243. Solidarity Ends

Long ago, I had a teacher named Mr. Quiring: a dignified, solemn gentleman, like one of the Old Testament patriarchs without a beard, who taught upper-level high school English classes. His bookish manner belied a wicked sense of humor, which manifested itself in unexpected and unusual ways.

Mr. Quiring once pelted his students with Snickers bars—a rare treat in Ecuador—while bellowing “FEAST!” On another occasion, while explaining the infinitive form of verbs, he climbed onto a chair, leaped into the air and shouted, “To infinitives and beyond!” I will never forget the day he interrupted a discussion of ritual sacrifices in ancient Judaism to brandish a meat cleaver at me.

Besides his memorable jokes, I owe much to Mr. Quiring. He opened my eyes to the world of contemporary literature. Mr. Quiring also encouraged me to write a book for a contest, which won a college scholarship and motivated me to keep writing. Finally, it was Mr. Quiring who invited me to Solidarity and began to break my heart.

Solidarity was a weekly prayer meeting that met on Thursdays to focus on religious persecution. I was staggered to realize persecution isn’t a relic of bygone eras, but an ongoing tragedy. It is, in fact, a greater problem now than it has ever been.

In the years that followed, I started a prayer letter that highlighted persecution cases and offered suggestions on how to pray for the victims. I called the prayer letter Solidarity and sent it nearly every Thursday. Solidarity eventually transitioned from a prayer letter to a blog. A couple of years ago, I realized hardly anyone visited the blog, and so began updating it every two weeks instead of weekly.

For half a decade, Solidarity has existed in some form: a prayer letter, a blog, a fading hope that someone would care.

This week, after all these years, Solidarity ends.

I hate to let it go. The problem of persecution breaks my heart. I wanted to spread awareness and help people through the Solidarity blog, but I can’t keep spending hours every two weeks researching, writing and maintaining a blog no one reads. In past weeks, the blog published two posts, each representing hours of work—and received only one view.

I desperately want to help victims of religious persecution, to stand in solidarity with them, but I can’t invest so much time and effort in a project that makes no difference. Good intentions help no one. If nobody glances at the Solidarity blog, I can hardly justify keeping it.

My efforts seem to have failed, but I’m not bitter or angry. Solidarity was never a personal project, like The Eliot Papers or this blog. It was meant to be a ministry. It was meant to help people. I’m sad to see it end, and sorry it wasn’t very useful.

What next?

Solidarity may no longer exist as a blog, but I’ll use Twitter and Facebook every Thursday to share a single persecution case and request for prayer for its victims. I’ll keep up with news about religious persecution, and I’ll keep praying.

God bless you all!

223. Persecution

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Hebrews 13:3

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church takes place this month, which is my cue to write a Serious Post About Religious Persecution.

I don’t have much to say.

My last post about the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church sums up pretty much all my thoughts on religious persecution, so I strongly recommend reading it here.

I conclude with a song from Michael Card, my favorite songwriter in the world. On days like these, when I have no words, this song says what I can’t.

Whether or not you are a Christian, please remember the persecuted this month. Thank you, and God bless!

134. When I Have No Words

I’m usually a cheerful, silly person, and I generally write cheerful, silly blog posts. To quote Louisa May Alcott, “I can only say that it is a part of my religion to look well after the cheerfulnesses of life, and let the dismals shift for themselves.” There is a time, however, to be serious.

Today’s post is a serious one.

There are times when I have no words. I’m good at using words. (In fact, I probably use too many of them.) There are times, however, when words fail me. I sometimes want to scream and holler and wave my fists, but I never do. (These behaviors are generally frowned upon.) Instead, I sit down and spend a few minutes feeling old and tired.

Yesterday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Do you know what else happened yesterday? Christians in Nigeria mourned the slaughter of their loved ones. Christians in Eritrea languished in pitch-black prison cells. Christians in India struggled to survive as refugees, and at least one Christian in the United States of America spent a few minutes sitting down and feeling old and tired.

After giving it a lot of thought, I realized there are basically three things I want to say about religious persecution.

First, it exists.

Over several years, I’ve read hundreds of reports of persecution against Christians. Hundreds. There were hundreds I didn’t read, and God knows how many incidents were simply never reported.

Some of these cases were complicated. In Nigeria, for example, the attacks carried out by Islamist radicals in past months were not directed toward Christians exclusively, but toward anyone who violated the Islamist ideal of sharia law.

Then there were the simple cases—the tragically simple cases. I remember Nurta Mohamed Farah, a Somali teen who was shot to death simply for choosing to embrace Christianity. There have been so many cases in which Christians were targeted specifically because of their faith.

Religious strife sometimes blurs together with politics and economics, but one fact remains: Christians suffer for following Christ.

The second thing I want to say about religious persecution is that it’s wrong. It is wrong. Innocent people are arrested, abducted, beaten, tortured, raped or murdered, and why? They choose to believe in a loving God. That’s it. They pray and sing and worship and invite others to join them. That’s their crime, and so many suffer for it.

Religious persecution can’t be denied, and it mustn’t be tolerated.

This brings me to the third thing I want to say.

Jesus Christ once said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” If we were persecuted, we would certainly want others to care for us. Since others are persecuted, it’s up to us to care for them.

What can we do?

Keeping informed is a good place to start. (I have a blog, Solidarity, that posts summaries of persecution cases every two weeks.) Spreading awareness helps. Donations to humanitarian organizations like Voice of the Martyrs support victims of persecution. I believe prayer matters most of all.

There are times when I have no words. Today wasn’t one of them. I’ve written quite a number of words today, and I hope they make a difference.

100. An Important Post

Typewriter Monkey Task Force has featured one hundred regular posts! Today, my friends, is a great and solemn day. At least it would have been if my typewriter monkeys hadn’t gotten their paws on some fireworks.

This milestone post gives me the opportunity to revisit a few important posts and to make some announcements.

Beginning today, my monkeys and I are taking a week off from TMTF. Regular posts will resume next Monday, July ninth. I’m taking a break in order to focus on a bigger project, which brings us to the next announcement.

The Trials of Lance Eliot—my debut novel—comes out today!

Six years ago, I began working on the novel that would grow into The Trials of Lance Eliot, the first volume of a trilogy titled The Eliot Papers. The project has been my greatest passion as a writer, so I’m excited finally to be able to share it!

The novel is available for purchase!

A few months ago, I published The Infinity Manuscript, a fantasy in twelve parts, as a serial on this blog. The Infinity Manuscript isn’t nearly as polished as The Trials of Lance Eliot, but it’s available to read for free!

I also wrote a short but significant series of posts titled Help, I’m a Christian! in which I shared some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about relationships, faith and Christian living.

In addition to TMTF and the blog for my novel, I maintain a blog called Solidarity that shares reports of persecution against Christians. Please feel free to check out Solidarity or my explanation of why it matters.

I’d love to feature more guest posts on TMTF! If you’d like to write a post for this blog, check out these guidelines.

I’ve also been privileged to write a few guest posts for other blogs, including Stuff Christians Like, Social Biblia and Thomas Mark Zuniga’s blog. My typewriter monkeys and I are always delighted to write guest posts, so feel free to contact me if you’re ever in search of a guest blogger!

Finally, I need to thank some people for their assistance, encouragement and support.

Thanks to my typewriter monkeys—Sophia, Socrates, Plato, Hera, Penelope, Aristotle, Apollo, Euripides, Icarus, Athena, Phoebe and Aquila—for their work on the blog. I could never have kept up TMTF without you. Thanks, guys. Don’t ever buy fireworks again, okay?

Thanks to my parents for proofreading many of my posts, and special thanks to my old man for providing TMTF’s artwork. You guys are fabulous.

Thanks to the bloggers who have written guest posts for TMTF, and to my younger bro for allowing me to feature his drawings. I’ve been honored to share your work.

Thanks to God, whose love, grace and kindness are rocking awesome.

Finally, thanks to the readers and followers of this blog! Your likes and comments are so much appreciated. There is no greater honor for a writer than having his work read.

We’ll be back!

34. About Solidarity

When I was in high school, I had a teacher named Mr. Quiring. He was a dignified, solemn gentleman, like one of the Old Testament patriarchs without a beard, who taught upper-level English classes. It took me a few months to realize that he had a wicked sense of humor, which he expressed in short, intense bursts. He was the teacher who, during a lesson about the infinitive form of verbs, leapt from a chair and shouted, “To infinitives and beyond!

I owe Mr. Quiring a good deal. He was part of my inspiration to study English Education. He introduced me to much of literature. He encouraged me to participate in a writing competition in which I later earned first place, earning a college scholarship and some prize money. (I only competed because Mr. Quiring offered automatic As to any of his students who participated—I never imagined I would actually win the competition!)

Although I knew him for only two years, Mr. Quiring did more than almost anyone else in the world to guide and inspire me.

There was one other way in which Mr. Quiring influenced me. He led a prayer ministry called Solidarity every Thursday that prayed for the persecuted Church: Christians who are mistreated because of their faith in Christ.

When I first heard about Solidarity, I was pretty skeptical. Sure, Christians were tossed to lions and murdered by gladiators nineteen centuries ago, but they’re not persecuted in our modern, civilized age.

Are they?

I began attending Solidarity. Every week, Mr. Quiring would distribute copies of news reports, and we would read—in shocked, saddened silence we would read.

Christians are persecuted.

Christians are mocked, marginalized, robbed, raped, tortured, arrested, imprisoned and killed, simply because they’ve chosen to follow Jesus.

It seemed vague and uninteresting to me at first. True, people are being persecuted halfway across the world. How does that have to do with me?

It took time, but I gradually realized three things.

First, persecuted Christians are real people. They may seem unreal, like characters in novels or extras in movies, but persecuted Christians are living human beings with hopes, fears, plans, dreams and quirks.

Second, the problem of persecution isn’t going to go away if we ignore it. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’m really good at pretending problems don’t exist. They do exist, and something needs to be done about them.

Third, and hardest to accept, Christians are supposed to help each other. Christians in America are supposed to help Christians in the rest of the world. We’re not somehow exempt from this responsibility. We might not be able to go personally to visit imprisoned pastors in China or grieving widows in Somalia, but we can sometimes give money—and we can always pray. Even if we don’t have two pennies to rub together, we can pray for those who are persecuted.

We shouldn’t pray for persecuted Christians to make ourselves feel more righteous or less guilty. We should pray for persecuted Christians because they need our prayers. To be more precise, they need God’s answers to our prayers.

I have another blog, titled Solidarity in memory of Mr. Quiring’s prayer ministry, that posts brief summaries of persecution cases every two weeks, along with links to the news sources and suggestions on how to pray for the victims. Solidarity is meant to be an easy, practical way to stay informed and to pray.

If you’re a follower of Christ, please consider checking out the Solidarity blog and praying for the victims whose cases it reports every two weeks.

God bless you!