Tag Archives: religious liberty

Christians Can Officially Stop Worrying About Gay Marriage

When the Supreme Court’s decision in the case referred to as Obergfell was published, confessing Christians were outraged. Conservative voters were outraged, too. There were even people who might otherwise have been classified as progressive or neutral or independent who also objected. American citizens objected for various reasons, most of which centered on the consequences they feared. A ruling that created a whole new definition of marriage upset many people.

One of the reasons people objected to the use of the word marriage for a union of two people of the same sex is that the human race has never before defined marriage that way. No matter how primitive a culture is, the union of two people of the same gender has never before been called a marriage. Archeological and anthropological studies reveal that every human culture to date has relied on a marriage bond between a man and a woman as a pillar of the society. It makes sense; only that union can produce children, and most cultures did not want to go the way of the Shakers. There has never been any evidence of any past culture where the union of two people of the same gender was called marriage. Redefining the word marriage completely redefines human culture.

Of course, everyone who objects to such a transformative redefinition of the culture expects that there will be consequences. Some have predicted that there would be revolution, actual mortal combat, perhaps as violent as the one in 1776. Others have suggested that the country would be divided again, with some states seceding from a union that allows such a dramatic redefinition of marriage and human culture.

Some have also predicted that a culture that allowed same-sex unions to be considered equivalent to the marriage of two people of opposite sexes would immediately legitimize pedophilia. In their eyes, the destruction of any moral pillar might be considered to delegitimize all the others. Some people proclaimed that God would punish a nation that legitimized the whole notion of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Some even predicted that that a culture which allowed a same-sex union to be called a marriage would ultimately outlaw all religious behavior. The advocates of same-sex marriage currently enjoy themselves by making fun of such predictions and scoffing at the very idea. They particularly enjoy belittling Christians who trust biblical teaching and try to live by it. The Bible does not equivocate on the subject of homosexuality; in the Bible, such behavior is a sin.

It is fairly easy to see that so far, there has been no revolutionary war,  and no states have seceded. Yet even if one crosses revolution and secession off the list of the consequences of Obergfell, there actually do appear to be consequences. If one allows the full scope of all various definitions of the word revolution, then it begins to appear that there is, indeed, a revolution and that a country utterly unlike the United States of America is being created by this revolution.
Start with the idea that pedophilia will be normalized and legitimized. While the support for such behavior is far from being widespread in the country, the Obergfell decision makes it easier for people to advocate any sexual perversion whatsoever. If one deviant sexual behavior is suddenly declared to be normal, on what basis is any other sexual behavior considered to be deviant? If one deviant behavior can be legitimized as a cure for loneliness, then what others can be excluded? Where is the standard by which sexual behavior is evaluated? Who gets to say what is normal and what is abnormal? On what basis do you tell anyone that sexual behavior of any kind between any two people, or even between people and animals, is abnormal? Deviant? Perverted? When the standards fall, then it becomes difficult to tell pedophiles that they are sick and need help.

As for the prediction that  God will mete out punishment, people who doubt God’s existence certainly would not recognize or acknowledge God’s punishment even if they saw it with their own eyes, yet these are the people who presume to tell us that God is not punishing homosexual behavior, same-sex couples who marry, or anything else, for that matter. Since God does not always make public announcements of his punishments or “sign” his work, it is pretty silly for these people to declare that God is not punishing anyone. How would they know? If they saw it, would they acknowledge it?

As for the prophecy that as a consequence of gay marriage, the nation would outlaw religious belief, the fact is that animosity toward people of faith, no matter what faith they hold, is at an all-time high for the USA. Obergfell may not be solely responsible for this state of affairs, but it is certainly part of the climate that energizes such an attitude. A chaplain for veterans is told that even he may not give a patient in a VA hospital a Bible. A school administrator is told that there will be no praying during commencement exercises at graduation. A football player is publicly maligned for kneeling in a prayer of thanks after he makes a fabulous play. Employees of a restaurant are told not to say, “Merry Christmas” even if customers say those words to them. Children in the school lunch room are reprimanded by teachers if they pray over their food. Recipients of federal grants are informed that they may not use grant money to fund “inherently religious activities,” such as “worship,” “religious education,” or “proselytizing.” Since all the terms presented in quotation marks are subject to a wide variety of definitions, depending on who creates the definitions, the scope of forbidden activity is quite uncertain and subject to a great deal of dispute. Suppression of and scorn for words and deeds consistent with a life lived in submission to God and his authority is becoming common. Obergfell is certainly part of the social climate that is leading many people to declare that people who live according to biblical teachings are extreme.

For example, when Indiana tried to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, social activists declared that to allow a Christian the religious liberty to refuse business that conflicts with his Christian principles is to allow the Christian to discriminate while pretending to be a faithful Christian. People who are not Christians declare that a Christian baker is obligated by US law to bake a cake and prepare it to be served at a wedding of two people of the same gender, no matter what his religious convictions are.

People who are not Christians declare that no Christian principle that conflicts with the objectives of their social advocacy can be permitted, because to permit it is to permit discrimination; this is another example of a term whose definition is being changed in such a way as to limit the exercise of Christian faith. Those who interpret the “free exercise” clause as a notion that encourages discrimination believe that they must suppress religious liberty in order to allow progressive social goals to evolve. Social activists reject the most clear meaning of the First Amendment, which recognizes that Christians submit to God as a higher authority than the social goals of society.  Obergfell is just one example of a way in which the culture suppresses religious liberty, but the same court that issued Obergfell is unlikely to issue any future rulings that strike it down or lessen its impact. In the Obergfell decision, social activists have found a weapon to begin to degrade the entire concept of religious liberty, a right granted to human beings by God that encourages human beings to put God ahead of the state. Social activists consider the state to be the source of all rights, and they define rights as privileges granted by the state, not powers invested in human beings at the moment of creation–people who reject the idea that each person is created by God naturally reject God as the source of human rights.

Gay marriage by itself does not cause pedophilia, God’s punishment, or the end of religious liberty. However, the path of social advocacy, culture change and government rulings has been inexorably modified by Obergfell, and it is quite reasonable to assume that if the nation as a whole chooses to do things and promote behaviors that God forbids, he will allow or perhaps orchestrate consequences that people will not think are pleasant. The book of Revelation speaks metaphorically, but the metaphor tells us that when God begins to react to what people do, people will hate and fear his actions so much that they would prefer burial under a rockslide to living in the presence of Almighty God.

There are social and political activists who utterly scorn all the statements by Christians who say that our country is sinking deeper and deeper into sinful attitudes and behaviors. They are willing to scorn God, because they utterly scorn the Bible and everything it stands for. As a person who believes that the Bible is God’s Word to human beings, intended to be our guide for faith and life, I believe that while revolution and secession may not happen to our country as a direct consequence of Obergfell, it is completely obvious that pedophilia, God’s punishment, and the suppression of religious liberty is happening already. There is a cultural revolution in place, and many people whose principles collide violently with the momentum of the revolution may very well look for ways to “secede” in some way or other from an immoral, godless culture.

What is the impact of Gay Marriage? The mindset that allows and promotes gay marriage is destroying the culture. Children’s minds are being poisoned by aggressive force-feeding of secularism in schools. Already children 10-20 have been indoctrinated in school to believe that homosexuality is only one of many “normal” variations in sexual behavior. They believe that cohabitation instead of marriage is normal. They believe that marriage is unnecessary. They believe that the government, not the parents, should set the moral climate. These things did not begin with gay marriage, and the moral disintegration does not end with gay marriage.

Those who doubt that God will punish the nation for going along with gay marriage should remember that the Israelites exhibited the same disregard for God that advocates of gay marriage exhibit. As a consequence, the stone on which God’s finger had written his commandments was ground to dust, thrown in the water, and forced down the throats of the Israelites. That story is a metaphor. God’s punishment will fall on the nation that flouts the law of God. Christians who are obedient to God can stop worrying about the consequences of same-sex marriage, but those who advocate and promote it still have a lot to worry about.

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Do You Personally Know Any Terrorists?

When you read the question in the title, you probably said to yourself, “I don’t think I know any terrorists, but wouldn’t it be interesting if I did?” The right answer to the question in the title might seem obvious to you at a casual glance. What if I told you, however, that you do not know the definition of a terrorist, and therefore, you probably do not know that you do know one or more terrorists? Philosophers always refuse to argue with each other until they have defined their terms, although they will argue at great length about the definition of the terms. People who study contemporary culture need definitions, too, because the definitions change frequently.

On July 7, in Russia, the nation that was the core of the former Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin signed a law that gives new meaning to the words terrorist and terrorism. If that law had been signed by Barack Obama, it is highly likely that you would have recognized immediately that you know one or more terrorists very well. The horrifying aspect of this news is that there are forces in the USA this very day who would love to see this “anti-terrorism” law enacted in the United States.

Many aspects of the law have already been common in other nations for quite a while. For some time now it has been illegal in Tajikistan for persons younger than 18 to attend religious services except for weddings and funerals. In Uzbekistan, the only legal version of the Bible is the one approved by the national government, and possession of even that Bible is illegal if it was purchased anywhere except a store approved by the national government. In Turkmenistan, all religious activity must be confined to buildings legally registered as houses of worship. Those nations are mostly secular nations where a perceived need to limit the ability of Muslims to recruit jihadis led to suppression of all religions. If anyone asks Putin why Russia needed this law, it is likely that this is the answer he would give. You probably believe that something must be done to make it hard for groups like ISIS to recruit young people willing to die for them, but you probably do not believe that allowing a mother to tell her children Bible stories at bedtime qualifies as making her a potential ISIS recruit. Russia’s new “anti-terrorism” law begs to differ with you. In the eyes of the Russian government, a mother who reads Bible stories to her children or teaches them a bedtime prayer is engaging in extreme behavior that warrants arrest and fines. Legally, she herself can only pray inside a building legally registered as a worship site, and that is also the only place where she can teach her children how to pray—or model prayer for them or let them practice prayer.

Watch for the Freedom From Religion Foundation to propose the same law in the United States of America.

Here are some of the details of the Russian law, as cited by Steve Berman at the Resurgent:

Under the law, all personal evangelism on the streets and in individual homes is now restricted. Evangelizing outside registered churches will result in fines. Christians meeting in homes are not allowed to invite unbelievers.

Christians wishing to share their faith must secure government permits through registered religious organizations. Even with such permits, they are not allowed to witness anywhere besides registered churches or religious sites. Churches that rent rather than owning their facilities will be forcibly disbanded.

Besides rendering evangelism illegal, the law will also punish not reporting violations. Russian believers and missionaries will be under constant scrutiny of officials and even neighbors.

Individuals found guilty of violating the new law will be fined up to $800 USD, while organizations found in violation will be fined up to $15,500. Foreigners found in violation will be deported. All aspects of the law also apply to internet activities.

 

Why do I think anybody will want that law in the United States?

The answer is that there are plenty of people in the USA who do not like any of the behaviors restricted or forbidden by this law. For example, many secular thinkers consider it child abuse when a parent tells a child that he or she is sinful. Secular thinkers believe a child is appears magically when a clump of cells in a woman’s uterus bursts out with arms, legs, and a head at an event called “birth.” To them, that child is a blank slate, unsullied by the world, ready to be led into self-actualization as the outcome of a journey of discovery called childhood. Secular thinkers believe that a child cannot possibly be a sinner, because the child has not yet made any choices. To teach a child about sinful human nature and then tell the child he or she must repent of bad attitudes sounds crass and unfair to secular thinkers. When a parent teaches a child the tenets of the Christian faith, secular thinkers call the parent an extremist.

Secular thinkers also consider it to be an example of extreme behavior when somebody silently reads a Bible on a public bus, or offers to pray for someone met in a grocery store. Barna Group discovered that almost 50% of non-religious adults in the USA consider Christianity to be extremist. They uncovered a long list of behaviors that many Americans now consider to be extreme, and you might be shocked to read the list:

  • Refusal to participate in and celebrate lifestyle choices that conflict with personal religious convictions
  • Demonstrate against immoral behavior (The people who consider it extreme to demonstrate against abortion consider it admirable to demonstrate for #blacklivesmatter. Hmmm)
  • Preach a religious message in a public place where nonbelievers might hear it
  • Teach children that homosexual behavior is morally wrong
  • Pray aloud for a stranger
  • Protest government policies that conflict with personal religious convictions (but demonstrating for standards that make a person feel good about himself is desirable and something to mimic.)
  • Leave a high-paying job to be a missionary in a third-world country
  • Read the Bible silently in a public place
  • Attend church every week
  • Tell a stranger about Jesus and ask him to follow Jesus

These behaviors are considered extremism by 50% of non-religious people, but a surprising number of people who claim religious connections also consider these behaviors to be extreme. It isn’t all that surprising, when you consider how few professed Christians ever attend church or read the Bible or pray aloud anywhere. All these behaviors are illegal in Russia since July 7, and as Barna would confirm, a great many people in the USA consider them to be detrimental to peace and good order. It is not inconceivable at all that somebody could soon propose that the USA pass a law just like the one in Russia.

In case the means of enforcing these restrictions in Russia was not clear, just contemplate what it would mean for you and your church.

  • What if it were illegal to meet for worship in a building not licensed as a place of worship?
  • What if a licensed building had to renew the license every five years, or even more frequently? What if a license were only issued if the application for a worship license had to include the names, addresses, birthdates, and attendance record of at least 150 people in order to be valid? What if the approval process for a worship license included personal government interviews of every person listed on the application?
  • What if it were illegal to engage in any sort of commerce (Christmas bazaars, for example) on the property of a licensed worship facility?
  • What if no private dwelling could be used for worship under any circumstances? (illegal to have a prayer meeting in your living room, illegal for your family to read the Bible and pray around the kitchen table at breakfast, illegal for you to teach your children the Ten Commandments or Bible verses such as John 3:16 in your house or your yard)
  • What if it were illegal for a youth mission group to pray on the front porch of a house they were rehabbing for a week?
  • What if you could be arrested if your neighbor complained that you told him that he should follow Jesus? Or even if you told him that following Jesus was the best thing in your life?
  • What if it were illegal to pray with your co-worker whose marriage is struggling, even if you prayed in the bathroom away from the work areas?
  • What if it were illegal for you to stand in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic and counsel women considering abortion to consider life instead?
  • What if it were illegal for a licensed worship facility to open its doors for worship unless a licensed worship leader (pastor) was present to conduct all the proceedings? (Your pastor is on vacation, no supply is available, and members want to worship anyway. Then what?)
  • What if you could be arrested if police investigated a neighbor’s report that you were teaching your children Christian songs, and during the investigation in your home, they found a Bible that was not a federally approved translation published by a federally authorized publisher of religious materials?

All these things are happening in countries where all religions are considered to be hotbeds of terrorism and all congregations are considered to be made up of extremists.

Russia’s new law may be the first evidence of a first-world nation with a law that so seriously limits religious liberty. It won’t be the last, because the secular thinkers who run the nation of Russia have colleagues around the world who agree with them that religion must be suppressed and contained and silenced. The founders of the USA believed that God himself gave human beings their right to love and serve God, even above the obligation to serve human authority. Many citizens of the US today believe that God does not exist, and that what we call unalienable rights are unearned privileges that the government has the right to grant or withhold. It is not at all inconceivable that the US Congress might soon be considering an anti-terrorism bill that is in actuality an anti-Christian bill.

Do you personally know any terrorists? If you are a Christian, it might be you.

 

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the autumn of 2016

 

 

 

Whose Opinion Counts Most?

Yesterday I heard a report that stated that Mississippi had enacted an “anti-gay” law. Before that I heard that North Carolina was “restricting the rights of homosexual and transgender citizens.” Both of these items claimed to be “news,” a tag which suggests that it was written by a “journalist,” or that it adhered to standards for “journalism.” To call such wording in such contexts “journalism” is an affront to everyone’s intelligence. It is the obvious expression of an opinion by word choice that projects inferences not supported by the facts.

In both instances, states have acted in response to both overreach by the federal government and cultural hysteria. Citizens in North Carolina, Continue reading Whose Opinion Counts Most?

American Parents Beware

Early in 2015 a Christian family in Norway was ripped apart because a public school principal complained that the children in the family were receiving “Christian indoctrination.” In 2013 the Republic of Tajikistan passed the “Parental Responsibility Law” which forbids children Continue reading American Parents Beware

I am Glad That People Love Christmas

It isn’t uncommon to hear Christians deplore the fact that so many people who clearly have no idea what Christmas is about busily decorate with Christmas ornaments and buy Christmas gifts and dine at Christmas parties and feasts all through the month of December. “They don’t have a clue what Christmas is about,” Christians wail, wringing their hands.

I am starting to ask, “Why don’t they have a clue what Christmas is about?” We decorate and buy gifts and feast, too. With all these Christians celebrating all over the place, why don’t people in general know what Christmas is about? Is their ignorance the real problem, or is it something else?

I believe it is something else.

I believe that Christians are too focused on the way nonbelievers get Christmas wrong. Christians deplore the commercialism that starts advertising Christmas gifts by the first of October. Christians despair of the frenzy of parties and choirs and plays and charity events during a season of prayerful waiting in the church calendar. Some Christians are upset because cashiers won’t say “Merry Christmas, while others are upset that the retail window displays blend Santa Claus and the baby Jesus.

There is another way to look at this situation.

Think about the culture into which Jesus was born. In that culture there were people faithfully waiting for Messiah, there were people who suffered in hopeless despair that Messiah would ever come, and there were people who scorned the whole idea of a Messiah. There were people who had unflappable faith that God always keeps his promises, and there were people who thought that believing in God was the attitude of a simpleton.

The time and place where Christ was born was just like the times and places in which we all live. With that in mind, I am glad that every December, America lights up like a Christmas tree. I’m glad that the phrase Christmas tree has found its way into the language in standalone usage. I’m glad that in the classic secular poem of the holiday season, Santa Claus says, “Merry Christmas to all!” I’m glad, because even though the language and culture pervert the Christmas story, the fact that Christians set up nativity scenes and sing “Silent Night” during this season keeps pointing to the Christmas story, the real story of Christmas. The cultural folderol does not crush the truth that Christ was born to bring God’s salvation and grace to every person on earth.

I have been known to rant a bit about the silliness of some of the “holiday” customs. I rant about silliness wherever I see it. I enjoy poking fun at all sorts of nonsensical excuses for meaningless festivity. However, I don’t think that the abuse of the opportunity for celebration at Christmas is necessarily a bad thing.

Jesus addressed the issue of misuse of blessings when he said, “[God] makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” God does not prevent evil people from receiving the blessing of rain. He lets them enjoy rain and grow crops watered by rain the same way he blesses his faithful children. Likewise, at Christmas, even in the midst of tinsel and baubles, you will also see the star over Bethlehem and the manger with the baby Jesus. Because the images of the birth of Jesus are so widespread at this time of year, we who love the Lord have many, many opportunities to tell people about him. We even get to talk about Jesus when the Freedom From Religion Foundation sues yet another municipality or homeowners association for allowing a public display of a nativity scene. We don’t have all those opportunities every day.

We should thank God for every instance of Christ’s name or his story in public life. If the people talking about it, we should thank God for the opportunity to discuss the story with them, and tell the story correctly. If people are confused, it gives us a chance to speak the truth.

I am very glad that Christmas is a very big deal in the USA in December. I am quite sure that Christians in Kazakhstan, where people can be arrested for carrying a Bible in a shopping bag on a public bus, would love to have the problem of too much glitz about Christmas in Kazakhstan. I can well imagine that Christians in Pakistan, who must be extremely cautious about their behavior during Ramadan, would love to need to explain to fellow Pakistanis which elements in a storefront Christmas display were Christian and which were secular. These Christians know what it is to be silenced by laws and regulations that are prohibited in the USA by our First Amendment right to free speech and free exercise of religion. Let us give thanks for free speech, even when the speech we hear is repulsive, because free speech is our guarantee that we can say “Jesus is Lord!” fearlessly on any occasion when we feel led by the Spirit to speak out. Let us give thanks even for confused and error-filled Christmas displays that allow us as Christians many opportunities to talk about the real story of Jesus.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 ESV). At Christmas, in the midst of the frenzy, when you feel frustrated that people just do not understand what Christmas is all about, be glad. Let the Holy Spirit give you the words to share Jesus with everyone, because it is his season and his time. It is our open door to testify to Christ. We will not likely see the immediate response we hope for in those who hear us speak, but that is not our business. Our business is to share Jesus fearlessly and consistently. I am thankful that, because people love Christmas, I have a chance to introduce them to the love of Christ.