Tag Archives: religious liberty

When in Doubt, What do you Do?

pediatrician with baby edited

A generally accepted principle of Christian living is that when people feel confused about the right thing to do, they should prayerfully look for an answer in the Bible. Christians are taught that the Bible is clear enough for a child to understand important teachings, and there is plenty of evidence of this truth. Christians also discover, as they mature in the faith, that there is depth and complexity in the Bible that baffles people with astronomical IQs. There is plenty of evidence of this truth as well. For this reason, Christians learn to look for mentors to help them prayerfully study the Bible and listen for God’s guidance. It all boils down to a problem: people of faith may or may not agree on the right thing to do in every situation.

Recently a pediatrician, Dr. Vesni Roi, in Michigan was faced with a situation in which she was uncertain what to do. Two lesbian women who live together in a union they call a marriage selected her for the care of a child yet to be born. The article that reports the story does not make it quite clear who would give birth to the baby. The articles do report that after reviewing the credentials of numerous pediatricians, the two women decided to ask Dr. Rio to care for the child.

When the time came for the child’s first visit, six days after birth, the women were told that Dr. Roi had decided not to accept the baby as her patient. She referred them to another pediatrician in the same practice. She explained in a handwritten note to the women that her decision was made after considerable prayer. Her expressed reason for the decision was stated in her note: “I feel that I would not be able to develop the normal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients.” While the note never mentions the issue of homosexual union, the two women consider the decision to be a rejection of homosexuality, even though as one of them pointed out, it could not be about the sexual orientation of the baby, since the baby was too young to have expressed any sexual orientation. Since all conversation about the care of a newborn would necessarily take place with the adult (or adults) charged with the care of the child, it makes sense to conclude that, when the doctor referred to the “patient doctor relationship” in her note, she was saying that she did not feel she could have the same relationship with the two women that she would normally have with the parents or guardians of a child in her care.

Why would she feel this way?

Dr. Roi’s bio includes earning an undergraduate degree from Livonia’s Madonna College, a private Catholic school, in 1987. While graduation from a Catholic institution does not necessarily mean that she is Catholic, her behavior suggests strong Christian background. Secular thinkers do not pray through moral and ethical decisions. If it is proper to conclude that her concern about the patient doctor relationship is rooted in the homosexual lifestyle of the two women, it seems highly likely that Catholic teaching of Christian principles for life figured in her choice. No reports consulted as background for this post ventured to say one way or the other.

The central issue appears to be whether a person of faith who engages in the normal Christian practice of praying about a decision is justified in acting on the guidance received that way. Can the culture permit people of faith to act on the guidance they receive through prayer? Or, must the culture suppress the free exercise of religion if it hurts someone’s feelings? The uproar surrounding this story makes it clear that some people believe that nobody has the right to do what Dr. Roi did. Some even appear to believe that there should be a law forbidding Dr. Roi to make such a choice.

While secular thinkers leap from Dr. Roi’s action to allegations of discrimination, that is a very simplistic reaction to the story. Dr. Roi is a person of faith who did what people of faith do. Christianity is not the only faith that turns to prayer for guidance in making decisions, but in the US, it is probably the most visible religion that considers prayer vital to faith. Dr. Roi prayed about her decision.

Since secular thinkers reject the existence of God, they have no use for decisions based on communion with God, but among Christians, this practice is, nevertheless, central to the faith. Sermons, books, seminars, devotional guides and discipleship mentors all teach Christians to pray when they do not know what to do in any situation. Dr. Roi demonstrated that she not only believes in prayer, but she also acts on prayer. Many is the Christian who has, on one occasion or another, expressed regret that, having prayed about a matter, he did not act according to the guidance received. Dr. Roi engaged in prayer according to the full definition of prayer; she asked for guidance, and she listened until she received it.

Dr. Roi is living her faith. That is exactly what the First Amendment to the Constitution is written to protect. The Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” To pray and to act on the guidance received is the free exercise of religion. American citizens all should applaud the fact that the Constitution is working exactly as it should in Dr. Roi’s case.

One more point. The two women who wanted Dr. Roi to care for a baby felt hurt by Dr. Roi’s decision. There is no question that such a thing would hurt anyone’s feelings. However, part of being an adult is learning to deal with hurt feelings. Hurt feelings do not justify tyrannizing a nation. In this case, not only are the hurt feelings not justification for tyranny, but there is also a completely satisfactory solution for the problem. Even though the two women do not get exactly what they wanted, they will get what they need. They were referred to a competent doctor, and their disappointment in not getting their first choice does not justify an attempt to deny free exercise of the faith of a citizen.

The important issue in this story is that citizens of the United States of America have the right to live their faith. If Dr. Roi had alleged that God told her to beat the women or kill the child they care for, nobody would believe that she was exercising her faith. It would be an exercise in madness. However, Dr. Roi simply listened to God in prayer and acted responsibly, not leaving the women without care for the baby but actually making a professional referral to a well-qualified colleague, something she is entitled to do for any reason whatsoever.

May God protect and sustain the freedom he has given each citizen in the USA. May it long remain the land of the free.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Pediatrician with baby
Source:http://pediatriciansareawesome.wikispaces.com/What+does+a+pediatrician+do%3F
License: Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License
Photographer not named

World Watch List #1 North Korea

This post is the first in a weekly series highlighting the fifty most dangerous countries in the world for Christians.

Flag_of_North_Korea_(WFB_2004)

The constitution of North Korea guarantees religious liberty with these words:

Citizens have freedom of religious beliefs. This right is granted by approving the construction of religious buildings and the holding of religious ceremonies. Religion must not be used as a pretext for drawing in foreign forces or for harming the State and social order.” These words are found in Article 68 of the constitution of North Korea.

When you read the words of the North Korean constitution that ostensibly protect religion, your first impression would naturally be to assume that all religions are treated well. Yet like all legal language in any country, the words are simply a cover for the ideas embodied in them.

When an American reads the words, “This right is granted by approving the construction of religious buildings and the holding of religious ceremonies,” an American mind believes that there must be church buildings and worship services within. If a tourist visits Pyongyang, he might actually see a few church buildings where there are occasional “worship” events. None of them have anything to do with Christianity despite their names. Christians in North Korea must worship in secret and hope government spies do not penetrate their secret churches.

The American mind must be advised to read the statement again. “This right is granted.” Governments do not grant human rights. The role of government is to protect rights granted to humans by God.

North Korea is the most dangerous nation on earth for a Christian.

If the US government ever attempts to instigate registration of church groups or church buildings, wise citizens will defeat such initiatives on sight, because that is a sure sign that government intends to suppress Christianity.

Christians in North Korea are persecuted because Christianity is considered a pretext for bringing in foreign ideas, and Christians are accused of being spies for foreign governments. It is not known how many Christians are imprisoned in North Korea, but the estimate is between 50,000 and 70,000. The population as a whole suffers from inadequate food and shelter. The little information available for the prisons indicates that conditions are deplorable and inhumane. Torture and starvation are common.

The guiding philosophy of North Korea is Juche. From the website of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, these words describe this philosophy:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is guided in its activities by the Juche idea authored by President Kim Il Sung. The Juche idea means, in a nutshell, that the masters of the revolution and construction are the masses of the people and that they are also the motive force of the revolution and construction.

The Juche idea is based on the philosophical principle that man is the master of everything and decides everything. It is the man-centred world outlook and also a political philosophy to materialize the independence of the popular masses, namely, a philosophy which elucidates the theoretical basis of politics that leads the development of society along the right path.

The Government of the DPRK steadfastly maintains Juche in all realms of the revolution and construction. 

The North Korean man-centered outlook is the most extreme development of secularism on the planet. This worldview is the reason that the government asserts its power to “grant” or withhold rights that derive from the Creator himself. North Korea’s government acknowledges nothing higher than itself. Its worldview is man-centered, and the man at the center of this worldview is Kim Jong-un. The “masses” may be the motive force behind revolution and construction, but the power in North Korea lies in one man: Kim Jong-un.

We pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer in North Korea. We pray to be alert to developments in our own nation that move in the same direction as the philosophy that dominates North Korea.

Please Pray:

  • For the 50,000-70,000 Christians imprisoned in labor camps; ask God to sustain them
  • For the many Christians who don’t have enough food to survive and are forced to flee to China
  • That Christians may stay strong in their faith under unrelenting pressure from government spies

 

For more information visit http://www.opendoors.org

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: By US CIA (The World Factbook) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Speaking of Morality

Speaking of Morality

If you enrolled in a class with the title, “English Grammatical Issues in the Twenty-first Century,” you would expect to discuss the fine points of English grammar at the cutting edge of decision-making. You would assume that no time would be spent memorizing parts of speech, because knowing those basic elements of the language would be the barest foundation for discussing the way the language is changing daily. You would likely expect the teacher to promote discussion of the reasons to embrace or reject changes that litter the landscape of daily usage in conversation. You probably would not find it odd if you and your teacher had differences about the way certain changes ought to be handled now and in the future. By leaping into the fray between those who tie themselves in knots trying to avoid using the masculine pronoun when gender is indefinite and those who simply fall into the usage of third person plural for everything, you know that you are in a conversation where people disagree. Yet you would expect to have the conversation and to include every possible nuance of difference over the issue.

A dispute over the right grammatical solution to a cultural problem can be contentious, but even those who advocate that real grammarians ignore the nonsensical attitude of the culture will recognize that the discussion does have more than one side. It would be shocking if a college professor shut down the discussion of one side in order not to offend the advocates for the other side.

Recently, a student enrolled in a class titled “Theory of Ethics,” where he fully expected that classroom discussion would often involve at least two points of view, perhaps more. However, he was completely baffled when the subject of gay rights came up, and the teacher chose not to discuss that subject. The discussion centered on the application of philosophical theories to modern political controversies. At the beginning of the discussion, there was a list of modern controversies on the blackboard: gay rights, gun rights, and the death penalty. The student reported that after discussing gun rights and the death penalty, the teacher erased “gay rights” from the blackboard and said, “We all agree on this.”

The student was disturbed about the refusal to discuss gay rights, and after class, he asked the teacher why she refused to open that discussion. When she responded with her point of view, he explained why he disagreed. Then she asked him if he knew of any homosexuals in the class. This question is ridiculous, because it implies that it makes sense for the student to know such a thing about the people in a group around him. The student did not know one way or the other. At this point, the teacher proceeded to explain that she did not think it was proper to discuss gay rights in the class, because someone in the class might be homosexual and take offense at some points of view. The student was dumbfounded. This teacher asserted that in a college level class on the subject of ethics, it was inappropriate to discuss the various points of view surrounding the contemporary issue of gay rights, because it was possible that someone in the class would be offended by the views that might be expressed in such a discussion.

The student attempted to assert a right as a citizen to hold an opinion in opposition to the opinion of other citizens. The teacher said, “You can have whatever opinions you want but I will tell you right now – in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, sexist comments will not be tolerated,” she said. ‘If you don’t like it, you are more than free to drop this class.” In those words, the teacher asserted that the expression of an opinion in opposition to gay marriage or gay adoption or anything else that is on the agenda of LGBTQ activism constitutes a homophobic comment.

People who express themselves on the subject of homosexuality are frequently called “homophobes.” Even pastors who claim to be Christian have been known to use that word when referring to people who understand the Bible to teach that homosexual behavior is sin. Still, it is shocking to discover that a college professor will not permit discussion of one of the thorny issues of contemporary culture in a class whose title invites exactly that discussion.

It is important to note here that the student who had every right to express his view in the cultural conversation about gay rights did something execrable. He recorded the conversation without telling the professor what he was doing. The student was upset, and he must have suspected what the teacher would say. He apparently turned on his phone as he approached the teacher but did not tell her what he was doing. It does not speak well of the character of someone who would do such a thing. We all feel rightly outraged when we hear that somebody could be spying on our phone conversations or our reading our emails without permission. Likewise, we all feel that we have a right to keep private conversations private. It is not hard to imagine why the student felt that he wanted a record of this conversation, but his concerns do not justify his duplicity. Readers who might have believed he was on the moral high ground in standing strong for biblical teaching about homosexuality will be disturbed and disappointed to read that he made a secret recording of the conversation.

This situation points up the truth that honor and integrity are tough standards. It is hard for any of us to do the right thing in every case. Sometimes we truly cannot sort out the conflicting issues and see what is right. In other cases, we talk ourselves into believing that the wrong we face justifies the wrong we do in self-defense. Nobody can read this student’s mind or search his heart, but he has tainted his testimony for Christ by doing something that demonstrates a lack of integrity. The old saying, “Two wrongs do not make a right,” applies here. It was wrong for the professor to refuse to discuss the ethical issue of gay rights over a fear that someone in the class would be offended, but it was equally wrong for the student to record the conversation without telling the teacher what he was doing.

Some who read this post will wonder why I make such a big deal of the recording. I make a big deal of it, because it plays into the hands of LGBTQ activism for a Christian who takes a moral stand against their agenda to do something that is also immoral, not to mention illegal. It is very hard to be a Christian in today’s culture. The secular view of Christians is that they are harmless when they are inside their worship buildings reading their dusty old Bible and singing stodgy hymns to their imaginary friend in the sky. Secularists do not care what Christians do inside their buildings. It is when we come outside and act on our rights and responsibilities as citizens to speak for high moral standards that the LGBTQ activists take umbrage. That is the place where we must be light and salt as Jesus taught us, and when someone does something such as secretly recording a private conversation, then we undercut our standing to speak of morality.

The men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution had high regard for the value of religious teaching in a society. In their view, the church was a valuable force in the culture for morality and integrity. They wanted the church to speak and act in the civic debate over any and all issues. In fact, by forbidding the existence of a state church, they hoped to avoid the inevitable pollution of the church’s moral standing by political involvement. They wanted citizens to bring the moral substance of their religious teaching with them into public life to add weight and perspective to civil debate.

If Christians could give their testimonies without the weight of sinful human nature constantly at work in their lives, then it would be simpler. This situation with the student is a real example of the complications that arise when sinful human nature acts with the context of very real outrage at the behavior of a college professor, one person in our culture whom we all expect to uphold the value of free and open discussion. The college professor’s attitude is suspect. The student’s behavior is suspect. It is hard to make a clear statement on the moral issues active in the story. It would certainly be a simpler matter if the student had not complicated the discussion by introducing a distracting issue.

Christians must be vigilant with themselves. Christians who want to participate in the public dialogue on complex social issues must not complicate the discussion by bringing personal baggage into the mix. Christians who want to be leaders in the social discussions must not muddy the waters by introducing issues that give their opponents justification for outrage of their own.

It is a call to a high standard, but then Christ calls Christians to a high standard: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 None of us ever will be that perfect, of course. We can only presume to speak a testimony if our testimony confesses our need for grace and forgiveness. Nevertheless, when we make choices in our lives, we must keep in mind that we have a high calling always to testify to the truth as revealed in Christ, and our behavior must not blemish that testimony or give occasion to anyone to ignore the truth of our words. We are called by God to these discussions. We must respect that calling by living lives of integrity that add weight to our comments rather than distract people from God’s truth.

How Do Christians Find Common Ground With Muslims?

When the director of liturgy for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., planned a worship service for Muslims to pray to Allah within the sanctuary of the cathedral, the fraud that is the pseudo-virtue tolerance was clearly shown for what it is. Suicide. Surrender. Self-immolation.

Every Christian knows that the God we worship, the Mysterious Three in One, is one God in three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Every Muslim knows that the god he or she worships is “Allah,” who is one and only one and Mohammed is his prophet. Christians and Muslims have no common ground on which to pretend that they share something except for the genetic connection of Ishmael and Christ with Abraham. Both Ishmael (ancestor of the Arabic families that founded Islam in the 7th century after Christ) and Isaac (ancestor of the Jews through whose genetic line Christ was born) were sons of Abraham. The genetic connection is no foundation for any interfaith dialogue, because there is no common ground between Christianity and Islam. Mohammed himself made that clear. He thoroughly believed that Christians had become polytheists and idolaters, and if he were alive today, he would call the idea of interfaith dialogue with Christians “anathema.”

Explaining the decision to open the doors of the cathedral to such a service, representatives of the Cathedral said, “Leaders believe offering Muslim prayers at the Christian cathedral . . . demonstrates an appreciation of one another’s prayer traditions and is a powerful symbolic gesture toward a deeper relationship between the two Abrahamic traditions.” Such a statement is completely without justification, because it implies that the core of the two religions is Abraham. Abraham is not the point. Abraham is a human being whose genes have migrated through descendants such as Mohammed and Jesus. Never at any time did those descendants worship Abraham. Mohammed spend part of his life claiming to be a Christian, but he felt that Christianity had become polytheistic. If he had ever understood Christianity, he would have known better, which calls into question whether he could ever have been a Christian at all, but that is not the real issue. The issue is that Mohammed founded a religion that worships a god it calls Allah, and that god is not the God by whom the world was created and through whom Christ came to bring salvation to the world.

Therefore, the notion that Islam and Christianity have something to discuss is ludicrous, since they do not worship the same God. When factions in a Christian group such as the Catholic Church have disputes over whether women are to be ordained, they discuss their differences in the context of listening to the same God for guidance. When Muslims and Christians discuss prayer, they do not have any common ground on which to stand, because each stands before a different god. In the eyes of Christians, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one approaches God except through him. In the eyes of Muslims, there is no god but Allah. This difference is irreconcilable. The only way there can be any discussion of prayer is for one party or the other to reject its own god.

The sad part of the whole story is that in the eyes of the Muslim world, Christians have rejected their own God. Muslims would never permit Christians to pray in a mosque, because to do so would make the mosque unclean. Muslims have such a strong perception of the “uncleanness” of Christians that when Pastor Saeed, a prisoner in Iran, was taken to an Iranian hospital for medical treatment, the doctors and nurses refused to touch him because he was “unclean.” To Muslims, to be Christian is to be unclean. Muslims are taught to regard Christians the way Brahman Hindus regard the Dalit (the untouchable caste).

The people who are leaders in the National Cathedral have abdicated their right to be called Christian leaders, because they clearly believe that it is fine to reject Christ in order to be hospitable to Muslims. They have, furthermore, demonstrated complete ignorance of Islam by permitting such an event inside a Christian church building. If they do not yet know that Muslims around the world now believe that Islam has conquered that building and subjugated it to Allah, they are not paying attention. No Christian prayers are or ever will be permitted in Muslim holy sanctuaries, and when Muslim prayers are offered in a sanctuary, it is henceforth subject to and dedicated to Allah. Mark Christian, a former Muslim who has been disowned by his family since he received Christ as an adult, says, “In Islamic tradition, supremacy is demonstrated to all by practicing Islam where Christianity or Judaism once reigned. This is what animates the building of mosques on the holy sites of other religions. It is a conqueror’s philosophy.” Watch for continuing efforts for Muslims to worship and pray in the Cathedral. Watch for Muslims to attempt to expand the area they use. Watch for enhanced efforts to shield their view of the cross or the stained glass windows or any other Christian symbolism in the gradually expanding space where they will be allowed to worship Allah in a house dedicated to worship and service to the Triune God under the guise of tolerance.

Americans are bombarded daily with demands that they show tolerance. This word is touted as the opposite of hatred and bigotry. Actually, it is the tool of hatred and bigotry. In the name of tolerance, affronts to religious liberty, freedom of speech, and other personal liberties are being accepted culturally, because in the name of tolerance training, activists for a variety of agendas are permitted to club their opponents with arrest, fines and even re-education. Expressed this way, tolerance simply becomes hatred and bigotry expressed by the winning agenda.

The opposite of hatred is actually love. It is love that transforms people and relationships from confrontation to respect. People who have suffered insults and been treated as less than human do not really want to be simply tolerated. That is what Hindus do with the untouchable caste in India. To this day, and Americans may find this very surprising, a Hindu of the Dalit caste, the untouchables, need not aspire to a middle-class life, let alone to political leadership or national acclaim in any field. Yet the Dalit are tolerated. It is against the law to shoot one down in the street, for example, or to force one into slavery in a household. The days of unfettered abuse of a Dalit are over, more or less. Still, the Dalit are pointed out as Dalit and recognized as Dalit. All citizens have heightened awareness of what a Dalit is. To initiate interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians is to accede to the necessity that Christians become the Dalit in a culture operated by sharia law. This “historic” prayer service is interpreted by some as a step forward in cordial relations between Christians and Muslims. Those who think that way ought not to plan to hold their breath until the Muslims extend an equivalent invitation.

The proponents of the interfaith dialogue initiated by allowing Muslims to pray in the National Cathedral while being protected from all the signs and symbols of what that cathedral is about are simply heightening our awareness of the Muslims. At the same time, they are unwittingly heightening Muslim awareness of the weakness of Christian affection for their God. Those who believe that we must surely have something in common with Muslims and we must exert ourselves to uncover and work with that something are clearly willing to create something for common ground if none exists. They have made common ground out of a section of the cathedral sanctuary where Muslims cannot see the cross of Christ. It will be enlightening to see what Muslims do with that common ground.

Christians who want to prevent anyone from seeing the cross of Christ have, in my view, a very strange way of expressing their faith. The Bible teaches me that the cross is evidence that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom. The Bible teaches me that all of us find our common ground at the foot of the cross, not out of sight of the cross. The Bible says that the mission of every Christian is to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them all the things Christ taught his disciples. When we do that, I believe that we will all find common ground in the heavenly throne room of the God who dwells in ineffable light, where the slaughtered Lamb sits at the right hand of the Father, where the Holy Spirit reigns and calls forth the praises of angels and myriads of myriads of the faithful in heaven. Now that is what I call common ground!

 

What is a Christian to Do?

Statistics show that religious liberty around the world is a precious and endangered human right. Statistics further show that in the set of all acts of religious persecution, the majority of such acts are directed against Christians. Saddest of all, statistics for recent years in the US show a rising number of events which may not meet the legal standard to be called persecution, but they are the sort of events that can easily escalate to that level. It is clear that Christians must be alert and attentive to cultural pressures that influence governmental pressures on human liberty. In fact, it is possible for pressure to restrict a right not specifically limited to religious liberty to seriously infringe on religious liberty.

In a recent blog post, Matthew Clark provided some important perspective on an IRS plan to monitor speech in churches. The IRS has announced that it will collaborate with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in a manner not yet publicly disclosed. The purpose will be to determine if a church is advocating a position on a political issue, whether it be in the realm of social morality such as abortion or in the realm of elections such as support for a candidate who stands for traditional marriage.

The US Constitution specifically prohibits the federal government from engaging in such a practice, because the Constitution protects both free speech and religious liberty. Every citizen, whether or not he is a member of a church, whether or not he is a pastor of a church, has the fundamental human right to hold and express his views on all matters. However, as Ronald Reagan pointed out years ago, we are never more than one generation from tyranny, because each generation must defend liberty as if the battle had never been won before. The IRS proposal to monitor what is said in churches specifically intrudes on freedom of speech, but by imposing such monitoring on churches, it also intrudes on religious liberty, because such monitoring makes it clear that the IRS believes it can and must prevent churches from promoting their views by teaching members to act on positions that are being discussed in political circles. It is as if the IRS is saying that churches have no right to speak on any moral issue if the public is talking about it. Since the people who founded the USA have always regarded the churches as integral to the moral fiber of the nation, it is hard to imagine how the IRS concluded that churches should be prevented from speaking on any issue.

What is a Christian to do about this information? How does God want us to live and behave when our deeply held convictions are threatened in this manner?

Paul wrote to the church in Rome, the seat of government for the Roman Empire, a government that was corrupt and tyrannical in many ways. He told them, “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Rom 13:2 Many people in the USA certainly believe that this country was founded by people who trusted God and followed his guidance. The Constitution of the USA sets a standard for government that has been copied all over the world, and many people believe that God inspired the design of government in the Constitution. It builds in structures that impede tyranny as long as the citizens and the elected officials live by God’s moral code. The authors of the Constitution conceded from the beginning that only people with personal integrity could make this government work. It was always understood that the integrity of the voters and the integrity of elected officials was crucial to the success of the designed government. When the integrity was missing, the liberties would die. Yet, even though Paul knew how corrupt and tyrannical Roman government was, he taught early Christians to be good citizens. He modelled that citizenship in his own life, taking his case to the emperor, his right as a Roman citizen, in order to obey his higher calling to take the name of Christ to Gentiles.

Peter likewise admonished Christians to be good citizens, saying that governors “are sent by [God] to punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right.” 1 Peter 2:14 Peter, too, advocated good citizenship as a testimony to Christ. He taught that “doing good” would “silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” 1 Peter 2:15 However, this is the same Peter who, ordered to stop preaching in the name of Christ, replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20 In Peter’s life there is a model for obedience to authority, right up to the point where that obedience conflicts with obedience to God.

This is the conflict being addressed in the book of Revelation, written to churches under serious threat because of the unwillingness of Christians to worship the emperor. They were viewed as traitors for this attitude, because while Peter taught that Christians should pray for the emperor, he never tried to tell Christians they should pray to the emperor. Roman citizens who were not ignorant of the depravity of Roman emperors often worshiped tongue in cheek in order to be politically correct. They thought Christians were silly for balking at a public ritual. Christians were ridiculed then for their conviction that they must worship and obey God, just as they are ridiculed now for the same reason. In Revelation, Christians are encouraged to hold fast to their testimony, no matter the price, and the book is full of promised rewards for “him who overcomes.” To overcome in Revelation is to overcome the temptation to go along to get along.

What is a Christian in the USA to do when government intrudes into the words and deeds of churches? The Bible teaches good citizenship and faithful testimony to Christ.

As good citizens, Christians have both the right and the responsibility to use the powers of citizenship, speech and the vote, to push back against tyranny. To act as a responsible citizen in advocacy for the God-given rights protected by the Constitution is not a benefit solely for Christians; it benefits every citizen. Christians may be the target today, but tomorrow it could be some other group. Therefore, when Christians recognize that the government is trying to diminish or destroy rights protected in the design of the government, they have the obligation as citizens to prevent that overreach of government.

In faithful testimony to Christ, Christians must not accede to government overreach and go silent on matters of public morality and good government. They must speak on the subjects of God’s plan for families, God’s sovereignty in the gift of life, and God’s insistence on truth and integrity in human words and deeds. Inside churches or outside of churches, Christians must stand on biblical principles and speak God’s truth.

At the same time, both as a duty of good citizenship and as a duty of faithful testimony, Christians must uphold the government and all the officials of government in prayer. Christians must ask for God’s guidance in their own words and deeds as parties to conflicts between the government and the citizens.

It is not always easy to know the right thing to do. Some of the social problems facing the culture are so complex that human wisdom is inadequate to the task of solving them, but none of those problems is beyond God’s understanding or concern.

The fact that the IRS even explores the notion of monitoring the speech of churches with a view to suppressing speech deemed as political is an affront to the First Amendment. The fact that the IRS even explores the notion of monitoring any speech whatsoever is an affront to the First Amendment. God-fearing men wrote that amendment because they believed that the freedom to hold and express opinions is God-given, not something for government to dole out.

What do you suggest Christians do?