Rogue Nation: Birthplace of Religious Freedom Added to the List of Countries Where Christians Face the Most Persecution

has-the-government-declared-war-on-religious-liberty

The silence was deafening as the United States, the birthplace of religious freedom, joined the infamous ranks of the world’s worst places to be a Christian—places where followers of Jesus Christ face the worst harassment and persecution because of their faith. Major American media outlets largely ignored a story of immense implications for the future of the Judeo-Christian worldview and western civilization.

This dirty dozen is a list created by the International Christian Concern (ICC), a watchdog organization formed in 1995 to protect the rights of Christians worldwide, released in its 2016 Hall of Shame Report. It was not surprising that the Islamist dominated countries of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Nigeria made the list for their persecution and killing of the Christian “infidels.” Nor was it a shock that Russia, Mexico and India were noted because of the suppression of evangelical Christianity either by people espousing other variations of Christianity or by Jesus-hating radical Hindus. It is even understandable that that the totalitarian communist/atheist states of China and North Korea were included.

Nearly simultaneous with the ICC’s report was the European Parliament’s acknowledgement that Christianity, not Islam, is the world’s most persecuted religion. The Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World, confirmed that Christians are currently the earth’s most harassed and intimidated religious group that “routinely suffer religiously motivated persecution.”

Regarding the ICC report, what raises eyebrows is the first-time-ever addition of the United States to the list of the twelve worst countries for the Christian faith.  The ICC’s explanation is as follows:

“Throughout the US, current events and shifting perceptions are causing conflicts between Christian beliefs and public sentiment. This cultural shift affects Christians businesses, organizations and individuals through legal action, free speech infringement, public expressions of faith, and employment.”

The article explains that Christians in the US are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist, and close-minded. Furthermore, Christians and all religious people are being marginalized through laws and legal action. Specific examples include Christian bakers fined $135,000 for declining to back a cake for a same-sex wedding, Intervarsity Christian fellowship losing official recognition as a student club at California public colleges, employees being terminated because of their faith, and many more. The ICC report cites that claims of “intolerance” and “inequality” are being used to bully Christians and create legal precedents that are actually undermining well established First Amendment rights, including the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.

As we celebrate the peaceful transfer of power, President-elect Trump may provide some relief for believers if he fulfills his promise to respect and restore religious freedom. The overwhelming evidence of the past eight years reveals that President Obama’s legacy must include the truth that he was no friend of religious freedom, exasperating Christians by his First Amendment undermining actions, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Trying to force Catholic nuns (The Little Sisters of the Poor) and other church groups to provide abortion-related products and services.
  • Supporting the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples (Obergefell v. Hodges).
  • The United States Commission on Civil Rights issuing its 2016 anti-religious hit piece report suggesting that sexual liberty (i.e. new anti-discrimination laws) should prevail over religious liberty claims (First Amendment protected) and asserting that “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” are code for anti-LBGT discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. (i.e. Christians are the “deplorables”).
  • The Department of Justice and Department of Education’s 2016 transgender bathroom mandate, forcing public schools to allow student access to bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding based on their perceived gender identity rather than their biological sex.

The ICC posits that part of the explanation for the change may be growing secularization, citing a Pew Research poll showing that those the total U.S. adult population identifying as non-religious jumped by seven percent in just seven years, from 16 percent to 23 percent (2007-2014). Notably, a stunning 35 percent of millennials identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular! The report, How America Changed During Barack Obama’s Presidency, confirms that those identifying as Christians also dropped seven percent, from 78 percent to 71 percent, though the share of evangelicals has remained fairly stable. So, what does this all mean?

First, it means we must recognize that there is rapidly growing public pressure on American Christians today, as many secular-progressive elite forces are seeking to drive us out of the public square into hiding and to silence us and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a time where, sadly, the church is far more influenced by the culture than it is influencing the culture. “One nation” once “under God” has become “divisible,” and divided, as we are now left “with liberty and justice for” some. Most Christians in the US are not handling the current hostile environment very well and many are simply giving in to the pressure, allowing themselves to be silenced and marginalized. Biblical resistance is required. Millennials are the most vulnerable to cultural pressure and the church must do a much better job of inculcating a comprehensive biblical worldview, passing the baton of “the faith of our fathers,” to them.

Second, it means, as I have been warning others for more than a decade, that we are rapidly moving from “soft” persecution towards “hard” persecution of the church in a place formerly known as the land of the free and home of the brave. It is true that while some of us are losing our livelihood, we are not being imprisoned or killed yet, but if the pendulum keeps swinging in its current direction, those prospects may not be far off. The separation of sheep and goats, already well underway, will continue and accelerate. Do not be alarmed that many you thought were authentic believers were only pretending. We need to realize that persecution is a normal part of being a Christian and gird our loins accordingly.

Third, it means that if we value our freedom and the gospel of Jesus Christ, we had better wake up, engage the culture by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and fight the good fight of faith by actively pushing back culturally, politically, and legally. The American “health and wealth gospel” will be nakedly unmasked for the fraud that it always was. This is not the time for wimpy, half-hearted, “fluffy-bunny” Jesus or “comfortable” Christianity. Those days are long gone in America.  But do not despair!  We have the hope and confidence that our ultimate victory is secure in Jesus Christ. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness had not overcome it (John 1:5).

Ready or not, Biblical promises of persecution are about to get very “real” and, especially for the unprepared, it’s going to be a rough ride. You are not alone. There is a strong remnant. You are surrounded by a cloud of faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Be much in the Word, prayer, and fellowship. Be filled with the Spirit. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

Advertisements

Passive Acceptance of Evil Is Not a Christian Family Value

FRM Monsters

There is an epic war of the ages between darkness and light raging all around us, yet most Christians are content to have a picnic next to the battlefield.

When I first learned about the surreal scene of hundreds of citizens strolling into the countryside to observe a civil war battle near Washington, D.C., I thought “How odd, how strange! Why would anyone want to watch a battle in which they were not engaged?” Now, I understand that this bizarre visage is a rather apt yet tragic symbol of American Christianity today.

There is a very real war of good versus evil being fought in our midst, both spiritual and physical, but we are largely content to sit out the conflict on the sidelines. We should rather to be trained for warfare, arrayed in our armor, standing firm on the field of battle, engaged with our enemy, and advancing against the very gates of hell-but we are not (See Ephesians 6:10-20).

Why not? Well, for the most part, our Christian leaders have not effectively trained us for war. And far too many of us are distracted and ensnared by the worship of a multitude of our American idols-comfort, success, and popularity, to list a few, rather than Christ. We are trained to be passive sheep, lazily grazing on the sidelines, selfishly waiting for heaven to land on earth. Most of us do not know the Bible well enough or have a comprehensive biblical worldview that informs and motivates proactive engagement. And, even if we know what we ought to do, we are not motivated to obey-because it is hard. And “hard” requires sweat, blood, tears and we would rather not sacrifice, bleed, or cry. It is a lot easier to be distracted by the latest Walking Dead episode than fighting real spiritual zombies.

Then, there is the enormous obstacle of desperately wanting people to like us (fear of man) that causes us to stand frozen still when God-warfare opportunities arise.  If we loved and feared God more, we would not shrink back, but would be willing to fight the good fight.

As Charles Spurgeon asked, “Wouldst thou be a feather-bed warrior, instead of bearing the rough fight of love?” Too many of us Christians are content to be arm-chair prophets and feather-bed warriors. As such, we have little to no power or impact on the raging battle at hand. But authentic biblical love is not passive and disengaged when evil rears its ugly head; it is active and engaged with truth, love and all of the weapons of our warfare!

Passive acceptance of evil is actually more of a Buddhist or Hindu value, rather than a biblically Christian aspiration. These Eastern faiths were formed to try to answer the question of how to cope with the problem of human suffering. Their answer was to essentially ignore it and escape it, by putting on blinders to reality, checking out, and by going within for “truth”-a profoundly hollow exercise. The world can appear to be a much safer place when you close your eyes, cover your ears, and harden your heart.

As believers, we are not supposed to escape from evil and suffering but we are rather to escape to evil and suffering-we are to proactively engage and overcome evil with good. I submit that when American Christians are passive in the presence of evil, we are not behaving as authentic robust biblical Christians, but as passive and selfish spiritual weaklings. The sad result is that we end up compromising, capitulating, and even assimilating to the darkness, rather than exposing it, opposing it, fighting it, and destroying it. This weakness it not irrelevant, but has serious negative consequences for our culture and the future of our children and grandchildren.

Authentic biblical Christianity is not passive. The Lord said, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams”(I Samuel 15:22).  We should hate what our Father hates and love what our father loves-and do something about it. And James admonishes us “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).  Jesus still admonishes us today to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

God will hold us morally accountable not only for what we have done (sins of omission), He will also hold us accountable for what we have failed to do (sins of omission).  One of my heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who literally gave his life to stop evil in his generation said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” The famous Christian British parliamentarian Edmund Burke wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

As we are surrounded by evil, now is the time for good men and good women to do something. When we see evil we must boldly speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). When confronted by darkness we must act. We must never passively allow evil to triumph in our land, in our churches, or in our homes.

If you think you are not strong enough on your own to fight the good fight of faith, you are right! But you are not alone! God is with you! “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (II Chronicles 16:9). Step out in faith onto the battlefield and God will meet you there and He will empower you with strength, wisdom, and courage.

There’s a war raging! It is time for fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ to wake up and engage!  Now is the time to work and to fight for His Kingdom and His glory. We can rest in heaven. We fight not out of hate, but motivated by God’s holy-love, passion and power of our Father, who first loved us.

For now, let’s get out of our feather-beds, put on our armor, grab our weapons, and get our butts out on the battlefield! Prepare yourself for war, and fight in faith with the confidence that God wins in the end and we triumph with Him. And someday, though perhaps wounded, scarred, exhausted, and spent from battling many dark foes, you will understand and experience with joy the pleasure of your Father because you have fought a good fight, you will have finished your course, and there is laid up for you a crown of righteousness that does not fade. And on that day, you will hear those truly awesome words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” followed by the biggest party the universe has ever known!

Political Correctness Is Destroying America!

newsphotos-politicallycorrect-02.18.16

Sorry, but no this is not an endorsement of the extremely blunt, some would say crude, Donald Trump or of plain-talking Senator Ted Cruz, for that matter.  While this upcoming presidential election is critically important, especially after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, I submit that the scope of the problem discussed here started at least 40 years ago and actually transcends partisan politics or the 2016 election.

I humbly posit here that the elite fabricated, and increasingly government enforced, self-censorship (a.k.a. “political correctness”) is dulling our thinking, is making us quite literally stupid, is leading to self-destructive decisions, and is herding us towards the eventual demise of what made America great.  Radical political correctness threatens the authenticity of the public discourse and the world of ideas like nothing we have ever seen.  Our very understanding of reality and the very nature of truth itself is at stake.  By “political correctness” (PC), I mean the pressure to conform to a particular sociopolitical ideology or point of view, especially to a liberal (a.k.a. “progressive”) point of view concerned with promoting radical “tolerance” and avoiding offense in matters of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.

Last year PC was on full frontal display when the U.S. Supreme Court, ignoring biology, history, sociology, and common sense, declared that maleness and femaleness no longer have anything meaningful to do with marriage and family in Obergefell v. Hodges.  The result:  The court, in a divided decision, redefined marriage, fabricated a new “constitutional right (read “wrong”) to same-sex marriage.  This was a “yuge” PC victory. The score: PC 1, Constitution and truth 0.

In the last month, the ever shape-shifting and evolving PC insanity was also on full display in the left-coast’s San Diego County.  The first instance arose in the Poway Unified School District, once the paragon of excellence among California’s schools.  The issue is the 2014 California law (AB 1266) that allows children to self-identify their gender and forces public schools to allow transgender students to use facilities, like restrooms and locker rooms, consistent with their personal self-identification.  Privacy For All Students attempted to overturn the law, but was unsuccessful.

At Poway’s Rancho Bernardo High School the result is that boys are forced to share their showers with girls. Why?  California law now allows gender confused or questioning girls to self-identify as “boys” and vice versa.  Is this based on objective factors like biology and body parts?  No.  Based on their feelings alone!  Naturally parents, justifiably concerned about the raging hormones of their young men, who dared to ask for some decency and privacy for their sons are branded as bad, discriminatory, bigoted parents, who just need to live with the cultural sexual chaos and shut up.

Nearly simultaneously, perhaps a confirmation of too much sunshine to the brain in SoCal, the influence of the PC language police was on full display yet again in another part of San Diego County.  The City of San Diego’s Orwellian 2014 “Correspondence Manual” mandated that municipal employees not refer to “Founding Fathers” to avoid gender bias, replacing it with the gender-neutral term “Founders.”  It doesn’t matter a whit that the truth of history is that, though women made significant contributions, most leading founders were men, does it?  We must bow to feelings, and not judge those feelings, but validate them whether or not they bear any correspondence to truth or reality.  Mayor Kevin Falcouner, in a statement reversing the PC manual’s stupidity, pointed out, “Suggesting that our Founding Fathers should be referred to as ‘Founders’ is political correctness run amok.”  Run amok indeed!  We could use more of the plucky, truth-affirming common sense of our Founding Fathers.

On the surface political correctness appears happy and “nice,” but peer unflinchingly behind the beautiful curtain and you will soon see that it is truly dark and dangerous. This is because PC often ignores the facts, subverts critical thinking, is quite ironically intolerant and, rather than leading to a purportedly evolved higher plane of socio-political existence, is placing us all in grave danger. How so?

PC ignores factsPC has an uncomfortable relationship with objective truth.  In PC land, truth is radically subjectivized, personalized and relativized to the individual.  Transcendent truth (i.e. reality) is replaced by transient and often unstable personal feelings and emotions, which can and often do shift and change. PC glorifies each of us and our feelings as “god,” as we refulse  to acknowledge or accept objective and important distinctions.  PC enforces an intolerant “sameness” and lack of good judgment, even where real differences exist.  Basic truths and realities about things as they really are, get ignored.  Facts like biological boys having boy parts, biological girls having girl parts.  That boys are boys and girls are girls.  That our Founding Fathers were men.  That most terrorists today are Muslim (i.e. not Christian or any other religion).

PC subverts reason and logic.  Once you jettison facts and truth, critical thinking quickly becomes a thing of the past.  PC is mind-numbing and is thought-destroying.  We are not to consider hard cold facts and use our reason and logic to reach conclusions.  No, we must agree with whatever PC B.S. the liberal elite are selling this week.  The brain is turned off as PC drones mindlessly repeat liberal mantras until we are all propagandized.  Simply put, PC makes us stupid.  In PC fantasyland, there is no reason to worry about small and unimportant details like: 1) Boys with boy bits may be harmed or negatively impacted (i.e. struggle with lust) if girls with girl bits are showing up nude in their locker rooms, 2) We are not properly vetting Muslim immigrants with dangerous ideologies, or 3) The breakdown of the African-American family has negative consequences. 

PC is quite viciously intolerantPC commands us not to discriminate, yet viciously discriminates against us and demonizes us.  It orders us not to hate, but foments hatred against us.  It begs for tolerance, but is aggressively intolerant of anyone expressing or living out biblical Christianity.  Indeed, if you don’t march in lock step in the PC parade, you are “evil” and you are quite literally a stupid backwards devil.  If you are, for example, a Christian who doesn’t agree with the PC replacement “Ten Commandments,” you are a hateful, narrow-minded, intolerant, bigot.  Do you remember what happened to Kim Davis in Kentucky this past summer?  We can’t “discriminate” and call names but its okay to call us names and demonize us.  The emperor has no clothes: the “myth of tolerance” has been exposed.

PC puts us all in dangerSince we can’t look at facts and can’t use those facts to reason or make informed decisions, we have rendered ourselves powerless to respond appropriately to real and existential threats.  A neighbor of the Jihadi San Bernardino couple suspected they were up to no good, but failed to report the suspicious activity to law enforcement!  Why?  Because they didn’t want to be seen by others as politically incorrect or discriminatorily “profiling.” Christians are publicly attacked today, mostly with words.  As a result, many are silent, instead of standing up for their civil rights.  But, tomorrow, if we don’t get fully on board the PC bandwagon, will we lose our jobs?  Will we go to jail?  Will we be killed?  These are all unsavory possibilities that we are not too far from as a society.

PC undermines freedomPolitical Correctness is a freedom-crushing downward spiral of silence.  It is an underestimated sociological force that has the dark effect of at first stifling and later silencing nearly all discussion or dissent.  This includes freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and religious freedom.  As the cacophony of PC loud bullying tactics rises, the level of meaningful resistance to its transparently fascist tendencies diminishes.  As the voices of the elite carrying culture’s PC megaphones becomes shriller and more deafening, all other voices are tragically drowned out.  PC does not breed true liberty, it breeds enslavement. This was on full display recently on university campuses across the U.S. as “black lives matter” activists, tried to exclude whites, the media, and those who disagreed with them from their “safe spaces.”

And if you are right about now wondering, “What the h–l just happened?”  Well, simply put, the “free love” hippies of yesteryear’s sexual revolution have grown up, overrun academia and government, destroyed, in delight, the Judeo-Christian worldview, and are now officially running the asylum.  The elite’s replacement for the Judeo-Christian worldview is Hinduism, and to a lesser extent Buddhism, which I will write about more next month.  This revolution is not without profound consequences.  It is steadily ruining our lives and destroying America.  In our brave new PC alternative reality world, good is called “evil” and the sane are now declared “insane.” Yes indeed, we have lost our freaking minds!  I fear that if we don’t collectively regain consciousness from this “bad trip” soon, all may be lost for generations.

Worldviews matter! Ideas, indeed, have consequences.  Bad ideas have bad consequences.  Political correctness is a bad idea that has bad consequences.  Yes, we should be angry! Angry at how we have allowed truth and freedom to slip through our fingers like sand.  Angry that we are losing that which our Founding Fathers and others have fought so hard to establish and protect.  Angry that our fear of man, sloth, and cultural disengagement and general wimpiness will lead to the suffering of our children and grandchildren.  But we must harness and channel our anger, transforming its energy into purposeful and effective action.

Please share George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (1789) at your tables today with family & friends.

images

 

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving from the National Center for Law & Policy (NCLP)! We have so much in America for which we can be thankful!

 

Please share George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (1789) at your tables today with family & friends:

 

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

 

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

 

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

 

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

 

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

 

Go. Washington

 

How Recent Events in Houston and Kentucky Offer Hope for Religious Freedom in America

Deans Blog Banner

George Orwell in his dystopian novel 1984 coined the term “Newspeak” to describe the totalitarian regime’s government-sanctioned politically-correct language that powerfully and coercively shaped and controlled the thinking of the masses.  In a pervasive surveillance state (“Big Brother is watching you.”), those who dared oppose, even if only in their thinking, the ideological purity of Newspeak were rooted out by the Thought Police and convicted of thoughtcrimes.  Thus, it was not only a violation of the law to speak or act in opposition to the prevailing totalistic cultural narrative; it was a crime to even think it.  If convicted of ideological rebellion, you would be sentenced to beatings, torture, indoctrination and reprogramming by the comically and ironically named “Ministry of Love.” Eventually, thought criminals were executed.  Undivided fealty to the state and statist ideologies was absolutely mandated and viciously enforced in Orwell’s dark totalitarian vision.

Therefore, belief in God was a thoughtcrime in 1984.  Thankfully, we are not quite there yet.  But, we are not very far removed from a similar state of affairs today.  As our culture has drifted from its Judeo-Christian roots (and at a seemingly geometrically progressing rate of late), biblical Christians who believe in a God Who precedes and transcends the state find themselves increasingly at sharp odds with culturally elitist state-sanctioned beliefs and practices.  The areas of disagreement are many but include, among others, the existence of transcendent moral values including the definition of life, the meaning of gender and sexual identity, the definition of marriage, and the meaning of family.  Yet, perhaps no other issue has more poignantly highlighted this gaping ideological chasm more than 2015’s radical redefinition of marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today’s increasingly prevailing American Newspeak affirms that is “gay is good,” and that if you don’t absolutely agree and affirm this, you are committing the unforgivable thoughtcrime of being a homophobic bigot.  This sad state of affairs leaves little to no room for individuals with traditional biblical views on sexuality or marriage to believe, express, or live out their ideologically-incorrect and unpopular Christian beliefs in the public square—without paying an increasingly high price.

Tragically, in our era of unprecedented cultural propaganda, objective truth and logic matters less and less.  Libelous labels abound while the actual facts are increasingly irrelevant.  You see, the poor individual callously convicted of the false charge of “hate,” may actually know and love people who experience same-sex attraction and are “married.”  Yet, because we are just now supposedly morally enlightened, having only very recently culturally discovered our prior traditional beliefs are purportedly “perverted” or “wrong,” ideological outliers who reject the powerful “sexual liberty” narrative must now be aggressively marginalized, bullied, judged, shamed, shunned, and even hated by the new Though Police.  Why?  Naturally, the only palatable explanation must be that they “hate,” simply because they ideologically disagree with the tyranny of absolute “sexual liberty.” Recent examples include the menagerie of Christian bakers, florists, photographers, and others who have refused to participate in faux same-sex “marriages” and, as a result, have been coerced by the state to pay a high price for their ideological treason.  Yet, there are some glimmers of light in the midst of this dark and morally confused ethical mire.  For poignant positive examples of this, we need look no further than Houston or Kentucky.

In Houston, Major Annise Parker and the City Council adopted a very bad ordinance regarding sexual orientation and gender identity last year that allowed purported transgender individuals to use opposite-biological-sex restrooms and other public facilities.  When pastors and churches rose up to oppose the new ordinance, the City Attorney retaliated by unlawfully invalidating thousands of signatures in favor of a measure repealing the ordinance.  In the ensuing litigation, the City aggressively tried to obtain copies of five prominent pastors’ sermons in a desperate attempt to try to prove anti-homosexual bigotry.  And throughout the fight, the Thought Police media was no friend of the Christians, pillorying them for their backwards traditional un-Newspeak-like beliefs.  But all of this moral chaos suddenly changed earlier this month when, in a moment of increasingly rare moral clarity and courage, the people of Houston voted 68 to 32 to overturn the sexually confused “bathroom bill.”  And that’s not all.

In Kentucky, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June “legalized” same-sex “marriage,” Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis sought an accommodation from Democratic Governor Steve Beshear for her religious conviction that marriage is the sacred bond between a man and a woman.  The governor flatly refused, informing Davis that she must comply with the law and issue same-sex marriage licenses or quit her job.  This led to Ms. Davis being incarcerated and the legal challenge to her predicament.  Enter Republican candidate for governor, Matt Bevin.  He not only visited Ms. Davis the day she was released from jail, but made religious liberty a key facet of his campaign.  Bevin, who focused on social issues like defunding Planned Parenthood and defending Kim Davis, encouraged the conservative base to turn out to vote.  Bevin won in a landslide, becoming only the second Republican governor in the state in the past 40 years!  Bevin committed to provide Kim Davis with a religious accommodation, and has now agreed to take Davis’ name off of the marriage licenses.

According to Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, the lesson to be learned from Houston and Kentucky is “conservatives can win when they refuse to be bullied by elites into silence. Making the public argument against bad policy and in support of good policy can win the day.”

We should thank our heavenly Father that we are not yet at the dark Orwellian point where belief in God is outlawed and we are tortured or murdered into submission and silence for thoughtcrime.  Yet, we must soberly recognize certain windows may be closing and we must now continue to fight for and make the most of the freedoms and opportunities we still enjoy.  In the meantime, we must refuse to be silent and must continue to stand, speak, and fight for the cause of religious freedom.  Faithful Christians must never bow to the growing cultural pressure to compromise, capitulate, and assimilate.  We must stand with God on principle and continue to make the public argument by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

 

Why atheists should mourn the loss of religious freedom

newsphoto-religiousfreedom-082114

There was once a dream that was America.  Our early ancestors were willing to suffer great sacrifices, risking everything for a singular goal-freedom.  Victims of spiritually oppressive European regimes endured perilous journeys to our shores with hearts full of liberty’s hope-fleeing discrimination, intolerance, persecution and violence.

Religious Freedom was once the paramount right in the American pantheon of civil liberties.  Now, as Professor Smith accurately points out, religious freedom has fallen out of favor in the culture and the courts having been relegated to a “lesser liberty” status. It is regrettably forced to compete on an equal or lower footing with other rights including new, more recently fabricated, rights which are not explicitly embodied in our Constitution.  These “new rights on the block,” if you will, are concoctions, not of the Creator whose judgments are transcendent and objective to us, but of the fallen, fallible, and subjective human imagination.  The clearest examples of this are the emerging “sexual liberty” rights, which like a massive steamroller are crushing everything in their path, including religious freedom.

Over the past 60 years, a small but growing group of powerful cultural elites have effectively employed the media, the judiciary, and the coercive power of government to systematically suppress and remove religious freedom.  Many welcome this social demotion of religious liberty.  I do not.  I submit, and our current history proves, that if we lose religious freedom, which includes the freedom ofconscience, we undermine virtue and morality and erode the only sure foundation and transcendent and objective basis for all of our civil liberties such as the freedom speech (think speech free zones in Nevada), the freedom of the press (think prosecution of reporters), and the right to be free from unreasonable government searches and seizures (think NSA).

In other words, unless we comprehend and appreciate that our fundamental civil liberties are truly objective to us and independent of us, graced upon us by our benevolent and transcendent Creator, they can easily be immanently trampled upon and destroyed by the subjective biases, feelings, passions, preferences, whims and fancies of whomever happens to be in control of the government at the moment.  I submit that every freedom loving citizen, whether you believe in God or not-yes even the atheist, should highly esteem and with passion join the good fight to promote and defend religious freedom.  It is the fundamental civil right upon which all other civil liberties depend.

Many of our European ancestors came to America to flee religious persecution in Europe where, for centuries, when in control of the government, Protestants had been abusing Catholics, and Catholics had been abusing Protestants.  Needless to say, religious establishments in European nations usually did to turn out very well.

In the American experience, freedom of religion was first applied in the colony of Maryland at its founding by Lord Baltimore, a Catholic, in the form of the 1649 Maryland Toleration Act.  Protestant minister Roger Williams in the colony of Rhode Island, Thomas Hooker a minister in Connecticut, and William Penn, a New Jersey and Pennsylvania Quaker, promoted religious freedom in the colonies they led.  They combined the democratic form of government, which had been developed by the Puritans and the Congregationalists in Massachusetts with religious freedom.   These colonies became sanctuaries for persecuted religious minorities.

Williams, Hooker, and Penn were firmly convinced from the authority of the Holy Scriptures that freedom of conscience was the will of God. Williams believed that because faith is the free work of the Holy Spirit, it cannot be forced on a person.  Some have proposed that religious freedom is the creation of John Locke (1632-1704), the puritan English philosopher.  However, while Locke did write on the subject, he was greatly indebted for his formulation of it to the early American colonial leaders and his belief, based on scripture, that humans are created in God’s image.

Indeed, our founders universally believed that religion and virtue were the indispensable and only solid foundation for true freedom and liberty.  Benjamin Rush asserted, “The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion.  Without this, there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty.”  John Adams, declared, “[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”

All change is not progress–I believe this is especially true when one surveys the decline of religious freedom in America.  Our founders considered religion our first freedom, the bedrock upon which all other rights rest.  There are profound connections between democracy, religious freedom, and other civil rights we cherish.

By “religious freedom,” I mean what James Madison meant when writing in the 1785 “Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence. The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.”

I mean what Thomas Jefferson meant in the Declaration of Independence in 1776:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The transcendent Creator, who is objective to us, grants our civil rights-not the state.  As Sir William Blackstone wrote “The principle aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of those absolute rights, which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature.” Jefferson affirmed these rights flow from our being created in the imago Dei when writing in 1777:”Almighty God hath created the mind free…All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens…are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion…No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.”

Today there is tremendous cultural pressure to stuff faith and conceal its expressions in one’s proverbial closet.  Still the concept of religious liberty of our founders embodied a far broader and more robust idea of freedom than the narrow, meager, and spiritually starved “freedom of worship” promoted by the Obama administration. This anorexic proposition would presumably only include the right to believe and acknowledge God privately in your prayer closet or church, hidden from the public square.

Robust religious liberty, as conceived by our founders, included a vast array of beliefs and actions, including, but not limited to the right to believe, but also practice and express one’s religious faith–both privately and publicly.  Indeed, Madison acknowledged in the Memorial and Remonstrance that religious freedom is an “unalienable” right.  In other words, because it is a right given by the Creator, no man has the right to take it away.

So, when the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, ratified in 1789, prohibits the establishment of religion, it means that the government cannot use its taxing and spending powers to forcibly establish one state church or otherwise establish one religion over and against other religions (e.g., a National Presbyterian Church).  And when the First Amendment states that congress shall make no law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion, it means that the government may not, except in very limited circumstances, infringe upon or burden personal religious beliefs or expressions of those beliefs.  The First Amendment was clearly not intended, nor should it be used, as a spiritually hostile battering ram to silence or cleanse public religious expression or squelch public religious practices, as some organizations, such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, have suggested.

As one who has committed my life to advocate for and defend religious freedom, I am deeply concerned about its deteriorating condition in America over the past 60 years. As we have uncoupled our rights from their only secure, transcendent, objective source, a more robust experience of religious freedom is systematically being pushed out of our public life, including our hilltops, schools, churches, and even our military.  As Dostoevsky wrote, “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.”  “Everything” may include the state sanctioned destruction of the rights of conscience and religious freedom. But my concern is not only that we are “losing our religion,” but also what the loss of our religious freedom may portend for the viability of other civil rights and, ultimately, for the survival of our democratic republic.

In conclusion, the pending demise of religious freedom ought not be celebrated but should rather be mourned. We often foolishly confuse social change with “progress.”  But history teaches the brutal lesion that change is nearly equally likely to proceed in a negative or backwards direction-leading to the loss of freedom, the destruction of civil rights.  That is why I invite you to join me and others in engaging in “the good fight” for the freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

A call for Christian courage!

newsphotos-praybible-04.16.15-630x330

Things appeared bleak. The righteous cause was at a critical crossroads. Opposition was fierce. Many in the culture, including some fellow Christian leaders, were not applauding his just and noble struggle. Would hate win? Languishing in a Birmingham jail, the future was uncertain. At that moment, the lonely, imprisoned hero started to write, penning a passionate plea. The man was pastor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now is such a time. We are at a critical cultural crossroads. You could almost cut the tension with a knife as we nervously awaited the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage edict. Would marriage be redefined? Would the radical LGBT agenda have the last word? Will religious freedom continue to evaporate, becoming a burnt offering on the pagan idol of radical sexual liberty? And what is the Christian response?

These questions remain profoundly vexing to faithful Christian culture warriors in light of the 5-4 decision, coercively imposing a same-sex “marriage” regime on the citizens of all fifty states. Five justices could not locate this “right” anywhere in the constitutional text or judicial precedents, so the elite “enlightened” jurists opted to act as super-legislators and simply make it up! Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, announced the newly discovered “right” to genderless “marriage,” describing it in such glowing and confusing terms as “spiritual” and “transcendent,” almost sounding as if he were a neo-pagan Moses figure delivering revised commandments to modern America. But this is certainly no laughing matter. Gays and their allies, waiving rainbow flags in celebration, ought rather to mourn. God has not changed. And He will not be mimicked or mocked! This overreaching edict has significant negative implications not only for marriage, the family, and religious freedom, but it profoundly undermines federalism, the separation of powers, and the right of “we the people” to govern ourselves.

Yet, perhaps nothing has been more disappointing in the days leading up to the radical ruling, than capitulating Christian leaders congratulating each other for their cultural compromise and apostasy. We must not confuse cultural cowardice and capitulation with true courage. These anti-heroes must not be emulated.

The pathetic pattern these “leaders” represent is neither novel nor new—nor, in spite of the claims of cheering fellow-apostates, is it evolved or enlightened. What is the pattern? Growing pagan cultural pressure leads to personal compromise on biblical truth, usually resulting from an inordinate fear of man. Over time, compromise of biblical truth leads to capitulation due to cultural coercion. These patterns often result in near-total assimilation to the increasingly pagan culture. Yet this so-called “Christianity” is no longer unique or distinct, nor is it actually Christian. Salt, having lost is saltiness, is destined to be thrown out and trampled (Matthew 5:13). As my pastor recently said, “Sin makes you stupid.” Repentance is desperately needed and it starts with God’s people (II Chronicles 7:14).

So, who are models of Christian leadership we should follow? There is William Wilberforce, who eventually succeeded in his decades-long efforts to end the slave trade and improve cultural virtues in England. Consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer who heroically, overtly and covertly, stood up to the Nazification of the German Lutheran church and the German people. And there’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who employed biblically principled non-violent protests to end segregation and procure legitimate civil rights. Note that two of these men had the honor of paying the ultimate price for their courage—King via a hate-filled bullet and Bonhoeffer “tried” and summarily asphyxiated by piano wire at a Gestapo prison within weeks of Germany’s liberation.

Having few authentic Christian champions today as role models in this present darkness, we need to ask ourselves, “What does Christian courage look like?” Here are a few thoughts based on the lives of the three bold men mentioned above:

  • Biblical: Maintains a high view of the absolute authority of God’s word and God’s authority in our lives. Believes in transcendent objective truth and that truth sets people free from the bondage and desolation of sin. Refuses to compromise clear biblical teaching and convictions. Realizes God defines marriage, not the U.S. Supreme Court. Understands that civil rights are “endowed by our Creator” and must not be diminished by the state. Celebrates gender distinctions as part of God’s beautiful plan for mankind. Believes that where there is a moral conflict “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Comprehends that God had the first word on marriage and that He will have the last.
  • Compassionate: Shares a deep and passionate love for God and love for all people, even our enemies, who are image bearers of the Imago Dei. Does not shrink back from opportunities to share the Gospel. As MLK wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” As Dr. Michael Brown said, “[When it comes to standing for truth], we must have hearts of compassion and backbones of steel.”
  • Actively Engaged: Genuinely loves people enough to engage in biblically principled acts of love, mercy, and justice, helping to make communities and the culture a better place for all. Prays and works so that God’s kingdom comes and His will is done. Understands, as King stated, that “[i]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Is deeply concerned about future generations (i.e. children and grandchildren) and is willing to take direct action when necessary to oppose unjust laws that contradict higher moral law.
  • Vocal: Refuses to be silent. Opposes cultural propaganda and lies, winsomely speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). As Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Understands that truth eventually dispels lies.
  • Expects Opposition: Understands spiritual warfare, that we have an enemy who has come to lie, steal, and destroy (Eph. 6:10-20). Is not surprised by criticism, persecution, or fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12). Fears God more than he or she fears man or desires man’s praise (Matthew10:28)! Understands that biblical truth-telling is increasingly radical today. As George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
  • Sacrificially Faithful and Uncompromising: Comprehends that freedom is not free and is willing to persistently pay the price to stand for truth, justice, and righteousness, no matter what opposition is faced. Is determined to stand firm and not compromise. Prioritizes God’s kingdom over personal comfort, success, conformity, and pleasure. Is strong in the Lord and remains immovable. Is not easily distracted or intimidated.
  • Holy Spirit fueled: Is not dependent on his or her own meager resources, but relies on the power of God’s word and promises and the leading and dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. Understands that a powerful move of God can radically transform people and cultures overnight.
  • Victorious: Has confidence in the heavenly Father’s plan for marriage and the wisdom and strength only God can provide. Understands that moral and sexual anarchy contain the seeds of their own destruction. Has faith and hope in the fact that, no matter how dark it gets, Jesus wins in the end and we win with Him! God will have the final say on marriage as He will on all things!

True Christian courage is not the absence of fear; it is allowing the Spirit to harness the power of your fears and cooperating with God to overcome your feelings and do the right thing anyway. The Reverend Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” You have the opportunity to be a bold hero every day. You will strengthen and encourage others as you faithfully obey Christ without wavering.

Authentic biblical Christianity has always been counter-cultural. And so it is today. The darkness descending upon us in the wake of the redefinition of marriage brings unprecedented challenges but also unprecedented opportunities to continue to model and demonstrate God’s love and God’s truth. Especially now that we have lost the marriage battle at the Supreme Court, one thing is certain—we will need a lot of Christian courage going forward.

Light shines the brightest in the darkness. Now is the time for Christian boldness, bravery, determination, fortitude, endurance, tenacity, valor, backbone, guts, power, heroism and lion-heartedness. Vast opportunities to be a powerful Christian witness in our communities and culture are multiplying before our very eyes. The chances to be bright lights and savory salt are legion. We must not lose heart or shrink back! We must remember that we are not called to always be “successful,” but we are always called to be faithful. Let us determine to always be faithful and to leave the success to our sovereign God.

Got courage? You will need it! Boldly and joyfully run to the battle, knowing that our victory is sure!