Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

The Biblical Perspective on Persecution

ISIS & Ethiopian ChristiansISIS has released another video, this time showing the execution of Ethiopian Christians. The locale seems to be identical to the earlier video of the beheading of Egyptian Coptic Christians.

Thousands of Christians in Nigeria have been massacred by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram.

Christian pastor Saeed Abedini continues to languish in an Iranian prison. He is told he must convert to Islam if he wishes to be released. Abedini’s plight is not part of the crumbling Iranian deal being negotiated by the Obama administration.

France Gay Marriage FairIn America, no one has been killed for being a Christian—yet. But the rising tide of antagonism toward Christianity has been well documented. All one has to do is think of the death threats to businesses run by Christians if they don’t participate in homosexual “weddings.”

A pastor recently set out to see if a double standard exists. He requested a bakery run by homosexuals to bake a cake for him with a message on it promoting traditional marriage. He is now being threatened with criminal charges.

Burn Down

Obamacare continues to try to force Christian organizations to violate their religious tenets by offering types of birth control they believe are wrong and by covering abortions.

There are a number of Christian legal organizations that are being kept busier than ever defending Christians’ right to religious liberty. David French, a lawyer with the American Center for Law and Justice, says many of the new cases come from colleges and universities. He notes,

Our knowledge of incidents is only as good as the reporting. However, it’s clear that—particularly on college and university campuses—we have seen a significant rise in attempts to silence Christian organizations by the misapplication of nondiscrimination laws.
As I’ve said before, the next steps will be to force Christian colleges to change their statements of faith regarding sexuality or lose participation in the government-run student loan program. Churches will be threatened with the loss of tax-exempt status if their pastors refuse to conduct same-sex weddings. A report released jointly by the Family Research Council and the Texas-based Liberty Institute highlights some of the most recent attacks:
  • A federal judge threatened “incarceration” to a high school valedictorian unless she removed references to Jesus from her graduation speech.
  • City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals, listening to religious messages or singing gospel songs at a senior activities center.
  • A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.
  • Following U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies, a federal government official sought to censor a pastor’s prayer, eliminating references to Jesus, during a Memorial Day ceremony honoring veterans at a national cemetery.
  • Public school officials prohibited students from handing out gifts because they contained religious messages.
  • A public school official prevented a student from handing out flyers inviting her classmates to an event at her church.
  • A public university’s law school banned a Christian organization because it required its officers to adhere to a statement of faith that the university disagreed with.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government can tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis it can hire and fire.
  • The State of Texas sought to approve and regulate what religious seminaries can teach.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned the mention of God from veterans’ funerals, overriding the wishes of the deceased’s families.
  • A federal judge held that prayers before a state House of Representatives could be to Allah but not to Jesus.

While we should continue to fight back against these attempts to marginalize Christians, we also should not be surprised that this is occurring. We have been warned in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That’s not one of those promises Christians are eager to claim. Jesus, though, reminds us,

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.

We need to keep that perspective and live for Christ and His kingdom, regardless of what the so-called powers of the earth try to do.

Persecution

The Lewis-Chambers Missed Opportunity

Another of C. S. Lewis’s regular American correspondents was Mary Van Deusen, someone with whom he shared thoughts on deep theological issues and on current events. One of her chief concerns, in the early 1950s, was the knowledge of how communists had infiltrated the American government. In one response to her, Lewis talked about how that issue showcased one problem with the modern concept of democracy:

C. S. Lewis 6Your question about Communists-in-government really raises the whole problem of Democracy. If one accepts the basic principle of Govt. by majorities, how can one consistently try to suppress those problems of public propaganda and getting-into-govt, by which majorities are formed. If the Communists in this country can persuade the majority to sell in to Russia, or even to set up devil-worship and human sacrifice, what is the democratic reply?

When we said “Govt. by the people” did we only mean “as long as we don’t disagree with the people too much”? And is it much good talking about “loyalty.” For on strictly democratic principles I suppose loyalty is obligatory (or even lawful) only so long as the majority want it. I don’t know the answer.

But of one thing he was certain: “Of course there is no question of its being our duty (the minority’s duty) to obey an anti-God govt. if the majority sets it up. We shall have to disobey and be martyred. Perhaps pure democracy is really a false ideal.”

WitnessJust a few months before this response, Van Deusen had encouraged Lewis to get the book Witness by Whittaker Chambers, who had been an underground communist agent in the 1930s, but who had then turned his back on communism and found God. As a senior editor for Time magazine, Chambers had even referenced Lewis in an essay he wrote called “The Devil.” As one reads that essay today, one can see the connection with The Screwtape Letters.

Chambers’s book that Van Deusen wanted Lewis to read was a bestseller in 1952, as it exposed not only the communist underground, but positively pointed to the need for Western civilization to return to its Christian foundations. Many have described Witness as one of the most elegantly written autobiographies of the century, and I agree with that conclusion.

When Van Deusen suggested he get the book, Lewis merely answered, “I’m afraid I can’t find a W. Chambers book. It’s better not to send the book. They all get lost in the pile on my table.” This could be one of the great lost opportunities of the twentieth century. One would have loved to know Lewis’s response to that book, which, although written as an autobiography, is a wordsmith’s delight. But it was not to be.

Judge Not?

Obama at National Prayer BreakfastPresident Obama uses the occasion of Easter, at a White House prayer breakfast, to insinuate that he’s very concerned about Christians who use “less than loving expressions.” Mr. President, I’m concerned about that, too. I always have been. But it all depends on what one’s definition of “loving” may be.

For Barack Obama, not endorsing same-sex marriage is unloving. For Barack Obama, not allowing abortion on demand is unloving. For Barack Obama, giving medical attention to a child born alive during an abortion is unloving. For Barack Obama, not letting Iran into the circle of the “civilized” nations by denying them access to nuclear capability is unloving. For Barack Obama, seeking to guarantee the survival of Israel apparently is unloving. I could go on.

He’s done this kind of thing before, most recently at another prayer breakfast where he downplayed Muslim atrocities and tried to paint a picture of moral equivalence by pointing to the Crusades.

When Muslims killed journalists in Paris and then turned to killing people in a Jewish grocery store, he refused to say Muslims were responsible and that Jews were targeted. Last week, in Kenya, when nearly 150 Christian college students were massacred by an Islamist terror group, the official White House response was to ignore both the religion of the attackers and those who were massacred.

Mr. President, my problem is that I know your background. You claim to be a Christian, but whatever Christianity you make a claim to is nothing more than a radicalized Marxist theology that makes Jesus into nothing more than a model to follow for “social justice.” I read the interview you did for a Chicago newspaper prior to your presidency in which you made it clear that 1) all religions lead to God; 2) you’re not sure there is an afterlife; 3) being a good father is what you depend on for a right relationship with God; 4) it is wrong to try to convince others to become Christians.

Judging OthersSo I am judging, based on your own statements, your radical history, and your actions, inactions, and outright string of lies you have uttered as president, that you, sir, are no Christian.

Yes, I can hear the outraged voices: who are you to judge? Doesn’t the Bible say “judge not, lest you be judged?” Anyone who says that discloses a superficial knowledge of that passage of Scripture.

Read it carefully and you will see that, from the context, Jesus is telling us not to be hypocrites. He says that before you judge, be sure you are not doing the same things for which you judge others. Take the log out of your own eye first, then take the splinter out of another’s eye.

Throughout the Bible, judgment occurs, and we are told often to be a discerning people. We are to look at the fruit of others’ lives and determine whether or not they are genuine. Otherwise, we will often be fooled and follow those who will lead us astray. Yes, we examine our own hearts first, but then we are to examine the actions and the words of others as well.

Some people have the idea that being a Christian means you just let things happen without standing up for truth publicly. They say that is true humility. I disagree. Humility is knowing the One who is really in charge and submitting our lives to Him. It means to boldly proclaim His truths so that others will be led away from destruction. To be silent is to connive with falsehood. We are to be watchmen on the walls, sounding the alarm when an enemy approaches.

I will continue to sound the alarm whenever the enemies of God’s truth try to advance. I will not be silenced. And Mr. President, to speak out concerning the falsehoods being promoted by your worldview and your policies is not being unloving; rather, it is being discerning, with the goal of helping people see His truth.

Meanwhile, Mr. President, I would urge you—in the love of God and out of concern for your soul and in context—judge not, lest you be judged.

Righteous Judgment

My Ideal President

Presidential SealLet’s talk about an ideal world, where we have someone residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. that we can trust. Having the right president is not the solution to our national problems; those problems go much deeper, since they are spiritual in nature. But it can make a difference who the chief executive is.

What am I looking for in this ideal president? I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I’ve surveyed the field of candidates for 2016. Here are the characteristics that I want.

Dedication to Biblical Principles

This is the starting point. Our president should understand that God’s law is the basis for man’s law, and that anything in man’s law that contradicts God’s law is invalid and should be changed. He or she needs to be someone who honors God above everything else, realizing that public opinion is not the final judge of one’s actions.

This president would advocate for the sanctity of life, the Biblical definition of marriage, a limited role for government in our lives, and private property and free enterprise. The rule of law would be this person’s hallmark, overturning the rule of man that has characterized the current administration.

As I said, this is the starting point, but it’s not enough.

Christian Character

I could give a whole laundry list of character traits I would like to see in this president’s life, but I can summarize with these three, which I believe might encompass many others: integrity, courage, and humility.

Integrity means this president would be a person who does what he/she says, and acts with complete honesty, above board and truly transparent. This president must be a person who has the kind of courage that will tackle the knottiest of issues, regardless of the personal cost to one’s popularity, which is fleeting at best anyway.

As an aside, what we have witnessed the past few days in Indiana and Arkansas is lack of courage on the part of the governors in those states. The so-called Religious Freedom Restoration acts eventually signed into law in those states are worse than useless now; they actually may be turned against Christians’ freedom of religion. That kind of spinelessness at the national level would ruin us completely.

The courage I seek in the ideal president would be coupled with a genuine humility. This president needs to acknowledge that he/she is not the “savior” of the nation, but merely a servant who is fulfilling God’s command to do His will. There is no room for arrogance; pride leads to destruction.

Strategic Wisdom

It’s not enough to simply believe in the right things and have the proper character. This president must know how to make things happen to turn the country around. There might be any number of candidates who fit into the first two categories, but who lack the wisdom to carry out the correct policies. How do we get where we need to be? Not everything can be a frontal attack. Politics is a tricky business. This president will have to know how to manage the system for good without compromising principles or personal character.

Excellent Communication Skills

My ideal president will be a great communicator, in the style of Ronald Reagan, who knew how to connect with the people. Unfortunately, Republicans often choose a candidate who is marginal, at best, in being able to help citizens understand the principles that the country needs to be based upon and the policies that flow out of those principles. We need someone who can articulate those principles and policies clearly.

There may be other traits necessary, but if those four exist, I will be ecstatic. I think that kind of candidate can win this next election. Who is that candidate? I’m still evaluating the options before us. I see solid principles in some; I resonate with the character of many; I have opinions about the strategies they have used in the past and about their ability to communicate effectively.

One thing is for sure: the mainstream media will hold Republican candidates to a level of scrutiny that they will not apply to Hillary Clinton.

Media Bar

I’m holding the Republican candidates to a high bar also, but it’s not the same one the media is interested in. Let’s make our decision for the best candidate based on the kinds of traits I’ve listed above. This next presidential election could be the most crucial in our nation’s history.

Moral Courage . . . & the Lack Thereof

At first, I was grateful that more states were taking a stand for religious liberty. No one expected the firestorm that has resulted. It has become a “gay-rights” agenda item. Whoever would have thought that our First Amendment guarantee of “free exercise of religion” would attempt to be undermined in this manner? Aided and abetted, of course, by a media sympathetic to the homosexual New Totalitarians. Suddenly, this is more important to the media than real threats:

Threat

Disappointing as this may be, I expect it from the activists and their media allies. What is more disappointing is the lack of moral courage being exhibited by Republican governors on this issue. Mike Pence, in Indiana, and Asa Hutchinson, in Arkansas, both have histories of moral courage.

Asa HutchinsonI’ve never met Governor Pence, but I have met Governor Hutchinson, back in 2000, when he was a congressman. He was one of the House Managers who argued for Bill Clinton’s removal from office during the impeachment trial. I interviewed him for my book Mission: Impeachable. I know he is a committed Christian, and I honor him for his stand for Christ. I just wish he would now extend the kind of courage he displayed back in the Clinton impeachment trial to the current controversy.

This has become a witch hunt. Have you been following the account of a small pizza shop in Walkerton, Indiana? Most people don’t know where Walkerton is, but I do. It’s just a few miles from my hometown. I have relatives—a grandmother and an uncle—who are buried in the Walkerton cemetery. It’s a very small town, just above 2000 people, but is now embroiled in this controversy without ever intending to be.

A reporter, seeking out some business somewhere that might “discriminate” against homosexuals, entered Memories Pizza in Walkerton and asked the owner if she would serve homosexuals. She is a dedicated Christian—there are even Scripture verses on the walls of the business—and she said she would serve pizza to anyone. Her only reason not to do so would be—hypothetically, of course, since this has never happened—if a homosexual couple wanted her to cater pizzas for their wedding.

Memories PizzaWhat happened? News stories popped up everywhere about this “hateful, bigoted” business. One headline blurted outright that the business would not serve homosexuals, which was a complete distortion of what the owner said. Notice the misleading statement in the photo on the left: “Restaurant Denies Some Service to Same-Sex Couples.”

Death threats followed on Twitter immediately. One person even asked who would go with her to burn down the shop. The latest is that the pizza business may have to close down.

The only redeeming feature of the story thus far is that more than $50,000 has been raised to help the owner who has been unwittingly caught in this homosexual agenda/media hype trap.

Moral courage. She is showing it, and I honor her. When will the politicians do the same? The latest rumor is that there is a movement afoot within Republican circles to remove opposition to same-sex marriage from the party’s platform. My ties to the party are becoming more tenuous over time because of this tendency to go with the cultural flow and the loss of principle.

Moral courage. May those of us who say we stand on our Christian faith be the examples that others may follow, despite the threats and intimidation. God wants to work through us, but we have to give Him something to work with, don’t we?

A Prediction

Are Indiana Republicans getting ready to cave on religious liberty? While I always like to wait and see, the signs are ominous. The law passed by Indiana is not only innocuous, it doesn’t even guarantee religious liberty—it only provides a basis for making an argument for it if one is being pressured to violate one’s conscience. Yet, because of all the artificial furor stirred up by homosexual activists, it appears that Governor Mike Pence and the legislature are prepared to water it down further. If that happens, it’s a victory for the New Totalitarians.

Burning at Stake

This is a sad time for religious liberty.

I’m going to make a prediction. No matter what happens in Indiana, the hysterical New Totalitarians won’t be mollified. This is a well-orchestrated strategy that goes beyond a demand for acceptance in society; it won’t stop until everyone who disagrees with them is punished. No one will be allowed to say homosexuality is wrong, sinful (the worst word imaginable), or even misguided.

First, the Supreme Court will come out in favor of same-sex marriage as constitutional. Never mind that the Constitution doesn’t give credence to any such idea; it’s the trendy new thing, and the New Totalitarians will win this one, wiping out all state laws that reject the progressive wisdom.

Second, their guns will be trained on institutions that seek to retain Biblical morality. They will begin by reopening their case against Hobby Lobby and other businesses run by Christians. They won’t stop until legislation is passed that declares they must bow to laws deceptively labeled as “anti-discriminatory.” At that point, Christian businessmen will have to decide where they stand with respect to their integrity and devotion to God.

Third, they will demand that pastors of churches perform same-sex wedding ceremonies or lose tax-exempt status. How many churches will refuse to do so and remain faithful to the One they profess to worship and obey?

Then the New Totalitarians will come at the educational institutions that proclaim Christian faith. They will be told they must change their beliefs and policies on homosexuality or lose their participation in the student loan program. How many of those institutions of higher learning will decide to go with the flow of the culture and deny their Lord? They will frame it as necessary to be able to continue their mission. At that point, I will question whether they have any mission left to fulfill.

Have you noticed that all the anger and venom is being directed against Christians, and not Muslims? Why might that be? Perhaps they know Christians won’t rise up and behead them. It’s safer to attack the Christians.

Is there any silver lining to this? I see one. If all this transpires as I am predicting, it will certainly separate the true believers from those who have only a superficial attachment to Christian doctrine and practice. We will be able to see more clearly who is on the Lord’s side and who is faking it. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, we need to prepare ourselves. If you still cling to the belief that America remains a Christian nation, it’s time to rethink that. We were founded on Christian beliefs, to be sure, but Christian faith is now a distinct minority point of view, and we have to understand that. We are now counter-cultural and must adjust our approach to our culture and our government accordingly. We can no longer assume we hold majority views.

Pray that we proceed in God’s wisdom and in His strength.

Religious Freedom: It’s a Simple Concept

I keep having to say “I wish I could be surprised by . . .” Fill in the blank. Our culture has changed so drastically over the past few decades, and at a more rapid pace since someone deceived his way into the Oval Office, that nothing can surprise me anymore.

The latest furor is the law passed in Indiana (my home state) that simply seeks to allow religious believers (of any persuasion) to practice their faith when any other law threatens to punish them for exercising their freedom of religion. I seem to remember something about that in the First Amendment. As a reminder, that’s in the Constitution, which ostensibly is the fundamental law of the land.

Indiana’s law is modeled on a federal law passed in 1993 and signed by Bill Clinton—who, hypocritically, has now changed his mind about the very law he signed due to the pressures of the pro-homosexual lobby.

This law is not “anti-gay.” Even though I believe homosexuality violates basic Biblical morality, so does every immoral act, from theft to lying to other types of sexual sin. As a Christian, I deal with those who are trapped in their own sins every day. I don’t treat them as lepers, but instead seek to help them see the truth of the Gospel, which has to begin, of course, with an understanding of sin, repentance, and the forgiveness offered through the Cross.

If I owned a business of some kind, I would not ask everyone first if they are involved in some kind of sin, and if so, refuse to serve them. That’s silly. I would never sell anything that way.

But if I am in a type of business that could in any way endorse or participate in a sinful action, I should be allowed a religious exemption from being forced to be a participant. We have a number of publicized cases where Christian florists, bakers, photographers, etc., are being publicly shamed, or even sued, over not wanting to participate in homosexual “weddings.”

Let’s look at another possible scenario:

Wedding Cake

Should that man be forced to participate in this ceremony? Would anyone arguing against Indiana’s religious freedom law like to stand up on behalf of this couple?

Religious freedom is exactly that—freedom. And anyone who owns a business and operates it according to one’s religious beliefs should not be compelled to act against one’s own conscience.

It’s as simple as that.