Tag Archives: Freedom of Speech

A Nation Needs a Moral Compass

You probably know what a compass is. People use it to figure out how to reach a known destination. When they are not sure of the destination, they use it to avoid wandering in circles.

Every human being needs a moral compass—a means of determining the right path to take in order to do what is right instead of what is wrong, and also to avoid going in moral circles.

A nation needs a moral compass, too. Nations work toward various objectives, and they need to find the right way to reach their objectives. A moral compass is required. Something other than the “It makes me feel good” standard is necessary for both nations and individuals.

There was a time when the USA had a moral compass that grew out of people’s respect for and sometimes even their worship and obedience to Almighty God. Now, when the Red Cross feels free to tell volunteers they are forbidden to pray with or give Bibles to flood victims, one wonders if our nation has any moral compass at all? Would a nation with a moral compass tell little children that they must “discover” their gender identity? Would a nation with a moral compass make the union of two homosexuality equal to marriage?

Does the USA have a moral compass?

This question is very important in today’s world, because in the public forum—Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so forth—it is not uncommon to read a complaint that Christians are trying to “force their views” on non-Christians when Christians advocate for laws, policies and regulations that protect the right of Christians to live and act according to their moral compass. When Christians declare that the law of the land should define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, people who argue that the union of two men ought to be a marriage do not see that the conversation is an ordinary disagreement. The advocates for same-sex marriage declare that Christians advocating that marriage be defined as the union of one man and one woman are trying to “force their views” while the advocates for same-sex marriage are supposedly advocating for “equality.”

The definition of “equality” as applied to marriage is actually an argument over a moral compass. Advocates for same-sex marriage argue that “marriage” is a universal human right and therefore nobody can be denied the right to get “married.” However in their private glossary, the word “marriage” is whatever somebody wants to call it. Advocates for same-sex marriage do not argue that the union of two people of the same gender is a marriage. They argue that marriage is the union of two beings who “love” each other.

In an environment where the words “equality,” “marriage,” and even “gender” no longer have specific meanings, it is impossible to have a discussion about morality. The reason a magnetic compass works for navigation on land and sea is that the needle always points in one direction only. The needle of a magnetic compass points north, no matter where you are on earth, no matter if it is hot, cold, wet, or dry. In the desert, on top of a mountain, in a tree or on the deck of a boat. No matter where you are, the compass points in only one direction: north. If you know which way is north, it is easy to know which way is east or south. You can go northeast for a while using your compass to be sure you continue to travel in a single direction without wandering. Then, when you want to go back where you came from, you can turn around and travel southwest. Using the compass, you always know where you are relative to north. The magnetic compass helps you not to get lost when traveling.

A moral compass serves the same purpose. A moral compass always tells you which way is right and which way is wrong. The Bible is a moral compass. It is an unchanging revelation of truth as revealed to humans by God himself. If you want to know if it is right for a man to marry a woman, you can read the Bible and learn that God himself created humans to live in the relationship of marriage, a relationship defined by God himself to be the union of a man and a woman. That is God’s definition, and his definition is consistent from the start of the Bible to the end of it. His definition, like the magnetic field that pulls the needle of a magnet to the north, is consistent and sure. Christians, who believe the truth of the Bible, believe that this definition is the right definition of marriage. Christians accept the Bible as a moral compass.

There have been people who reject the Bible as a moral compass as long as there have been people. The Bible itself describes that situation at the time of Noah, and many times since. The same problem has surfaced in many places when people reject the Bible. Today, even though the history of the USA is that most people accept the Bible as their moral compass, the number who reject it varies from time to time. At the moment, the number who reject the Bible is increasing.

They are not, however, the majority. Nevertheless, they want to be the majority, and failing the attainment of a majority, they want to prevent the majority from establishing a moral compass.

This is the real issue between Christians and non-Christians in today’s public forum on the subject of morality. Christians want to comply with the teachings of a moral compass, and non-Christians do not want to acknowledge that any moral compass has any authority over them. When non-Christians accuse Christians of trying to “push their views on other people,” that is not really what upsets them. After all, they are the minority in numbers, but they do want the right to advocate for their views and to get their views into legislation. So they cannot really complain and object when Christians advocate for their own views.

Clearly, what the non-Christians really want is for Christians to be forbidden to speak of and act on their own moral compass. What non-Christians really want is for Christians to be required to live by the non-Christian lack of moral compass. The non-Christians in today’s culture want Christians to be required to speak and act as if they agree with the non-Christians that there is no such thing as a moral compass.

Non-Christians want Christians to be required to appear to agree with the non-Christians. They want Christians to be required to self-criticize in public and acknowledge that the Christian advocacy for morality consistent with the revealed moral standards in the Bible is immoral in itself. They want Christians to be humbled and humiliated and punished for even suggesting that the nation should live by biblical moral standards.

The nation needs a moral compass. Non-Christians do not want the nation to have a moral compass. That is the real battle Christians must pray about.

Pray for America. Pray that God will forgive our sins for the sake of his Son. Pray for our nation to adopt and cling to a biblical moral compass. Pray for our leaders, the president, the president-elect, and all citizens, those who voted for Hillary, those who voted for Donald Trump, those who voted for anyone else, and those who did not vote at all. Pray that each of us will see God’s clear revelation of right and wrong, and that each of us will have the courage to live by God’s moral standards. Pray today and every day that our nation will do what is right and good in the world. Pray for America every day.

 

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A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollBlessed are the people who have learned to acclaim you , who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.
Psalm 89:15

To acclaim is to applaud or praise. This verb includes both attitude and action. We applaud something by expressing our approval. A common act of applauding is to clap hands together. We praise someone by expressing favorable judgment. We might even praise someone at a level that actually glorifies that person because we attribute perfection in some area. It may be out of order to attribute any area of perfection to a human being, but it is the least we can do for God.

This verse implies that we must learn to acclaim the Lord. It doesn’t come naturally. What have you learned recently about acclaiming the Lord that you did not know ten years ago?

It is always good to look at verses that precede and follow a focus text. The context may be enlightening. In this case, the context builds and enhances the meaning of the focus verse. The verse before it reads,

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.
Psalm 89:14

What basis for acclaim is attributed to God in this verse?

Many translations use the phrase “steadfast love” in this verse and others where the Hebrew word ‘hesed’ appears. One such instance is a verse describing God’s work in the life of Joseph.

The Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor. Genesis 39:21

How is your understanding of the phrase “love and faithfulness go before you,” enhanced by the recognition that this is the same sort of steadfast love God showed to Joseph when he was enslaved?

The verse after the focus verse reads,

They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. Psalm 89:16

This verse is about the people who have learned to acclaim the Lord. Do you know anybody who consistently acclaims the Lord and exults in his righteousness? Do you think that people who frequently say, “Praise the Lord!” are doing that? What makes you believe they are sincere? Or what makes you think it is fake?

14    Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
15    Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.
16    They rejoice in your name all day long;
they exult in your righteousness.

Psalm 89:14-16

The culture insists that to express faith in God publicly is offensive to people who do not believe. Is it ungodly to offend people who do not believe? God creates us to love and serve him, but he gives us the freedom to do it by choice, not by coercion. The US Constitution also gives us that freedom. If our choice to serve God in a way that is visible or audible to others upsets them, does that reaction invalidate our freedom before God or in the Constitution? Does either the Bible or the Constitution say that one person’s freedom is invalidated by the hurt feelings of someone else? Does the Bible or the Constitution give a person the right to use hurt feelings to suppress someone else’s God-given freedom?

 

 

Fundamental Human Rights Are Important to Christians

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the first achievements of the United Nations, was signed by the United States on December 10, 1948. For many countries, the freedoms named in this document were not always comfortable, and many signers fall far from actually protecting the rights in this declaration. Article 18 is particularly problematic for countries with state religions, but the USA has no state religion, and until recently, the USA would have been regarded as exemplary in its enforcement of Article 18. In fact, most American citizens would see in Article 18 a wordier statement that protects the same rights protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the USA.

                The First Amendment to the US Constitution reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

                Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights read as follows:

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

                It is important to note that the First Amendment protects both a right to the exercise of religion and a right to freedom of speech. The two rights are addressed separately in Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Whether protected in a single article or in two, those rights are naturally and logically linked, because speech is integral to the exercise of religion. It is worth noting that the authors and legislators who passed the First Amendment did not think it necessary to say that a person was free to change his religion and free to manifest it in teaching, while two hundred years of observation of nations and human oppression motivated the authors of the UDHR to spell out those rights. The fact that they are not elaborated in more words does not reduce the protection of the First Amendment, because all those issues were intended to be incorporated within it. The Founders of the USA wanted to be sure that citizens could speak and act on their faith, including the right to persuasive and instructive speech. Even though they knew that any unprotected human right is subject to be suppressed by an autocratic or dictatorial government, they could hardly have imagined that in the twenty-first century, the freedom to speak of one’s religion and to talk with others about its teachings and its value would be compared to rape. Yet this sort of thing is actually happening in the US military.

                Writing in the Washington Post, Sally Quinn reported a conversation with Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation discussing his concerns that military personnel should not be subjected to what he called “proselytizing”: “This is a national security threat. What is happening [aside from sexual assault] is spiritual rape. And what the Pentagon needs to understand is that it is sedition and treason. It should be punished.” This is harsh language for the act of sharing our faith that is central to Christian discipleship. Weinstein was returning from a meeting with Pentagon officials where he participated in a discussion of proselytizing, a practice Weinstein considers to be as brutal as sexual assault. Pressed for some explanation of his attitude, Weinstein placed the real onus for such brutality on groups he called “dominionist” and “fundamentalist,” but it is his general attitude that is concerning to Christians. Christians consider Christ’s command to “make disciples” wherever they go to be a foundation principle for obedient discipleship. For any part of the government to attempt to shut down the freedom to talk with others about their faith would simultaneously shut down their freedom to exercise their faith.

                For the moment, the military is attempting to quiet the uproar caused by Mr. Weinstein’s comment. An announcement reported in USA Today simply says that conversations about faith are allowed as long as they don’t constitute harassment. Needless to say, the definition of “harassment” is fairly subjective, but for the moment, it is not considered treason for one soldier to offer to pray with one of his fellow soldiers, or for a petty officer to invite her bunkmates to a prayer meeting.

                This issues concerns Christians, however, because it brings to light an attitude that is not unknown in the culture at large. While many secular thinkers simply ignore Christians, some feel obligated, like Mikey Weinstein, to protest and attempt to suppress expressions of Christian faith. The Freedom From Religion Foundation strongly protests the National Day of Prayer each year. This year’s announcement included this statement: “Don’t let the Christian Right hijack our secular Constitution.” Just last month, the FFRF celebrated joyously because they succeeded in persuading the Breathitt County Schools in Kentucky to remove displays of the Ten Commandments on the basis that the displays amounted to establishing a state religion. (Exactly how a display posted by a school district is in violation of the Constitutional prohibition against an act of Congress to establish a religion is not clear, but the displays were removed nonetheless.)

                While many Christians prefer to stay out of political warfare, they need to know and care about attempts to suppress the freedom to share the faith. The authors of the US Constitution and the authors of the UNDHR all felt strongly about the freedom both to choose a religion and to talk about it with others, even to be persuasive in the conversation. This right is not universally protected. In many countries, the government states a commitment to freedom of religion, but the “freedom” is actually nonexistent due to the tightly constricted legal language. For example in China, people are “free” to be Christians or not as they choose, but if they choose to be Christian, they must belong to a church the government registers and read the Bible the government prints and listen to preachers the government authorizes. If they meet with neighbors for a spontaneous prayer meeting or if they choose to attend a church led by a pastor who did not graduate from the seminary the government operates, they can be arrested and imprisoned. The kind of liberty Christians enjoy in the US today is not common around the world.

                The news about the attempt of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to suppress the sharing of Christian faith is just a hint at the ferocious enmity of some secular thinkers toward Christians. It is worth noting that secular thinkers constitute only one pincer of the cultural challenge Christians face in the US. The other pincer is Islam, and Islam is even more ferociously opposed to Christian evangelism than atheists in general. The move by Islam to promote the incorporation of sharia courts into the American legal structures could result in significant suppression of the ability of Christians to share their testimony with Muslims in the US. In a sharia court it would be a serious crime to converse with a Muslim for the purpose of sharing some other faith.

                Jesus warned Christians that the world would reject them, because the world rejects him. It is clearly as true in the US as in any other nation. Unlike a nation such as China or Uzbekistan, the US actually responds to citizen action to protect rights such as the freedom to exercise the faith. Christians may wish not to be sullied by dirty politics, and they certainly should stay out of the mudfights, but Christians can and they must be voices for the freedom to exercise the faith in speech and action. Pray for the USA, and pray for the continued protection of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Freedoms that are not protected disappear.