Anecdotal evidence demonstrating the slow death of religious liberty (and for that matter, freedom and liberty in general) in the US and the rest of what we could once call the “free world” is becoming impossible to ignore.
Here’s just a few such anecdotes which have appeared in my Facebook feed over the last few days (if I listed them all this blog would be so long no one would read it.)
Several incoming Congress members from the Democratic Party decided recently to drop the phrase “so help me God” from the oath they take upon being sworn in to Congress. While this is not an attack on religious liberty per se, it is indicative of the attitude towards religion being adopted by many people in the American government.
As Franklin Graham said in reaction to the news; “The root of the issue is that many politicians don’t want God in any part of their politics or our country’s business because His standards condemn their sins.”
As if to drive home this point, legislation recently proposed by the leadership of the Democratic Party would include LGBTQ folks as a category of persons to be protected from discrimination by the Federal Civil Rights Act. Lawmakers pushing for its passage have been very forthright in declaring that there would be no exemptions for religious reasons (the Canadian Supreme Court ruled against a Christian university last year in their request for a religious exemption from similar laws in that country.) So if this legislation becomes law in the US, it will require Christian churches, ministries, universities and organizations to do and/or allow all kinds of things which the Bible unambiguously forbids them to do, forcing them to make a choice between compromising or going underground, or simply going out of existence entirely.
The good news is that it’s unlikely that such legislation would pass both chambers of the US Congress at this time, and even if it did it would almost certainly be vetoed by the current President. But the fact that such legislation is even being proposed in a country which is supposed to have freedom of religion enshrined in its Constitution should be a sobering warning to Christians in the US. Because support for such measures is VERY high among young voters, so it’s quite likely that in the not-so-distant future, there will be a government in Washington DC which will enact such laws, and it’s worth noting that similar laws have already been enacted in other countries.
But the antipathy towards Bible-followers among a growing segment of the American government is just one dimension of this problem. Efforts to push back against it by mobilizing Christians politically have, on the one hand, met with limited success in the past and on the other hand would be less useful today than ever before. Because although America has a democratic form of government, it has an oligarchic governing structure (this is true in many other countries as well) in which there are many individuals and organizations which wield enormous power and influence despite not having been elected by anyone and not being accountable to anyone.
Examples include late night comedians, whose main source of power is in discrediting people and ideas by ridiculing them with “jokes” which are more about generating feelings of scorn and contempt than humorous laughter. Movie stars, musicians, professional athletes and other entertainers do the same thing, using their celebrity status to influence their fans and followers to support or oppose whatever they see fit.
Business associations, labour unions and even sports leagues also throw their weight around in this oligarchic arena, threatening economic boycotts against States, cities or even school districts where the democratically elected governments either have or appear poised to pass laws which are considered to be unacceptable by “progressive” elites. Social and traditional media platforms unapologetically facilitate these efforts while at the same time denying or limiting a platform to those who try to push back.
This phenomenon can also be seen in universities, think tanks and other public spaces all over the world, where those who most stridently demand “tolerance” and “inclusion” are usually the most vicious in their expressions of contempt for the Bible and all those who they identify as being associated with it. When called out on this absurd hypocrisy they will inevitably justify their evil behaviour by saying they “have no tolerance for intolerance” which is a phrase which we can say has become the anthem of the self-described “progressive” folks. In truth, this phrase is nothing but Orwellian double-talk granting a subjective definition of “intolerance” which is as elastic as the user wants or needs it to be in order to dismiss and/or restrict the free speech of whoever is saying something they don’t want to hear.
Thus are Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, and many other freedoms becoming less and less viable, even in countries where they might not yet have been legally curtailed or abolished.
The cumulative result of all this is that the Church of Jesus Christ, Israel and the Jewish People (not always in that order but often all together) are becoming groups of human beings whose “inalienable rights” and even basic humanity is increasingly being disparaged and dismissed. History shows that in a society where expressions of contempt for a certain group becomes an acceptable, mainstream phenomenon, physical violence against them will soon also becomes acceptable, even laudable. Sometimes it goes so far as to become government policy.
As I said in the title to this blog, the handwriting is on the wall.
Freedom of Religion, and indeed democracy as we’ve always thought of it, is living on borrowed time.
So, what is to be done?
For starters, I submit that it’s time to stop saying things like “judgement is coming” and “the Church needs to wake up” etc.
Judgement isn’t coming, it’s here, and those parts of the Church that are going to wake up have already done so while the ones who haven’t woken up yet probably never will. If you’re one of those who have, there’s only one thing left to do and that’s to start being salt and light wherever God has placed you. Love and serve your family, your community, your congregation, your sports team, your school, your place of work, etc. Pray for them, work for them, care for them, show up for them, set an example of Godly living for them. Don’t wait for opportunities to do this to come to you, be proactive in looking for them.
That is how you can get their attention to the point where they’ll listen to something you have to say, and when you’ve gotten to that point with them, you can start to share with them about the things that Jesus cares about, including His Gospel, His Church, the Jewish People and the nation of Israel.
Some feel called and/or have been given talents and abilities to do much more. But for most of us, that’s all we can do and that’s all we need to do. God will take care of the rest and work all things for our good and in accordance with His plans and purposes.