When Tim Tebow refused to back down and stop speaking of his faith, it was tempting for Christians to hope that this particular avenue of attack on Christians had been thwarted. Not so. The Freedom from Religion Foundation has launched an attack on Steve Prohm, the new head basketball coach at Iowa State University. Apparently he is guilty of asking his players to tell him how he can pray for them. He also prays with his players and speaks openly of his faith and of the foundations of his personal values. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is offended on behalf of all people who do not believe there is a god. Christians must be ready for this sort of action in all sorts of places.
In this case the Freedom From Religion Foundation has simply written a letter to complain about the coach, but FFRF has filed numerous lawsuits in an attempt to take all expressions of Christian faith out of public view. A visit to http://ffrf.org/ will reveal that this organization expresses its objective as if it were based on constitutional law. The allegation that the US Constitution sets a huge wall between church and state is the foundation for complaints about schools that permit prayer at graduation exercises, the display of monuments to the Ten Commandments, rents paid by churches that rent space for worship, and the income tax exemptions for Christian pastors. Even though the FFRF complaint about Steve Prohm is phrased as if he were offending the players, the language of the complaint alleges that his behavior is unconstitutional. The letter of complaint says, “We request that Mr. Prohm be educated as to his constitutional duties under the Establishment Clause. He may not lead or encourage any religious activities in his capacity as head coach.”
Even though FFRF proclaims that it simply wants to protect constitutional liberty, its concerns are upside down. The Constitution does not put up any wall to hide religion of any sort from the rest of the world. Rather, it assures that the government does not interfere with free exercise or free expression of religion. The First Amendment was written to protect people from tyranny by the government, not from the free exercise of religious faith in word and deed.
Christians, therefore, need to be like Steve Prohm and live their faith openly. They should not be afraid, but rather, they should follow Peter’s admonition to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). Christians must be always sharing the good news that Christ died and rose again to set people free from enslavement to evil and guilt. On the day Jesus ascended to heaven, his last words to his followers were, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV).
That final promise is our assurance that we can count on Jesus to go with us through lawsuits and letters of accusation and all the other issues that may arise with the Freedom from Religion Foundation or any other individuals or groups that threaten us because we live our faith publicly. It is the same promise God gave to Moses as he stood by the burning bush receiving his orders to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Moses demurred, claiming he was not qualified, that people would not believe him, that he simply could not express himself very well. God said, “But I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12 ESV)
Jesus knew it would come to this. He warned his disciples and us that people would bad-mouth Christians and take them to court and give them endless grief. Then he said, “when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12 ESV). This means that Steve Prohm needs to pray faithfully and wait for the Holy Spirit to give him the right response to this letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. When FFRF writes to a school board and complains that the charge for space rented to a church is not correctly calculated, the church must listen to the Holy Spirit and not respond to this complaint the way secular groups do, because the Holy Spirit will act in the midst of this problem. When FFRF alleges that someone has been offended by the sight of a monument to the Ten Commandments, Christians do not need to act alarmed or outraged, because the Holy Spirit will deal with this affront to reason. Yes, Christians must respond, but they must remember that speaking truth in self-defense need not include hateful words or reciprocal accusations.
Since Steve Prohm has now made the national news because of his faith, Christians must get busy with first aid for assaults on the faith. That means that we must pray for Steve Prohm. Give thanks for his testimony to young people. Intercede for his peace, provision, and protection. Then pray mightily that he will speak and act in total submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If a lawsuit arises in connection with the current accusations against him, invoke the Holy Spirit to act and work for his protection, but above all, pray that the name of Christ may be glorified in all that happens.
We must do the same thing every time someone is attacked for acting like a Christian in public. We must not concede ground in the battle for the liberty to live and act Christian. In countries like Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, the governments are so thoroughly secular that they even forbid parents to teach their Christian faith to their children. Think not that it will never come to that in the USA. If Christians do not work with the Holy Spirit to protect religious liberty in the USA, the day will come that parents will be forbidden to teach their children about Christ. Atheist advocates in the USA already accuse parents of child abuse for telling their children that they are born sinful.
Violence, evil language, vile accusations, lawsuits, riots, and other forms of mayhem and destruction are the norm for advocates of godless philosophies. These proponents of godless philosophies claim that because they are not religious, they may advocate their secular views while Christians, who are considered to be religious, may not advocate their views. The views which shape a person’s values are always protected in public discourse by the First Amendment, whether or not they are considered religious. Steve Prohm is now in the line of fire because he presumes to express his views and live by his values in public. Pray for Steve, and pray for all Christians to be faithful and to hold on to their testimony for Christ. Now is not the time for weak knees. Pray on strong knees bowed before the King of Kings. Pray for the liberty of Christ’s followers to live and speak according to the principles of Christ’s teachings.