It’s a story that hasn’t gotten much press. Bibles translated into Afghan languages were sent to a U.S. soldier at a base in Afghanistan. The Bibles were later confiscated by chaplains and destroyed to make sure that American troops did not violate government rules which bar soldiers from sharing their faith with Afghans. So it’s OK to blow up stuff and shoot and kill Afghans, but it’s illegal to share the gospel with them. We have traded bullets for the “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15). I wrote America’s 200-Year-Old War with Islamic Terrorism (click here for free copy) to show that America has been compromising its Christian heritage for more than two centuries and not getting anything but derision and domination in return. Europe abandoned its Christian heritage long ago, adopted secularism as a state religion, and will be Islamic in less than 50 years if demographic reports are accurate. Playing the neutrality game has its just rewards.
When I was very young, I remember reading a New Testament that my father carried with him when he served in the Pacific during World War II. Every soldier had been given a pocket Testament. Soldiers during World War I were presented with New Testaments that had Micah 6:8 inserted in them: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” What our government understood in the early part of the 20th century, it now rejects. Many secularists on the Right believe they will be able to change societies by force of arms rather than the heart-changing effect of the gospel. Secularists on the Left believe they will do it with Reason and Science. Good luck to both extremes.
Japan was a changed nation after its surrender, mostly because of the influence of the Christian West. Douglas MacArthur writes that after the war “Japan underwent a spiritual recovery along with its economic and political changes. For centuries the Japanese people . . . have been students and idolaters of the art of war and the warrior caste.” This mythology “permeated and controlled not only all the branches of government, but all branches of life—physical, mental and spiritual. It was interwoven not only into all government process, but into all phases of daily routine. It was not only the essence, but the warp and woof of Japanese existence.” Japan copied much that was good in American culture, and to a certain extent, American religious values were imposed on the Japanese people. MacArthur told “Christian ministers of the need for their work in Japan. ‘The more missionaries we can bring out here, and the more occupation troops we can send home, the better.’ The Pocket Testament League, at my request, distributed 10,000,000 Bibles translated into Japanese. Gradually, a spiritual regeneration in Japan began to grow.”
One supporter of the Afghan Bible ban wrote the following to me after reading a short article I had written making people aware of the story:
You must be out of your mind! Any and one conversion effort by the soldiers would be considered an affront and negate much of the good work being done over there. They would be considered “crusaders” and another proof of this and play right into Al-Qaeda hands. Obviously you do not appreciate the sensitivity of the situation and the necessity of walking the line of neutrality. The best “sermon” is to do a good job, help with the reconstruction, and police the country.
It’s not just soldiers who are denied the right to present the gospel in Muslim nations. Just being a Christian in a Muslim nation of which you are a citizen can get you thrown in jail or worse. Foreign aid workers who have no link to our military are under constant threat if it is perceived that they might present the gospel. Christian minorities are persecuted on a regular basis. Some have had their apartments searched for Bibles and other Christian literature. Converting to Christianity can get a Muslim convert the death penalty. Take a look at the video Muslim Persecution of Christians produced by the Terrorism Awareness Project. It reports in graphic terms on current instances of anti-Christian violence that is said to be justified based on Islamic theology. These persecuted Christians were minding their own business. It didn’t matter. They weren’t Islamic.
We’ve seen this type of persecution before. Peter and John were arrested “because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 4:2). They were on trial “for a benefit done to a sick man” who had been made well (v. 9). Even after seeing the healed man in their midst, the religious leaders “threatened them further” (v. 21). Even good works did not persuade these religious leaders to embrace the gospel.
Later the apostles were arrested and put “in a public jail” (5:18) and given orders to stop “teaching in this name” (5:28). Peter then utters the classic response: “We must obey God rather than men” (5:29). A flogging couldn’t get them to stop proclaiming the gospel message (5:40). And neither could executions, first Stephen (Acts 7:54–6) and then James the brother of John (12:2). It didn’t take long before the gospel became a threat to the political establishment of the day. Throughout the period of Jewish persecution, the gospel was never compromised. Even with the rise of Roman civil prosecution, the outward witness of the church continued. The word “neutrality was not in their vocabulary, no matter what the bloody consequences.
The attempt to appease and mollify Muslims by America muting its religious heritage has a long history. In 1797 a treaty was made with the Islamic leadership of Tripoli that stated that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” Of course, this was false given the official documents, charters, state constitutions, and calls for national days of prayer and thanksgiving. But to appease the Barbary pirates and their Muslim protectors, the statement was put in the treaty. Did it work? No! Did the Muslim pirates stop kidnapping Christians from ships that sailed near the coast of northern Africa because of the treaty? No! They saw the accommodation as a sign of weakness and a lack of will. If Americans were willing to give up the sacredness of their religion for the promise of peace, then they would be willing to give up everything. The pirates did not stop their pirating ways.
It did not take long for American government officials to see that religious and other concessions did little good to stop the piracy and kidnapping. America had been paying ransom since 1785 for survivors of captured ships who had been sold into slavery. This stopped in 1801 when the Pasha of Tripoli broke the treaty because President Thomas Jefferson refused to pay the Pasha’s demands for increased payments. The Treaty was renegotiated in 1805 after the First Barbary War. There would be no more compromises regarding the Christian religion with the Barbary extortionists. The statement that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion” was removed from the 1805 Treaty. With a navy to back up the treaty, the piracy stopped for a time and was finally stamped out in 1815 with the Second Barbary War.
For years secularists have tried to use the 1797 Treaty with Tripoli as evidence that the founding of America had nothing to do with the Christian religion. A more thorough study of the Treaty and the history behind it tells a different story. One big lesson of that history is that the United States government hasn’t learned much since 1797 in dealing with radical Islam. Destroying “the sword of the spirit” (Eph. 6:17) which is able to pierce “as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12) will only lead to ongoing wars with bullets, missiles, tanks, and worse. To learn the true story behind this controversial subject, download a free copy of my book America’s 200-Year War with Terror: The Strange Case of the Treaty of Tripoli.
Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964), 310.
Article posted May 19, 2009