During the last few years, there have been a number of court cases that have demonstrated a surge of judicial tyranny taking place across the United States.
A few examples include:
- the Christian photographers in New Mexico who refused to take pictures of a same-sex wedding;
- the Christian bakers in Oregon who similarly refused to bake a cake for a homosexual ceremony;
- the Christian couple in Hawaii who have a privately owned bed and breakfast and are being forced to entertain homosexual patrons despite their desire to run their B&B as a Christian environment;
- the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA and its willingness to let Prop. 8 in California remain overturned;
- the cases in North Carolina involving Forsythe and Rowan County commissioners opening their meetings with sectarian prayer, that is, prayer in Jesus’ name.
Today, we have come to the place where it’s criminal for Christian business owners to refuse service to homosexuals, but it’s perfectly acceptable for homosexuals to harass conservative Christians and bully them, via the courts, into violating their religious convictions.
Many pseudo-intellectuals have recently argued that the right to discriminate on the basis of religion is one right that a tolerant society does not protect. Ok, let’s try to make sense of that statement. A tolerant society does not allow religious people to discriminate based on their religious convictions, but it does allow people of same-sex persuasion to subjugate based on their sexual convictions? Sure, that makes a lot of sense – wink, wink.
In the name of tolerance, our judicial system has embraced totalitarianism.
Consider the ruling of the New Mexico Supreme Court as articulated by Justice Richard Bosson, who stated that the “price of citizenship” for the Christian photographers is “to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different.”
Elsewhere, Justice Bosson stated that the photographers would now be, “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” and that they, “can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation … than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims.” Don’t overlook the subtle but powerful tie to the civil rights movement. Curtailing racism is admirable. Coercing Christians to participate in homosexual and Muslim ceremonies is an anathema.
So, how do we, the church, make a difference?
Here are three areas of prayer and action:
- Christians must unite across denominational lines and work together in order to defeat the radical liberalism and secularism that prevails in our courts. Current North Carolina politics and last year’s marriage amendment are great examples of what can be done when the church unites.
- Christians must be willing to recall judges and politicians that disregard the will and voice of the people. This was recently accomplished in Colorado with the recall of two Senators over the issue of gun control. Arguably, the issue of religious freedom and the right to live out one’s religious convictions in the public square is more important than the issue of gun rights. Thus, if the people of Colorado were motivated to dismiss politicians for guns, Christians all across the nation should be motivated to dismiss politicians for God.
- Christians must commit to a new era of revivalism where the goal of the revival is not individualism packaged in religious language, but the goal of the revival is to obey God before government.
Many people lament the fact that revival has not broken out in our land. Yet, Acts 4 and 5 teaches us why revival has not taken place in America. In Acts 4, after being harassed by the authorities and commanded, “not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus,” the church prayed for boldness (Acts 4:29). In answer to their prayer, the leaders of the church proclaimed the name of Jesus regardless of the authorities’ demands. In Acts 5, the leaders of the church were again bullied by those in power. After being rebuked for preaching in the name of Jesus, Peter responded tersely, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
This is God’s word for the 21st century church, and it is the key to revival. However, Peter did not stop there. In Acts 5:32, he said, “we are His witnesses to these things [the ministry of Jesus], and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Understood within the context of Acts 4 and 5, the Holy Spirit is “given to those who obey Him” [God] over and against human authorities.
It doesn’t matter how many Graham family crusades we have. It doesn’t matter how large our churches become. It doesn’t matter how burdened we are for the lost. If we are not willing to obey God before government, we will not experience an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We have not experienced revival because the American church is more committed to the government than it is to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
When the government tells us to stop praying with our children at institutions that our tax dollars built, we stop praying.
When the government commands us, “not to speak at all in the name of Jesus,” we do exactly what we’re told.
When Supreme Court justices tell us that we are, “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire [our] lives,” we do everything but what Spirit filled Christians should do, namely, obey God rather than government.
When will we experience a true revival in our nation? We will experience a true move of the Holy Spirit when Christians unite across denominational lines and when Christians are willing to recall judges and politicians who reject the voice and vote of the people. Indeed, we will experience true revival when Christians are willing to tell the courts, with all due respect, “you can take any ruling that compels us to violate our religious beliefs straight back to hell where it originated.”
When it comes to our religious beliefs we have one rule – the rule of faith that proclaims, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rit Varriale is pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church, Shelby, and chair of the Christian Higher Education Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Varriale is the author of Reformation in Responsibility, which is currently out of stock on Amazon.com but can be purchased in bulk for $6 per copy by contacting [email protected].)