Who Has a Hold on Hope?
Atheists chalked up another win in August when the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) forced the Royster Middle School in Chanute, Kansas, to remove a print of Warner Sallman’s famous 1941 painting, Head of Christ. The FFRF claimed the painting, which had hung on a wall by the school entrance for more than half a century, endorsed the establishment of Christianity as an oﬃcial state religion.
The school superintendent had the painting removed promptly because the atheists threatened the school district with protracted litigation that would have crippled its limited resources, materially aﬀecting the school’s ability to provide adequate educational services to the community.
The portrait was brought to the FFRF’s attention by a lone disgruntled individual who took a picture of it and forwarded it to the foundation. The fact that almost everyone in the town of 9,200 people and 30 churches approved of the print was inconsequential.
The portrait was hung at the middle school in 1956 in memory of a student, Duane Eastburn, a 14-year-old ninth grader who collapsed in the gymnasium and died there that year. Funds for the portrait reportedly came from the Student Council’s small budget, and a small brass plaque on the frame notes that it was placed as a memorial to Duane Eastburn.
A Hopeless Credo
The Chanute, Kansas, incident raises a question that demands an answer, one that could be posed to every God-denying militant in the Western world. If the FFRF were required to place a plaque honoring young Duane, what would it say?
Perhaps it would bear the words of the late Anne Nicol Gaylor: “There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.”
Ms. Gaylor was the principle founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and her public life reﬂected her two passions: atheism and abortion. Among her celebrated lawsuits was Gaylor v. Reagan, contesting then-President Ronald Reagan’s declaration of 1983 as “The Year of the Bible.”
So what does the FFRF actually oﬀer humanity? To Duane Eastburn and the billions of others who have passed into eternity, the organization and its atheistic fellow travelers would only have been able to say, “We have no hope.” Instead of Warner Sallman’s depiction of Jesus, which celebrates hope, they could only hang the morbidly hopeless, atheistic message that the here-and-now is all there is.
One wonders why, in a society tolerant of virtually every stripe of deviant behavior and bizarre conduct imaginable, would some people campaign to destroy faith? Faith poses no threat to them. In fact, true believers promote peace, tolerance, and social stability—qualities that built America and the West into the greatest societies the world has ever known.
To take pleasure and a type of perverse satisfaction in forcing the removal of a memorial to a 14-year-old boy seems incomprehensible. Such actions merely conﬁrm the grave ramiﬁcations of the contest for the hearts and minds of human beings.
This is the peak season for atheists and their ilk to gird for battle. Now is when these self-appointed warriors against God wield their swords wildly, trying to annihilate all evidence of Christian reverence and celebration.
One of their primary centers of activity is the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, where the FFRF maintains a sign declaring the commemoration of Christ’s birth a contemptible delusion. The full text of the plaque reads,
At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
While the FFRF trumpets denial, some of its compatriots turn to mockery. Also posted at the Wisconsin State Capitol is a large poster sponsored by the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bearing an image of tangled spaghetti, the copy reads as follows: “BEHOLD THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER. HE BOILED FOR YOUR SINS! BE TOUCHED BY HIS NOODLY APPENDAGE BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!”
The eruptions of anti-God, anti-Christian vitriol that we will witness across America over the coming weeks embody more than a faux intellectual argument over the separation of church and state. They represent an all-encompassing, impassioned aggression aimed not only at the exercise of religion in the public arena, but at every church, Christian organization, and professing Christian believer as well. Above all, they are attacks on Jesus Christ and all He embodies.
In reality, the atheists, humanists, and agnostics have little chance of universal success. Despite the fact that many of our “progressive,” liberal academic institutions and social revisionists are aquiver with the current fad of godlessness, several factors forecast their downfall:
(1) They are decisively outnumbered. For example, the Freedom From Religion Foundation boasts a membership of “more than 22,500.” According to a 2014 Pew Research poll, 70.6 percent of Americans still say they believe in Jesus Christ. That means seven out of every 10 people in the United States (population 321.6 million) in some way identify with Christianity.
(2) They bring a message of despair. They try to convince people that the atheistic life holds hope, promise, and expectation when it really encapsulates the complaint of the ancient heathen: “We go down in death, but we make no return in the morning.”
Death without a blessed destiny is not a message of hope but, rather, a grim reminder of a line from William Henley’s poem Invictus: “Beyond this place of wrath and tears/Looms but the Horror of the shade.”
(3) They are no match for the Lord of lords and the eternal beneﬁts He will surely deliver. When the swaddled Christ Child was placed in a loving Jewish mother’s arms more than 2,000 years ago, the world was given a new beginning—one that fulﬁlled every jot and tittle of what the prophets of old promised.
He was a Child of promise unlike any other. He was destined to be a King—one of quite a diﬀerent kind. Someday He will return to assume His earthly throne in a literal Millennial Kingdom. Until then, He reigns in the hearts and lives of innumerable believers the world over.
Because Jesus came to Earth and endured the cross, He fulﬁ lled every hope-sustaining promise enumerated in God’s Word to those who believe. And, amazingly, the spiritual treasures He imparts are not restricted to the rich, powerful, and privileged—which is man’s way of doing things—but to individuals like you and me.
He promised peace; we have it.
He promised comfort; we have it.
He promised a law of love to live by; we have it.
He promised security; we have it.
He promised His presence, never to leave us; we have it. He promised eternal life; we have it.
He promised a home in heaven; we have it.
Are these things real? Ask the countless millions of believers who have received them in their own lives over the millennia. Inquire of those still streaming to Him and ﬁnding new life. They’ll tell you in one burst of aﬃrmation. What Christ oﬀers is real for now and forever. His is a story that never grows old.
I was in Jerusalem on Christmas Eve many years ago. I rose extremely early because it was my departure day, and I wanted to be home in time to celebrate Christmas with my family. As I looked out my hotel window, day was breaking over the city. Nothing seemed to be stirring.
To my right, strung from the tower of the YMCA building, was a string of Christmas lights. Far off in the dawning winter sky hung a single bright star. As I stood there, mesmerized by the sight, it was as though time had receded to the morning when God became man, a few miles down the road. And I was thankful.
Within hours, I’d be home, surrounded by a happy family, all living to the full the “joy to the world” of Christmas. And it was all real because Jesus made it real. We love Him, and we love one another with something far beyond the emotion of the moment.
To all the atheists, humanists, and agnostics: We pray for you with genuine compassion for what you are missing now and what you will never know without faith in Jesus Christ after you pass from this life.
Scripture says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Jn. 6:37). Christ has never rejected anyone who has come to Him, and I can guarantee He won’t start with you.