I was tempted to title this week’s blog “The biggest loser;” for that was the conclusion of an 18 June 2014, meeting in the municipality that I frequent to shop, to bank and to worship. For on that date Sterling Heights became the 36th municipality in Michigan to pass a law that “protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents and visitors from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment,” under the guise of a nondiscrimination ordinance. The trend is obvious, as across the country, nearly every week local leaders are bowing to the pressure of LGBT advocates to put a stamp of approval on their lifestyles, as evidenced by recent votes in Nashville, Bozeman, and Houston.
I attended the Sterling Heights council meeting the night before the vote; but I already knew what to expect – as I’d engaged some of the members via email conversations over the weekend. They had been well prepped by the LGBT alliance. The expression of opinions, both in my email exchanges and at the council meeting, were for the most part respectful. What I found most disconcerting though, was that the “pro” ordinance representatives didn’t seem to have any qualms using Almighty God to either justify their position and the lifestyle it endorsed, or to criticize those who disagreed with them. But as I explained to the young man sitting next to me at the meeting, it’s disingenuous to claim God’s endorsement of their position, while denying the truth of God’s written Word.
But this too is a trend. We saw it first with respect to out-of-wedlock sex, as society in general, including many “saved” Christians were brain-washed by pop culture to believe it’s no longer fashionable to make a formal commitment of life-long vows to the one with whom they live. It didn’t take long for this digression from divine law to accelerate to acceptance of both same-sex unions and abortion as an alternative to life.
These days, even the Church is becoming a target of this radical secularization. Pastors of sports stars, politicians and entertainers who publicly violate Christian principles constantly defend their famous congregants for supporting ungodly causes and on-stage outrageous behavior, validating their actions. And entire denominations (e.g.: Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches) seem more intimidated by the criticism of the world and the media, than they are fearful of their Creator. Opening up morality to interpretation is none other than a straight forward denial that God is our Objective Moral Agent. As the author of a recent Christian Post article so well stated: “God’s leaders are called to preach the Word, not hand out permission slips excusing people from it. Is there grace and forgiveness? Absolutely! But only for a repentant heart!”
Calling Evil Good
Medicare now covers change of sex surgery, the President proclaimed June, LGBT month, and Time Magazine’s recent Cover Story was on Transgenders. Planned Parenthood (America’s biggest abortion business) recently began using scripture to deceive, launching a “40 Days of Prayer for Choice,” then following it up with a “Pastoral Letter to Patients,” making the stunning suggestion that most faiths support the decision to kill an innocent unborn child. “… clergy and people… from all denominations support women making this complex decision…. you’re not alone. As religious leaders from a number of religious traditions, we’re here to support you in your decision… If you’d like to speak with a clergyperson, your local Planned Parenthood health center can refer you to someone who will be supportive of you and your decision.”
A 25 year-old woman who works at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey was awarded a cash prize from a pro-abortion group for submitting a 3-minute video of herself allegedly having an abortion as an entry in the “Abortion Stigma Busting” contest. She even has the audacity to call it “dangerous” to involve an adolescent’s parents in the decision. The competition was co-organized by the Abortion Care Network and the 1 in 3 Campaign, a project of Advocates for Youth, which advocates for adolescents’ access to abortions without parental notification or consent.
Jesus spoke about a time in the future when the world would be just as evil as it was before the world-wide flood and before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Paul also warned his young pastor Timothy to expect to suffer persecution, because “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Eight centuries earlier Isaiah warned: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
The Church: a time of persecution
Persecution of Christians is occurring on a more massive scale than ever before in our 2000 year history. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported that Christians are targeted for harassment in 151 countries-three-quarters of the world’s states, more than any other religious group. Similar findings are reported by the Vatican, Newsweek, the Economist, and the 60-year-old Christian support group Open Doors.
Very few cases actually get press coverage; like Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman and mother who recently gave birth in prison. Raised a Christian, but after officials learned that her long-absent father was a Muslim, she was sentenced to death for apostasy-for leaving Islam. Her marriage to her American husband was declared void, and she was convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes to be administered before her execution.
Another case receiving attention is North Korea’s sentencing of a South Korean missionary to life with hard labor. He was convicted of espionage and trying to start a church. The Chinese government’s demolishment of the 3,000-member Sanjiang church in Wenzhou on April only got in the news because it was an approved, government-registered church. Another 20 official churches in the area have had all or parts of their buildings removed or demolished, and hundreds more are threatened with destruction.
We’ve all read about the 250 Christian girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria and forced to convert to Islam. But hundreds of other girls and women have been systematically kidnapped in Egypt from Coptic Christian families and forced to marry Moslem husbands and convert as well.
This same persecution has come to the “friendly” shores of America
Conservative and Christian web sites are systematically blocked at public elementary and high schools. Public universities are taking nondiscrimination policies to illogical extremes to prevent Christian student groups from forming and/or functioning on campus. Others are demanding that gays and atheists be allowed to join and hold leadership positions in these groups. And students, high school and college, are put into uncomfortable positions to defy their teachers and administrators who seek to prohibit them from praying, reading the Bible, or thanking God for their talents and blessings.
We all know about the Christian businesses that are fighting the rules imposed by the Affordable Care Act that would force them to violate their spiritual beliefs and consciences. And we’ve read about the bakery and the photography studio that were each taken to court under nondiscrimination laws, because they believed that making a wedding cake and photographing the ceremony for gay marriages were violations of their Christian faith. The baker was even ordered to attend “sensitivity training” to properly brain-wash he and his staff. Even a so-called conservative state like Texas has municipalities that attempt to shut down home Bible studies using zoning ordinances.
As Pastor Rick Warren argued recently in a Christian Post interview, the day will come, and may be near when pastors and other Christian leaders will have to go to jail for defending the faith. He cited college groups, zoning laws and Hobby Lobby in pointing out that religious freedom in America is being attacked on all kinds of fronts.
And where are our Church leaders when we most need them?
It’s sad that some of the greatest wisdom on this issue has come from good, though secular leaders – both past and present.
In his day, Winston Churchill saw the Nazis as a threat to “Christian civilization.” Later, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher remembered an era when there was greater comprehension of the broad consensus around Judeo-Christian values. “I think back to many discussions in my early life when we all agreed that if you try to take the fruits of Christianity without its roots, the fruits will wither. And they will not come again unless you nurture the roots.”
Current British Prime Minister David Cameron wants an even larger role for religion in the UK, and desires his nation to be regarded as a Christian country. “People who advocate some sort of secular neutrality fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality,” he said last Easter.
“If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be one nation gone under,” said American President Ronald Reagan.
Even former KGB officer and now Russian chief of state Vladimir Putin understands the “interrelated” connection of religion and government. “First and foremost we should be governed by common sense” based primarily on “moral principles,… however, it is not possible to have morality separated from religious values,” Putin said in a 2007 Time interview.
Fortunately, we have a few strong Christian Davids like John Piper, willing to take on the media and the culture changers of our time. When a transgender advocate argued in a national magazine: “People need to be willing to let go of what they think they know about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Because that doesn’t necessarily mean anything inherently;” Piper responded firmly and unequivocally, that this reasoning is compelling only without God. He quoted William Ernest Henley, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Then he expanded, “God, the wise, loving, purposeful creator and designer of human life is the One who connects biological nature and sexual identity.” God’s divine nature is revealed in the physical, material universe. So much so that Paul says in Romans, “So they are without excuse” when they “exchange the glory of God for the glory of the creature,” or when they “exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.”
Piper adds that Paul then draws the parallel with human sexuality. “Just as physical nature reveals the truth about God, so physical nature reveals truth about sexual identity. Whom we should worship is not left to our preferences, and who we are sexually is not left to our preferences. Both are dictated by God’s revelation in nature.” So if a human looks at the world and chooses to worship a creature rather than the Creator, he is without excuse. “And if a man looks at his own body and chooses to play the part of a woman, or a woman looks at her own body and chooses to play the part of a man, they are without excuse … Genitalia is a revelation of God’s design.”
Were there more Church leaders willing to be more forthright and clear in their language and more willing to risk their personal lives and reputations for the defense of the Word of God, there would be less confusion in the ranks of their congregations, or on our city councils.