- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A collection of recent editorials from Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, Aug. 15 - Dispatches from the Associated Press say crosses are being cut down by the thousands. Thugs with orders from The Top rush in, climb to the tops of churches, and take down the offending Symbol. All the church folk can do is cry, pray and sometimes sing hymns. And if they’re lucky the thugs will go away when they’re done with business.

ISIS in Iraq? Nope.

ISIS in Syria? Nope.

The Taliban in Afghanistan? Not this time.

This time the AP is reporting from mainland China - a place in which Christianity is growing by the year, so much so that some think Red China has the world’s fastest-growing Christian population. According to christiantoday.com, there might be upwards of 100 million Christians in China, with up to 10,000 people joining the faith every day.

And the government has ordered crosses cut down from churches.

Reports say police in the Zhejiang province in eastern China—just across the water from Taiwan and the free Chinese—have begun the most severe crackdown on churches in decades. Crosses are now considered “illegal structures.” And those who follow these things say the campaign has been directed from The Top, that is, Red China’s president and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

Even the semi-official Christian outfits connected to the government have come out against the campaign. They warn of the backlash that could happen if Christians get upset enough to turn against the bullies in Beijing.

Still, the cutting torches come out. And the crosses come down.

Why, do you think?

One expert on China and religion at Purdue University, Yang Fenggang, says the crackdown might be a campaign to assert state power over those subversive Christian types, and is likely being carried out in Zhejiang province as some sort of experiment.

An experiment? That would suggest that Beijing will expand its demolition teams into other provinces later.

The communist government isn’t explaining anything. Which is one of the benefits of being in a communist government. If anybody questions you too publicly, or maybe at all, you can always ignore them. Or throw them in jail. Or worse. It’s doubtful that Xi Jinping will allow a reporter to question him about it at the next press conference. At least if any reporter knows what’s good for him.

That’s not to say that this experiment doesn’t have its opponents. Parishioners have blocked church entrances and held vigils and even shouted down the thugs who show up with their equipment. And some even wait till the thugs leave, and put up a new cross to replace the old one.

Good people won’t be kept down. Not when it comes to their religion. No matter how powerful the government of this world might be at the time.

The Christians in China might be soothed to remember a certain Prophet who lived a couple of thousand years ago, who said blessed are ye, when men persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you, for great is your reward in heaven. (Book of Matthew, chapter 5.)

The rest of us have duty, too. We can bear witness. And point to wrong and call it wrong. During trade missions. At diplomatic meetings. In the newspapers. At joint press conferences with Communist China’s president and party leader.

After all, we have our souls to think about.

___

Texarkana Gazette, Aug. 18 - There’s an old joke down here in the South. You’ve probably heard it more times than you want to remember:

What were the redneck’s last words? “Hey y’all, watch this!”

It has to be admitted that, like many stereotypes, there may be a grain of truth to the joke. But - again like many stereotypes - it doesn’t apply to most folks who cultivate a “good ol’ boy” demeanor.

Still, sometimes you hear about folks doing such dumb things it has to make you wonder.

In Monday’s edition of this newspaper, we had a front-page story about a woman who was arrested after she allegedly tried to smuggle synthetic marijuana into the jail in the Bi-State Justice Building.

According to correctional officers at the jail, the woman was waiting to be registered as a jail visitor when she was observed allegedly trying to pass the contraband under a secure-area door to an inmate accomplice.

When confronted, she allegedly fled but was arrested a few days later. Both she and the inmate now face felony charges. She could go to prison and he could stay behind bars for a lot longer.

Now, we make no judgment about the guilt or innocence of these two. That’s a matter for the courts.

But we see this scenario played out time and time again. Inmates want what they can’t have in jail and somehow - maybe love, maybe money - they persuade someone on the outside to provide it. Or at least try to provide it.

We have no doubt some contraband gets through. But quite a few folks get caught.

Think about it - you are smuggling illicit substances inside a jail, with corrections officers all over the place. And if you get caught, you could go to prison for a stretch.

Worth the risk? Heck no. But people still give it a shot. And that’s just plain dumb.

Saying yes to such a scheme is about a bright as the old “Hey y’all, watch this!” line. And while agreeing may not be your last act on the earth, it could well be your last as a free member of society for quite a while.

___

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Lowell, Aug. 18 - One of the wonderful things about summer is the slightly slower pace of life in our Northwest Arkansas communities. It’s a time full of vacations or outdoor activities and, in a lot of instances, less traffic, although that seems to get a little harder to discern from year to year in our corner of the state.

But things do slow down. One of the joys of summer for many drivers is the lack of traffic congestion around schools. No buses. No lined up moms and dads waiting for their youngsters to emerge from the day of instruction. No daily adjustment to driving patterns to avoid going over that particular speed limit “when children are present.”

Did you have a nice summer? Because all of that ends today. Or tomorrow. Or maybe it ended a few days ago.

These days, it’s hard to know when school starts because there are so many options. Schools on nontraditional calendars have been under way for several days, as have a few charter schools. Traditional-calendar schools will start this week, many of them today.

But here’s today’s lesson: Slow down, drivers. Stay alert. Those bright, inquisitive minds need to reach school safely, and that’s a responsibility everyone in the community shares.


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