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.

Christians in the Military: Under Attack

Wes ModderNavy Chaplain Wes Modder is in trouble for holding to his Christian beliefs. Modder is a decorated chaplain who has performed his duties for nearly two decades. Just last October, he was praised in a performance review as being the “best of the best” and a ”consummate professional leader ” who greatly exceeded standards in the vast majority of categories.

So what happened?

He is now accused of disrespect toward those he counsels. Why? Because he tells them the truth: homosexuality is sinful, out-of-wedlock sexual activity is sinful, and getting pregnant while unmarried is sinful. It all has to do with that little word “sin.”

Now, anyone who knows basic Biblical views on sexual morality won’t be shocked by Modder’s beliefs and that he would counsel military personnel to avoid such activities. He’s been counseling in this manner for his entire career. Why the accusations now?

It all began after a “married” homosexual man was assigned to be his assistant. They conversed on the topic of homosexuality; the assistant then filed a complaint against Modder. He found a handful of sailors Modder had counseled who were willing to go along with that complaint. Now Modder faces dismissal from the service.

Under Barack Obama, this is now the state of the U.S. military. Christian beliefs that fly in the face of the current political correctness now put one’s job in jeopardy.

I can hear the voices now: he must have been abusive or this is only one incident and you can’t draw conclusions based on this. First, there is no evidence of abusive language or behavior. If that has been his pattern, why has it never surfaced before? Why now, only after a homosexual man filed the complaint? Second, this is just one more example of what is becoming a rising tide of intolerance toward Christians in our country. If you think this is merely an isolated incident, you are not paying attention.

Chaplain Modder is being represented by the Liberty Institute. May true justice be done. May Chaplain Modder be exonerated fully. May our dearly won religious liberty be preserved.

Happy New Year? The Moral/Cultural Divide

In yesterday’s post I focused on the role of the real church—those truly committed to being disciples of Jesus Christ—as the key to a happier 2015. If genuine Christians become the salt and light that Christ said they should be, they can diffuse His truth throughout our society more effectively.

Today, I want to concentrate on what is actually happening in our society. Where are we morally and culturally? The two are connected, of course, and they both are the result of the status of our spiritual well-being.

I want to be balanced. I want to be able to point to improvements in the moral and cultural trends. Unfortunately, they are few.

Unborn ChildAbortion may be trending our way, but the battle is a long way from over. We have made progress in educating the general public about the horror of taking the lives of innocent babies, helped along by the excesses of some abortionists like Kermit Gosnell.

Public opinion polls—for whatever they’re worth—now show a higher percentage of Americans opposed to abortion on demand, and the late-term abortions such as were done by Gosnell have sickened most people.

So let’s rejoice at least a little bit over this trend, but not get carried away. The human death toll of more than 56 million since Roe v. Wade is a blight on our culture and our concept of morality.

France Gay Marriage FairThe year 2014 was the year of “coming out” for the homosexual revolution. For the first time in our history, a sitting president declared homosexual marriage to be good and wholesome.

Christians who don’t acknowledge the lifestyle as an acceptable alternative, because they hold to the Biblical teaching that homosexuality is sinful, are facing increasing pressure to conform. That pressure could soon turn to outright prosecution and/or persecution.

Race divides us more now than anytime since the 1960s, despite [or should I say with the encouragement of] a black president and attorney general. The furor in Ferguson, Missouri, led to an outburst of pure emotion, setting aside the facts of the Michael Brown shooting. Charges of racism have become so pervasive that anyone simply stating the facts of what occurred there will be accused of being a racist.

Ferguson RiotsPointing out that Brown robbed a store before the incident does not make one a racist. Stating the overwhelming forensic evidence and preponderance of eyewitness testimony that showed Brown attacked the police officer and tried to take his gun does not make one a racist. However, seeing everything through a prism of racism might make one at least “racialist.”

Demagoguery by accomplished demagogues like Al Sharpton, leading chants of “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!” only leads to more violence. Two New York City officers just sitting in their car are executed by a man hyped up with this view.

We’re in trouble.

At the root of it all, culturally, is our education system. Ruled by a liberal, progressive, anti-Christian elite, it seeks to undermine all traditional views of morality and culture, along with the faith that undergirds them. American history is ignored or reinterpreted according to the progressive vision, while every modern trend—be it radical feminism, environmentalism, wealth inequality, or whatever—becomes the centerpiece of what we now call “education.”

Stop Fed EdIn fact, it’s nothing more than indoctrination in the guise of teaching children “how” to think, not “what” to think. Regardless of the rhetoric, they are being taught what to think, and it’s destroying us.

Whenever we try to reform education, we instead set up a nationwide system like Common Core that, while sounding good, only hastens our downfall.

Real education reform would expand the opportunities for private educational choices and, step by step, reduce the near-monopoly of the government’s control over what we ought to learn and who is allowed to teach.

Clearly, we are a nation adrift from our spiritual base, and it is reflected in what we deem to be moral nowadays. Our culture retains only a thin veneer of Biblical memories. We are poised to become more divided than ever.

I wish I could offer a more positive perspective today, but I have to be honest. This is what I see.

Our federal government is not the source of all our woes; they come from our abandonment of Christian truth. The government, though, does play an essential role in promoting that abandonment. That will be my subject tomorrow.

Houston, You Have a Problem

We’re about to turn a corner on religious liberty in America, and it’s a chill wind that greets us.

Quoting from the story:

Annise ParkerThe city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

Wait a minute. Houston? Texas? One of the most conservative states in the nation? Well, statewide, yes, but, as usual, the cities lead the way toward the new progressivism. Funny how those policies called progressive always seek to overturn religious liberty.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a law firm that specializes in protecting religious liberty, has filed a motion to stop the subpoenas, but why are we even at this place?

The controversy began when the city council, back in June, passed what it calls a “non-discrimination” ordinance that allows, among other things, men to use women’s restrooms and vice versa. It is “equality” run amuck. And any Christian pastors who speak out against it or the homosexual agenda that drives it are now in the legal crosshairs.

First AmendmentAs a spokesman for the ADF notes, “Political and social commentary is not a crime. It is protected by the First Amendment.”

That’s why this is such a chill wind; it seeks to stifle all political disagreement and the religious beliefs that are the basis of that disagreement. If ever anything were a clear violation of not only the original intent of the Constitution, but the specific wording therein, this is it.

Why subpoena sermons? To shame pastors publicly who speak out against homosexuality. To try to marginalize them and the Biblical message that homosexuality is a sin—a view, of course, that is quickly becoming forbidden in America. They want to “out” these pastors as so-called “anti-gay bigots.”

Many of us warned this day was coming. This ordinance is only the first shot in this particular battle of the culture war. There are those who say there is no culture war, that those of us who speak of it are blowing things out of proportion. Look around you. The forces against the Biblical worldview are building up their arsenals. It’s only going to get worse.

Yet we cannot allow these attacks to put us on the defensive. We have the message of life, and it’s never been more needed than now. As opponents of Christian faith become emboldened, we must not cower in fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. We need to work with Him, guided by His Spirit, to meet this challenge.

The Supreme Non-Decision

Supreme Court 2Yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to review appeals from states with respect to the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. On the surface, this is an awful decision, yet is this possibly our best chance to reverse the tide?

The immediate, and dismal, result is that this non-decision clears the way for up to 30 states recognizing same-sex marriage as legitimate. Where can one find that elusive silver lining in the midst of such a departure from Biblical morality?

Let me offer what is probably a minority viewpoint from the conservative Christian community.

While I am unalterably opposed to homosexuality and am grieved by its increasing acceptance by our society, we may have, as one commentator noted, just dodged a bullet. Based on previous Supreme Court decisions, the odds were not in our favor if the Court had indeed ruled on these appeals. In all likelihood, it would have come down on the side of same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, thereby mandating that all states accept it as legitimate.

What this non-decision does is allow some states to continue to stand against the tide that seeks to sweep over us. It should provide the impetus for states to set their own standard for marriage. In fact, I was concerned that so many states were placing all their bets on a Supreme Court decision. It was an all-or-nothing proposition, and I fear we would have come away with nothing.

Yes, there should be a national definition of marriage, but given the status of our morality, I would prefer it not be imposed at this time. Same-sex marriage is an oxymoron, and a Court decision in its favor would have forced it upon all the states.

Keep in mind it has been federal courts that have led the way in overturning states’ traditional view of marriage. Did we really want the Supreme Court, with four extreme liberals and a so-called conservative who has already made it clear he would vote with those liberals, to enshrine this sin as sacred?

As I’ve said many times, government is not our savior, and if the government is trampling on Biblical morality, it’s because the people have allowed it to happen. We are the ones who have elected those who have pushed for this. We are the ones who put a man in the White House who is radically pro-abortion, pro-same-sex marriage, and who seeks to undermine religious liberty.

We let it happen. Now it’s up to use to reverse the direction we are headed as a country. It begins with a strong message of sin, repentance, and the new life offered through the Cross. It begins with individuals getting their lives straightened out as they get right with God.

Then those redeemed individuals need to inject that same message into all areas of society: education and government must be the focus if we are to change for the better.

Will this work? Theoretically, yes. With God all things are possible. But even though we have no guarantee, we must be faithful to the task. We’ll only know if it works if we remain faithful. Now is not the time to resign our role as salt and light.