Declaration of Religious Freedom

Chuck Colson’s blog on The Christian Post today is  claiming that Christians need to stand up for religious freedom.  He argues that we should be standing up against the recent wave of anti-Christianity that he says is sweeping out country.

The Manhattan Declaration covers three areas: life, marriage, and religious freedom.  These are the things that the signers feel are under attack and they are not going to take it anymore.

While I agree with most of the things in the declaration, and even think that Christians should stand up for these three areas, I think this declaration is a step in the wrong direction.  We need not stand up for our right to preach the gospel, we should just preach it.  We are too worried about government restricting our freedoms and ability to do what we believe, we have stopped doing it, in order to fight to be able to do it.

The declaration should be one that simply says, we will follow Jesus, wherever that takes me, even to jail, even to death.

Our country has been wrestling with many issues that religion plays a huge factor in.  Let us night be fighting for our own rights in those issues, but let us fight for people to hear about Jesus and to know the love of God.

I encourage you to read the declaration and post your thoughts below.  I think most of it is dead on, I just think that we are spending too much time on things like this instead of just simply living out what we believe.  I am curious to know what you think.

Pushing The Line

Milbank’s column in the Washington Post yesterday about the Christian ministers who gathered outside the Justice Department to protest the new hate crimes legislation was humorous on the one hand, and embarrassing on the other.

He laughs at the irony of a minister preaching out against gay marriage as two men kiss behind him, or that the man the ministers hired to run their sound let the gay activists use the same system for free after the anti-homosexual event.  “God works in mysterious ways,” one of the gay activists said.

These ministers were looking to test the boundaries of the law.  Is there not a better use of their time?

The thing that bothers me about this protest is not so much what they are saying about homosexuality,  but how they are saying it.  I agree that the Bible is clear that homosexuality, along with any sex outside of a man/woman marriage relationship, is a sin.  I just think its funny that I see ministers outside protesting homosexuality, and not outside a hollywood studio saying that sex before marriage is an abomination, so stop showing it to us everywhere we look.

In the article Milbank talks about Janet Porter

And Janet Porter, author of the book “The Criminalization of Christianity,” spoke of how her car was once set afire. “I think that would qualify as a hate crime, by any definition,” she said. “But because I’m not a lesbian activist, because I was a pro-life activist, there are no enhanced penalties, there’s no federal intervention, there’s no sensitivity training.”

Here is a quick search on Biblegateway.com of the word persecuted.  Jesus not only said to expect persecution, but to take joy in it and endure.  Yes, we are citizens and have rights, but if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, we are going to be persecuted for what we believe.  We believe something that controversial.  No one wants anyone to tell them that there is only one way, especially in this day and age.  That is what we believe.  Its not going to be well received all the time, or even most of the time really.

I think we need to be less concerned about fighting for our rights, and more concerned about living out the gospel.  I don’t think rallies against a group of people is really the way to do that.  Am I off base?  What do you think?  Is there something else going on that I don’t see?  Is there a benefit to this type of action?

License For Belief

South Carolina's "I Believe" License PlateAccording to an article on the New York Times Religion and Belief site, a federal judge ruled that South Carolina cannot issue license plates that have a religious image on it.

Some are claiming it is a violation of free speech to allow some specialty license plates, like a save the whales or the environment, but not religious license plates.  I guess that would be true if we were considering religion a political issue, which I don’t think it should be.

The point of seperation of Church and State is to keep religion from being a political issue.  The judge felt that if the state issued license plates with religious affiliation, that it would then be endorsing a religion.  Its easier not to have to endorse a religion than to have to endorse all religions.

As much as we like to call America a Christian nation, it isn’t.  There are dozens of other religions that are equally protected under the constitution and the Church needs to be respectful of the boundaries that our country has set up.  I have said it before and will say it again, none of the boundaries thus far keep anyone from living out their faith.

What do you think?  Is it an infringement on free speech or a correct interpretation of the church and state separation?

Imago Dei

Sistine Chapel Ceiling The debate about whether people can be good without believing in God or any deity seems to continue to be a hot topic in the blogosphere.  I had not found an answer that a really agreed with until I read Mark Driscoll’s response on The Washington Post’s On Faith site.

His argument is basic yet covers every base.  God made us in His image, therefore his morality is in our DNA.  So even if we don’t believe he exists or choose to worship and follow him, the fact that we are designed by Him to be a moral people and reflect his image is impossible to avoid.  This explains why so called post-god societies still have morality.

That argument should make sense to most Christians, but what about people who don’t believe in God?  Let me ask a question.  Can it be by chance that humanity seems to automatically be guided by a moral compass?  Even the most remote tribes have their taboo practices, and they match up across the line globally for the most part.  Is that a result of some natural selection, or design?

I realize the design argument has been run into the ground lately.  To me, it requires more faith to assume humanity is generally good because thats what we have to be to survive, instead of the fact that we are good sometimes because we just can’t help ourselves, it is bread into us, we are mirroring the God that created us.

Christmas is rapidly approaching, a season celebrated for the generosity and general good that people enjoy to do this time of year.  I don’t give my family gifts, or donate to children in need because of some sense of survival.  I do it because I enjoy doing good things.  Where does that feeling come from?  I don’t think it comes from years of evolution, but from a sense that I am doing what I was made to do.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27 ESV

Religious Disobedience

Michael Kessler’s post on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog about just law and religion is very though provoking and worth reading.

He talks about John Brown, who led and 1859 raid on a U.S. armory in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in order to forcible release slaves and lead them out of captivity.  He was so strongly against slavery he was willing to be a criminal to stop it.

Kessler then draws a parallel between Brown and pro-life proponents today, asking if we should really make Brown a hero, and if breaking the civil law in accordance with a higher law is actually right.

Interesting thoughts.

I think one thing to think about with abortion is that most people who are violently pro-life are not doing things to show that they would even help the mothers or their unborn children if abortion was abolished.  Brown was leading slaves into Canada once he freed them, not just letting them go off the property and hoping they found their way.

Maybe we need to look into what exactly the higher moral law is before we break any civil law to follow it.

More Speech

Warriors for ChristI blogged a few weeks ago about a Georgia high school and it’s cheerleaders who liked to display religious signs at football games.  The school, to pre-empt any lawsuits, banned the signs because of church and state issues.  In an article on The New York Times Religion and Belief section shows in a new article that the town has responded in an interesting way to the ban.  They are now bringing their own signs with Bible verses.

It is a great show of how things should work.  We have plenty of legal ways to express belief and few illegal.  The town found a legal way that differs from the illegal only slightly.  Its not the display of signs at the game, but who is displaying them.  The town is even seeing the event as a good thing now, because it is causing citizens to be more bold in their faith.

Let us hope the boldness does not only mean signs at a football game, but lives that live out love for God and people.

The New Banner by Clay Bennett

Church and State/Church or State?

Chuch and StateSoong-Chan Rah’s blog on the Sojourner’s website today had good thoughts about the way the church should interact with the government.  He had biblical backups for two extremes: retreating from government and operating as a counter-cultural colony, and being active in government, trying to advance God’s Kingdom in the established power.

He kind of left it at that, saying different action was required at different times, and also different people were required to act differently dependent on their political leanings.

His last thought is great, and I wish he would have elaborated more.

“Maybe the main role of God’s people is to be subject to government by bringing God’s perspective to bear on even the most secular of institutions.”

Soong-Chan Rah

If that is truly the role of the church, then the political leanings we start with should not matter.  It isn’t about our perspective, but about bringing God’s perspective to light.  I think that looks like both extremes he suggested.  Somehow we have to figure out how to be separate from the culture yet be active in trying to influence our leaders in such a way as to advance God’s Kingdom.  And we have to find a balance in between, where we are not relying on our governments to advance God’s Kingdom, yet we are not ruling them out as an avenue for that.

For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!

God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted!

Psalm 47:7-9

Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

Psalm 115:3-4

We need to have faith in that and believe that in all that we do.