There has been a constant wave of news recently that has led some to opine that America is seeing a “war on religion” – that the current administration and liberal politicians and educators are seeking to limit the influence and power of religion in American culture. More to the point, the assumption made is not that “religion” is the problem, but conservative, evangelical religion.
Is there any evidence to support this charge? Well, several recent events have been marshaled in support of this theory.
1) The New York Schools exclude churches
In June of 2011, a federal appeals court ruled that NY schools could exclude churches from using their buildings for worship services. Of course, in NY, with the cost of building space, this has been a common practice. The appeals court ruled that the ban did not exclude religion expression but a type of activity – worship services. The US Supreme Court refused to hear the case, essentially upholding the ban. I am no lawyer, but this appears to be a departure from court cases that have consistently upheld equal access to public buildings by churches and religious organizations.
2) The Vanderbilt Exclusion
Recently, the Vanderbilt University administration removed protection of religious groups from their student handbook. In America, there has always been an assumed right for religious groups to exclude those who do not practice their faith from the organization. Vanderbilt has adopted an oppressive politically correct ethic here.
Any Christian group that holds to its convictions will run afoul of these guidelines. In a moment worthy of George Orwell, Vanderbilt calls their policy a “non-discrimination” policy. But there are four Christian groups that are the only ones who have been held to account under this policy.
It would seem that Vanderbilt is denying freedom of religion to groups that are convictional in nature.
SBC Today has run a series of articles on the Vanderbilt situation this week and is reporting tonight that the Vanderbilt Baptist Campus Ministry is now being pressured to accept non-Christians into its leadership.
Does that seem bizarre to anyone else? A Christian group is being told to let non-Christians be leaders in the Christian group.
3) Obama’s Contraception Policy.
This one has been in the press a lot, hasn’t it? The president (who sometimes seems to forget that he was not elected king, but president) ordered that religious organizations (for now, churches are exempt) provide coverage for birth control, sterilization and even the morning-after abortion pill. The furor that arose led to an Obama compromise which did little to alleviate the problem.
Essentially, by imperial order, Obama has denied the religious liberty of those who have convictions contrary to his pro-abortion views.
4) Catholic Adoptive Services
The Catholics have shut down their adoptive services in Massachusetts, because they did not agree to the state’s demands that they permit homosexual couples to adopt. Again, liberal politics has trumped religious conviction.
These are just a few of the issues that have been in the news recently.
So, what’s the answer?
Is there really a war on religion in America today?
In a word, yes. YES!
Yes, President Obama and his administration, other liberal politicians, the elite media, and the higher education system in America (which is predominantly atheistic) are working to prevent conservative, convictional Christians from having the freedom to practice their religious beliefs in the public square.
Of course, they do not call it a war on religion. They call in a war on discrimination. But, effectively, it is a cultural war on those who believe in what they disbelieve. For them, religious freedom means exclusion of religious belief or expression in any way in the public square.
Biblical Christians believe two things that liberals find heinous.
- We believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and that other religions are wrong. We affirm the freedom of people to practice these false faiths, but we also believe they are false faiths that deliver people to death and hell instead of providing life. The exclusivity of Christ is as fundamental to us as it is offensive to liberals.
- We call certain activities sin. We believe that abortion is killing of a human being and is not right. We believe that homosexual activity is sinful. We stand against the culture on these things.
And regardless of what they say, liberals despise freedom of speech that they do not agree with. In those countries where liberalism has taken hold, the right of Christian preachers to confront sin has been challenged. In America, those who hold convictions on the issues are viewed by some in our current administration as terrorists, are viewed as homophobic and extreme. They define the expression of basic Christian commitment as “hate speech” because we believe that Jesus is the only way and that certain behaviors are sin.
The Obama Administration, liberal politicians, the elite liberal media and the powers that be in the educational system in America wish to ratchet up pressure on convictional conservative religious expression. That seems clear to me.
So, what is the answer?
1) Do the work of the church. Proclaim the gospel whether the government supports us or persecutes us. We are unique in America in that we expect our culture and government to support our work. Most in history and in the world today do not have that expectation. We need to do the work of the church (essentially, the Great Commission) regardless of whether we are blessed or persecuted for doing it.
2) Voice your concerns. If there has every been a time for Christians to speak their minds, it is now. We must not let politics derail us from our chief gospel task, but neither should we sit back in silence and do nothing while basic liberties, which we believe are given to us by God, are taken away from us. Write your congressman. Speak to friends. Help people see that religious liberty is under attack.
3) Vote for people who support religious liberty. There is a difference between saying one is for freedom of religion and actually being for it.
I am not prone to wild statements (except perhaps about sports), as most of the readers here will know. But I believe that if America does not elect strong majorities in both house of Congress who support religious freedom and replace the current president, the freedom of religion we have known for centuries will be gone by the next election cycle. If I want my grandson to know religious liberty in America, the time is now to take a stand.
This ought not be a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans alike should desire to uphold freedom of religion for all. I’m a Republican, but often one who is frustrated by or ashamed at my own party. But we need to elect a Congress and Senate who will oppose the restriction of religious freedom. I genuinely believe that such liberty is at issue in this election.
Before you vote for a candidate, ask if they support Obama’s restriction of religious freedom in matters of birth control. Ask your candidate what they think of the Vanderbilt and New York City public school persecution of religious expression.
If they support these things, voting for them is essentially a vote to end religious freedom. If you want that, fine. If you want those who have strong religious convictions to have freedom to express that, you need to vote carefully in November.
4) Civil Disobedience
We may be called on to follow the example of the early apostles who said, “We must obey God, not men.” If the government commands us to do what is wrong, we may have to defy our government even if there are consequences attached.
I’ve never participated in civil disobedience in my life. But things are changing. I am amazed at some of the reasonable, Christian statesmen who are currently discussing civil disobedience over the oppressive Obama policies against religious freedom.
Let me be very clear here. Civil disobedience is civil, not violent. It is forceful, but peaceful. And when you engage in it, you have to be willing to pay the legal price. I’m not talking about taking up arms against the government. That would be sin.
This is new ground for me. I’ve always been more on the “the church is not about politics” side of things. I still think the gospel is our primary work. And I have always been suspicious of alarmists who have been predicting that the sky is falling during every election in the last 20 years.
But, listen to Chicken Little, my friends. The sky is falling. Religious liberty is at stake in America and if you don’t stand now, your children and grandchildren may not have that opportunity.