This week's Time Magazine cover is a photo portrait of Aisha, whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband as the Taliban stood over her. I'd post the photo here but I don't have time to get permission. The link will take you to it.
I will be subscribing to Time because of this photo, and the accompanying article.
Before Sept 11 2001, the terrible treatment of women in countries such as Afghanistan was a primary focus of activists and liberal media. Before 1996, Afghan women had made much social progress, but when the Taliban took over in 1997, they shoved all women behind the veil and into abject slavery again. This included educated women: doctors, lawyers, politicians were all suddenly at risk of brutal death without trial if they left their homes without huddling behind a male relative. Girls were killed for attending school, women died in childbirth because only men were allowed to be doctors - and women weren't allowed to be seen by any man, not even a physician. The brutalization Aisha suffered is commonplace, and thousands have experienced far worse.
When the United States went into Afghanistan after September 11th 2001, at some point our Congress capitulated and passed laws that prohibited our military from practicing Christianity in Afghanistan and other totalitarian countries. The South Korean Christians bravely continued to evangelize among the Afghan people until they were finally forced permanently out of the country.
Today in Afghanistan, despite the long presence of our troops and those of other nations, there's only one religion allowed, and it is not tolerant, and it is not Christian. Christians are at extreme risk, cannot celebrate Holy Days, cannot display the Cross - they must hide as they did during the persecution of the early centuries. Mercy and compassion are outlawed. There is no hope for the women of Afghanistan in such a place.
How far we have come as a nation since the Great War, when these letters were printed as the frontspiece of Bibles given to soldiers and sailors:
Col. [Theodore] Roosevelt's Message to the Troops through the New York Bible Society:
"The teachings of the New Testament are foreshadowed in Micah's verse (Micah 6:8): 'What more does the Lord require of thee than to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.'
"Do Justice: and therefore fight valiantly against the armies of Germany and Turkey, for these nations in this crisis stand for the reign of Moloch and Beelzebub on this earth.
"Love Mercy: treat prisoners well, succor the wounded, treat every woman as if she was your sister, care for the little children, and be tender to the old and the helpless.
"Walk Humbly: you will do so as you study the life and teachings of the Saviour.
"May the God of justice and mercy have you in His keeping."
Theodore Roosevelt, June 5, 1917
and in the same bible, General [George] Pershing's Message through the New York Bible Society:
"To the American Soldier aroused against a nation raging war in violation of all Christian principles, our people are fighting in the cause of liberty. Hardships will be your lot, but trust in God will give you comfort. Temptation will befall you, but the teachings of our Savior will give you strength. Let your valor as a soldier and your conduct as a man be an inspiration to your comrades and an honor to your country."
Pershing, August 10, 1917
History may prove that the greatest foreign policy mistakes the US has ever made were in violating our founding principles by denying freedom of Christian practice and worship to members of our military during these 21st century wars.
It would be far more legitimate to follow the tenets of our faith, including the commandment to seek and save the lost. Since the Great Commission is out of fashion with Western policy makers, and in fact is a despised point of view to them, why would they be expected to comprehend rationally any other consideration of Christianity?
It may not be possible for one to comprehend Christian faith without the presence and assistance of the Holy Spirit.
It is certainly folly for governments to attempt to predict and account for the actions of God in the world. But it is hubris for governments to deny the stark differences in progress that follow different faiths. The truth exists, and cannot be denied forever.
Critics who selectively pick and choose items from among what they personally perceive as fruit or practices are even then failing - or is it refusing? - to engage the reality on its own legitimate terms.
Peter Hitchens, as profoundly Christian as his brother is Athiest, said it well in the UK's Daily Mail (here):
"Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law.
"The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of powerworship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power."
And there, in a nutshell, it is. Some wealthy denominations that still call themselves Christian despite having long ago ceased to believe or teach Jesus have also allied themselves with these secular enterprises to quash the faith that they cannot control.
Other world religions do not threaten these utopians, as they have no interest in restraining the power of the elite. It is only in Christianity and Judaism that class barriers are permanently removed.
Mr Stengel need not support these things I have said, and he has given a full account of why Time made the choice to present a certain Truth on its cover this week. Next week, they may revert to the hackneyed relativity that has taken over most of our previously admirable media.
But for now, this choice to come back, even momentarily, to reality is noteworthy, and praiseworthy.
God Bless Mr Stengel and the people at Time Magazine for pulling back the veil.