July 25, 2004
Posted at Liberty
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stirbt in kleinen Teilen.
Freedom dies in little pieces.
-- German proverb.
Every now and then, I get one of those ooey-gooey e-mails about what a Wonderful Christian President we have, and how it is the duty of every American Christian to stand behind him.
It is not for me to judge Dubya’s relationship with his Maker any more than I would judge that of Bill Clinton, Al Gore or John Kerry. However, I am past nausea hearing about what a Splendid Christian Man we have in the White House based on the most superficial criteria imaginable.
Recently, I got an e-mail forwarded from a California pastor -- whom I shall call JL -- who recently attended a conference where he met a pastor from Uzbekistan. The Uzbek pastor told how, because his government is fearful of Dubya, they do not persecute Christians as much as they did when Clinton was in office. Moreover, his church in Uzbekistan is praying for Dubya’s re-election.
It is entirely possible that persecution may have abated in Uzbekistan since 2001. And this was not what galled me about this e-mail. What got me was JL’s inference from this Uzbek pastor’s story that the real issue in the upcoming election was the persecuted church around the world.
That evening, I read of a Christian woman in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum who was whipped 40 times for the crime of not wearing a hijab (headscarf) in public. The Islamic – you know, that “religion of peace” – regime in Sudan insists that even non-Muslims in Sudan must be subject to Shari’a (Islamic) law.
Is the upcoming election about Sudan, too? Talk to me, JL! Has persecution subsided in Sudan in the last three years? What effect have Dubya’s policies had on the Sudan, where two million Christians have perished at the hands of the government since 1994?
There is very little, if anything, that this or any president can proactively do to eliminate religious persecution around the world.
We hear a lot about the ridicule and harassment directed at American Christians nowadays. We hear much about school prayer, the words "under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, public nativity scenes, etc. However, we almost never hear about our own slippery slope down the road toward persecution. And if we do not do a 180, it is only a matter of time before American Christians are subject to full-blown persecution.
For no good reason, it has become déclassé to discuss politics in American churches. Oh sure, if a politician from the pastor’s party proposes some program that sounds good and Christian, the pastor is down with it. But heaven forfend that we ever subject our government to any serious biblical scrutiny. I mean, like, there might be someone in attendance who would disagree and it might, you know, cause an argument.
As if there was something sacred about everyone’s partisan agendas! God’s Fingerprint is on everything. Everything! This includes politics. And if we refuse to discuss what the Bible says about these things, we reject God. The word “king” appears 2000 times in the Bible. The Good Book talks about politics all the time.
IRS regulation 501(c)(3) is purportedly a favor to churches, synagogues and other non-profit organizations. 501(c)(3) says that a church can be exempt from taxation as long as it refrains from endorsing political candidates and watches its step regarding other political activities and pronouncements. It is bad enough that almost all churches censor themselves in order to please Caesar. It is downright damnable that so many of them refrain from any serious political discussion at all.
(Matters will only grow worse as churches accept federal money dangled before churches as part of Dubya’s Faith Based Initiative. You cannot serve God and mammon.) (1)
The result has been a dumbed down church. The huge majority of Christians in this country are absolutely dirt ignorant about what the Bible says about politics. Pastors will preach hellfire and brimstone against Ozzy Osbourne, Harry Potter and the half-time orgy at the Super Bowl. However, they are silent about a government that taxes us into the pavement, disarms us, and turns millions of brains into apple sauce in its schools.
What do these things have to do with Christianity? Let me explain.
Taxes: God calls Christians to do many things with their money. Among these are tithe, provide for your family, save for the future, etc. It is downright criminal when government steals half your money before you can even buy groceries. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” does not mean give Caesar everything he demands. (2) When was the last time your pastor talked about this?
Schools: Notre Dame is run by the Catholic Church, and therefore promotes Catholicism. BYU is run by the Mormon Church, and therefore promotes Mormonism. State schools are run by the state, and therefore promote statism. What else should we expect? The chief issue confronting government schools is the fact that the government is involved in education at all. Reform – i.e. prayer, creationism in science class, etc. – is not the answer. Getting the government out of the education business is the answer.
If we did this all these debates about prayer, condoms, evolution and so forth would cease. Parents could exercise their God-given right to educate their children as they saw fit without having to ask permission. (See Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4 and the Ninth Amendment to the US Constitution.)
Guns: In the Old Testament, part of the Philistine program for subjugating Israel was weapons control. (I Samuel 13:19-23) In the New Testament, Jesus instructs His followers to arm themselves. (Luke 22:36) (3)
American churches have been silent on the issue of gun control. And yet, citizen disarmament is a prerequisite for persecution. Disarmed people cannot resist tyrants. Indeed, every totalitarian government disarms its citizens. A population that will relinquish its arms is a population that gives way to wickedness. King Solomon rebukes righteous people who give in to the wicked. (Proverbs 25:26)
Throughout the Bible, governments were the worst persecutors of God’s people. In the twentieth century the worst religious persecution has been carried out by governments. Consider the Nazis, the Soviets, the ChiComs and the current regime in Sudan. In fact, governments killed 170 million people in the twentieth century. And churches remain silent about this!
To be blunt, the American government is out of control. However, millions of Americans believe anything their government says, or at least anything their preferred faction says. Millions of Americans will gladly give up their freedom at the drop of a hat. Christians are no different. This is due to their ignorance of biblical teaching about government. (Hitler’s rise to power was aided in great part by the willingness of German pastors to swear allegiance to the Nazi regime.)
Big government violates seven of the Ten Commandments. It undermines families (Fifth Commandment); it lies endlessly (Ninth Commandment); it is the most prolific mass murderer in history (Sixth Commandment); it steals money, possessions and land (Eighth Commandment); it rewards covetousness (Tenth Commandment). It forces you to bow down before it (Second Commandment) and it says that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me!” (First Commandment)
Jesus was put to death by people who had “no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15) American Christians need to relearn who our Real King is or we too will face persecution.
But this is America. Persecution could never happen here.
That was exactly the mentality that was prevalent in Germany in the 1930s.
I want to tell a few quick stories and then I will close.
In Sweden, a Pentecostal pastor was recently sentenced to a month in prison for a sermon condemning homosexuality.
In Canada, Christians fear that certain Scriptures could be deemed “hate speech” under a new hate crimes law that adds homosexuals as a protected group. Indeed, a Saskatchewan man has already been fined by a provincial court for running newspaper classified ads critical of homosexuality.
These stories come to us from Canada and Sweden, and not from the Sudan, China or North Korea.
Here in the States, pastors in Pennsylvania are concerned that they could be prosecuted for preaching against homosexuality under a new hate crimes law in the Keystone State.
At the federal level, there is a hate crimes bill being introduced by two senators – both Republicans – that many fear could expose Christian pastors to prosecution for condemning homosexuality.
Just inside the front door of my church is a plaque containing these words from Jesus: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18b) However, the schools, the courts, the ACLU, the IRS, and all kinds of lesser entities are prevailing against the contemporary American church. This is because the contemporary American church is not consulting the Bible about political and social matters. Rather, it is swimming with the current of a culture that glorifies the omnipotent state.
This has got to change. Or else, America is a Sudan waiting to happen.
(1) Read A Faith Based Recipe for Disaster and It's the End of the Church as We Know It (I Don't Feel Fine.) (Back)
(2) Read The Things Which Are Caesar's. (Back)
(3) Read What Does the Bible Say About Gun Control? by Larry Pratt. (Back)
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Freely Speaking: Essays by Doug Newman