panther of declining sales, but he is a very volatile and divisive political commentator. Rich Lowry in Politico described Coates’ worldview as reducing “people to categories and actors in pantomine of racial plunder…He must erase distinctions and reject complexity.” Not only would Coates be decried in Politico, but he made his own views perfectly clear when he wrote, “White America is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies.” He would also demonize 9/11 first responders including firefighters and policemen. He describes them, “They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could – with no justification – shatter my body.”

…But just a few weeks later at SXSW, Coates would compare Captain America to Barack Obama, “He’s like Barack Obama. I want to clarify that. I don’t mean that as praise or criticism. He’s somebody who believes in the ideal of America, really, really believes in it.”

That sounds like a hyper-politicized Captain America tale with Coates’ own political beliefs being hammered onto Captain America. And now new leaked photos from Coates’ upcoming Captain America Free Comic Book Day story have leaked. These new photos show Coates introducing an Antifa-like organization to the Marvel Universe that stands opposed to a pro-Hydra alt-right type group.

This is bad.  Self-avowed “conservatives” can vote in as many politicians as they please.  But if the relentless leftward drift of the country is ever to be arrested, it is the culture, particularly the popular culture, on which they must set their sights.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, Michelle Obama’s “hashtag” campaign from four years back failed abysmally to prevail upon the violent jihadist group Boko Haram to return the hundreds of Nigerian school girls who it abducted.

And while the American media gave audiences the impression that this attack by militant Muslims against young Christian girls was a one-off, the truth is that Boko Haram has been conducting a reign of terror upon Nigeria’s Christian inhabitants for years.  When men are included, the total number of victims of Boko Haram is estimated to be at 20,000.

Some, like 17 year-old Esther, have managed to return home.

On a day that started like any other in October of 2015, Esther’s life would forever change. Esther’s mother had already passed away.  She lived with her sick father, for whom she cared when she wasn’t in school.  But the day that Boko Haram besieged her town would be the last day that she would ever see him alive.

Esther and her father heard the first gunshots. They tried to escape, but the terrorists already had their home surrounded.  Open Doors shares what happened next:

“The rebel militants struck down her [Esther’s] father and left him in a heap on the ground.  Esther became a Boko Haram captive.  As rebel fighters carried off her and several other young women in their town to their hideout in the Sambisa Forest (where Boko Haram drove thousands of those they kidnapped), she continued to look back, her eyes fixed on her father.”

To this day, two-and-a-half years later, Esther still doesn’t know for sure whether her father is alive or dead. Yet she suspects the latter.

For the next year, Esther endured a nightmare that few people can imagine.  Deep in the Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram corralled their female victims, to whom they initially promised privileges in exchange for renunciation of the girls’ Christian faith.  When this tactic didn’t work, the terrorist thugs resorted to brute violence.

Esther says that several of the girls could no longer resist.  However, she continued to do so.  Esther tells Open Doors that she told herself: “If I perish, I perish. But I will not become a Muslim.

Though Esther is to be commended for her courage and faith, she paid a price for her resistance.  Through tears, she recalls:

“I cannot recall how many men raped me.”

Esther states that every time the men returned from an attack, they would take turns raping their captors.  She adds that they would “defile us [.]”

Regaining her composure, Esther continues, relaying how with each “passing day, I hated myself more and more.”  She “felt that God had forsaken me,” and “was so angry with Him [.]” Nevertheless, “I could not get myself to renounce Him” and “found myself remembering His promise to never leave or forsake me.”

During her year at the mercies of her tormentors, Esther conceived a child.  Given that she was raped by countless men, she remains oblivious to the identity of her child’s father.  Esther recalls her immediate thought upon learning that she was pregnant: “I had no idea how on Earth I would ever be able to love this child.”

In November of 2016, the Nigerian military liberated Esther and her fellow prisoners. Yet upon returning to their communities, where they had hoped to have found support, the girls encountered cruelty of another kind.

The residents of their villages ostracized and shamed them.

Esther and the other victims were ridiculed by their own people as “Boko Haram women.”

Salamatu Umar was only 15 when she was captured by Boko Haram in 2015.  She was forced into marriage with one of her captors.  Pregnant, she escaped while out collecting firewood for cooking.  But when she returned home, her ordeal endured.  As she told NPR: “People call me ‘Boko Haram wife’ to my face.  They say I am the wife of a killer—so how can I be afraid of Boko Haram?  They say my son is a Boko Haram baby.”

In 2016, UNICEF released a report on this phenomenon:

“Women and girls who have been subjected to sexual violence have been returning to their communities…Some are returning with their children who were born as a result of sexual violence.   As they return, many face marginalization, discrimination and rejection by family and community members due to social and cultural norms to sexual violence.”

Supposedly, there is fear that the girls had been indoctrinated and radicalized by their Islamic captors, as well as fear that the offspring of these rapists will grow up to become like their fathers.

According to Esther, her fellow villagers “mocked me because I was pregnant.”  And it wasn’t just the members of her community, but her own family who ridiculed and alienated her. “Even my grandparents despised me and called me names.”

Sobbing, she tells Open Doors: “I felt so lonely.”

Yet Esther was further pained by the way in which her daughter Rebecca was treated.  “What broke my heart even more was that they refused to call my daughter Rebecca.  They referred to her only as ‘Boko.’”

Esther eventually attended an Open Doors trauma care seminar. The caregiver had Esther and the other attendees who had been victimized by Boko Haram write their burdens on a piece of paper that they were then instructed to pin to a hand-carved wooden cross. “When I pinned that piece of paper to the cross, it felt like I was handing over all of my sorrow to God,” Esther recalls. “When the trainer later removed all the pieces of paper from the cross and burnt them to ashes, I felt like my sorrow and shame disappeared, never to come back again.”

Esther continues to seek trauma counseling.  Today she and her daughter live with her grandparents and life has become more tolerable. She claims to have forgiven her enemies and expresses confidence that God will exact vengeance against her tormentors on His own terms.

Neither Michelle Obama nor anyone else associated with the so-called #MeToo movement in the West has uttered a syllable regarding the countless Esthers of the world, young women who have endured, not sexual harassment, but sexual brutality and its aftermath the likes of which are unimaginable to those of us who have the luxury and privilege of living in the United States of 2018.

Esther won’t be asked to speak at the Oscars or the Emmys.  Nor will she be invited to speak at an American or Western university.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.

Esther is a black African Christian and her persecutors are black African Muslims.

From the vantage of Western leftists, there’s nothing to see here.

 

 

During this Lenten season when Christians are preparing themselves for Easter Sunday, those of us who are living in relative peace and affluence should remember and pray for those brothers and sisters in the faith whose circumstances are not as friendly.

To put it more accurately, Christians the world over should be mindful that at this time in our history there remain legions of Christ’s disciples who are made to endure persecution for their faith the likes of which rival that suffered by the earliest Christians.

While most of the worst environments for Christians are Islamic lands, there are non-Islamic bastions of intense Christian persecution that receive little to no coverage by the world’s media.  One particularly notable example is that of India.

Of a population of 1.3 billion people, there are 64 million Christians who reside in India.  Open Doors, an organization “dedicated to serving persecuted Christians worldwide,” relays the story of “Reena,” a 19 year-old girl who experienced this anti-Christian persecution directly.

“When I was a young child,” she says, “Hindu children did not want to play with me.”  Eventually, “my parents were banned from using the local water supply. They had to walk many kilometers to draw water from the river.”

Things got even worse for this young woman.

When Reena went to work as a school teacher, she was initially promised a salary of 1,500 rupees ($23.13) a month.  Her employers wound up welching: They paid her only 500 rupees ($7.71) for the first two months.  Within six months, they stopped paying her entirely.  So Reena sought work elsewhere.

Her new headmaster invited Reena to a teachers’ meeting.  There he offered her and her colleagues an assortment of Indian pastries.

And it was at this time that Reena was drugged and kidnapped.

Reena doesn’t want to discuss the events that unfolded over the ten days of her captivity.  She claims to have no recollection, but those in the know at Open Doors insist that it is more “likely…that what happened to her was so terrible [that] she doesn’t want to share” her experiences.  After all, literally “millions of girls in India”—many of them Christians and other religious minorities—“are kidnapped and trafficked each year.”

Reena called her parents at one point and informed them that she was being retained in “a terrible place.”  She also admits that when she first awoke, she was in a train car with many other teenage girls who followed her as she made her escape.

Yet Reena expresses suspicions that at least some of the girls were involved in her abduction.

Reena had been taken 14 hours away from her village.

Although she experienced depression and hopelessness for a time following her return to her home, upon attending an inspiring church service, Reena renewed her Christian faith.  While her brother informs us that the headmaster in whose company Reena was drugged desires vengeance for the troubles that he now apparently endures, Reena sounds hopeful:

“My future is very bright.  I will share the gospel with non-believers. I don’t expect more problems.”

But there are many problems for India’s Christians.

Over the last three years, the anti-Christian persecution in India has continued to increase.  Open Doors’ World Watch List ranked India as the planet’s 25th worst persecutor of Christians in 2015.  Yet in 2017 it was found to be the 15th biggest persecutor and, this year, it climbed to 11th place.

An Open Doors spokesperson informs us that before Christians face overt physical violence—in 2016, 15 Christians were murdered in India and many more beaten and threatened—“there [is] often…a long process of ‘re-converting’ them to Hinduism, during which they faced discrimination, social exclusion and other types of pressure.”

A chief cause of the oppression, according to Open Doors, is the resurrection of Hindu nationalism.  The Hindu nationalist holds that only Hinduism should be observed in India.  Some political leaders have even gone so far as to call for the expulsion from India of all Christians and Muslims by 2021.

In any event, although “everyone” is aware that “the churches are being attacked and demolished on almost an everyday basis in India,” as an Open Doors representative puts it, the Prime Minister of the country denies that any such persecution is occurring.

He should speak to people like Chandan Devi.

Chandan and her husband, Aadarsh, an Indian man who converted to Christianity and became a pastor who led a couple of dozen animists to Christ, have four children.  The oldest, a daughter, is married, while the other three were away at boarding school when the unthinkable occurred.

Chandan and Aadarsh were home alone when they were attacked by thirty men, Maoist (communist) Naxalites all of them.  As they grabbed him and proceeded to drag him outside, they were promising to murder Aadarsh.  Chandan clung to her husband, begging the thugs to kill her along with her husband.  Instead, though, they delivered to her a hard blow to the shoulder, dropping her to the ground.

The last thing Chandan recalls having heard is the loud sound of the door slamming shut as her husband was led off into the jungle to be killed.

Shortly afterwards, Aadarsh’s corpse was found.

None of the Christians who Aadarsh had converted attended his funeral for fear of losing their lives, and Chandan, fearing future attacks, fled her home and village with nothing but “the clothes on her back,” as Open Doors reports.

As if it wasn’t terrible enough that the Naxalites murdered Aadarsh. They subsequently threatened his brother Ajay.  In fact, prior to Aadarsh’s murder, the Naxalites abducted Ajay’s son.

Of course, none of this should come as any surprise when it is considered that over the last decade, this same treacherous group, “with the help of local authorities,” has “attacked, beaten, kidnapped, raped and killed thousands of Christians in India” (italics added).

It’s worth noting that when Chandan was asked by Open Doors whether the trauma to which she and her loved ones have been subjected has provoked her to reconsider her faith and denounce Christ, she promptly responded:

“I’d rather die.”

Hindu-on-Christian persecution—not something that we hear, or are likely to hear, talked about by the Western media that has labored tirelessly to depict Christians as the planet’s only purveyors of oppression.