FACT OR FICTION?
By: John W. Whitehead
Outright persecution of Christian liberty is permeating our society. Christians are called to recognize these attacks and repel them with stalwart biblical action. Now!
C hristians have the remarkable message of Christ’s Gospel to proclaim to the world. Unfortunately, that message is being increasingly stifled and daily censored. Fortunately, we live in a nation whose founders considered free speech and free exercise of religion so important that they deliberately sealed their protection in the very First Amendment of the Constitution. Today, however, in 1986, Christians, and other religious persons, are being victim-ized by a very determined, powerful secularistic effort to suppress both of those freedoms.
Suppression and censorship are the logical consequence of the predominance of secularism in the twentieth century. Secularism is the philosophy which holds that belief in morality is based solely in regard to the temporal well-being of mankind to the exclusion of any belief in God. All supernatural manifestations are seen as irrelevant. Since there is no God, then obviously there is no need for the moral absolutes of the Bible. All is relative This differs most radically from the belief system which served as the historical foundation for freedom. At one time, the predominant world-view was that there was a Creator who established moral absolutes. The Creator, in turn, gave to man such absolute rights as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
This was the Christian base. It included the concept of man’s created-ness. Since man was believed to have been created in the image of God, he acquired, in a reflective manner, the characteristics of God. This afforded man great worth and dignity. Unfortunately, man’s worth and dignity have been greatly diminished in modern society. This is best seen in the reckless disregard for human life as manifested in abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and genetic engineering.
The second key component of the Christian base was that rights were seen as an endowment from the Creator and, as a result, were absolute. Thus, rights were not a product of the state. Government, then, could not legitimately take away what God gave and government had not given.
Third, the purpose of the state was to protect the God-given rights of men. As the Declaration of Independence proclaims, whenever a government systematically attacks or attempts to destroy these rights, “it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.”.. This was the base for political freedom in America. However, as the freedoms we enjoy have been separated from the Christian base, the distorted and perverted remnants have become a force of destruction. This was illustrated early on by the French Revolution. Those who led the revolution in France in the late eighteenth century based much of their thinking on principles drawn from the Declaration of Independence., but absent the Christian base. The result was a blood bath and tyranny.
W e face the same possibility today.
Many of those who head the modern technological elite openly attack the Christian base. Many of those who lead the news media also do this. A represent-ative of the new secularistic ethic is Dr. Francis Crick. He is an avowed atheist who, along with James D.Watson, discovered the I)NA code. In a speech Crick made in March 1971, just 15 years ago, in St. Louis, he said:
“You must realize that most of the political thinking of this country is very difficult to justify biologically. It was valid to say in the period of the American Revolution when people were oppressed by priests and kings, that all men were created equal. But it doesn’t have biological validity. It may have some mystic validity in a religious context, but... it’s not only biologically not true, it’s also biologically undesirable.. .We all know, I think, or are beginning to realize, that the future is in our hands, that we can, to some extent, do what we want.
Harvard behaviorist B.F. Skinner clearly holds that man is nothing more than a cog in a machine. He writes: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are basic rights. But they are the rights of the individual and were listed as such in a time when the literatures of freedom and dignity were concerned with the aggrandizement of the individual. They have only a minor bearing on the survival of a culture.” If these comments were found in a comic strip, we could laugh at them. But Crick and Skinner are giants of their times, and when they speak people listen to them. Their ideas and philosophy have consequences. Moreover, they speak for many other leaders of the technological elite. Their philosophy is a complete repudiation of what the framers of the Declaration of Independence and the drafters of the new Constitution believed. It means essentially that there is no Creator and that man has only relative rights. Also, it means that the elite (those who control the state or government) often administer government, not for the benefit of the governed, hut to manipulate the country for their ends, often under the guise that they are doing it for our good. As Crick said “We can do what we want” that is, so to speak, they can play God.
There are, therefore, some apparent dangers in the predominance of secularism in American society and its adoption by our governmental systems. First, there is little tolerance by a secularistic state for theistic religion. As a consequence, persecution, either open or subtle, of Christianity is inevitable. Persecution is presently being manifested by such things as the growing state interference in churches, Christian schools and other Christian institutions.
Second, as Professor Harvey Cox of Harvard University has recognized: “Secularism is not only indifferent to alternative religious systems, hut as a religious ideology it is opposed to any other religious systems. It is therefore, a closed system.” Moreover, Cox notes that secularism is a dangerous ideological system because it “seeks to impose its ideology through the organs of the State.” Because secularism has little or no tolerance and is opposed to other religions, it actively rejects, excludes and attempts to eliminate Christianity from meaningful participation in society. Its proponents must, therefore, censor and suppress Christianity. This is a logical extension of secularism.
Examples of Suppression.
Whenever Christians publicly express their views, the secularists are often waiting with regulations, lawsuits and, in some cases even criminal charges and handcuffs. Unfortunately, their weapon in enforcing censorship is often the Constitution itself
Consider, for example, the following recent situations.
At a public high school in Lake Worth, Florida, the principal forbade a student Bible club to meet on campus even though the students met voluntarily and after school hours. The principal’s insistence on what he perceived to he the “separation of church and state” was graphically illustrated when he ordered the Bible Club’s page removed from the school’s just-printed yearbook. (In America, in 1986.)
In Georgia, Mr. and Mrs. Terry Roemhild were arrested after they withdrew their children from public school in order to teach them at home. In spite of their religious convictions, and in spite of the evidence that the children were being well-educated at home, a Superior Court judge found them guilty of criminal charges, levied a fine and ordered them to re-enroll their children in public school.
A Navy man in Virginia was threatened with possible court-martial when commanding officers charged that some of his religious activities were disruptive and in violation of direct military orders. Those activities included playing a Christian radio station, reading his Bible and talking to others about his religious beliefs.
Because of her Roman Catholic convictions, a nurse in Delaware refused employ- ment with an abortionist. In response to her refusal to aid in the killing of life, the state promptly terminated the woman’s unemployment compensation benefits.
A Christian Manifesto, written by the internationally respected scholar Francis Schaeffer, sold more than 300,000 copies in just one year. Yet the book never appeared on any “secular” best-seller lists (such as the New York Times Newsweek etc.). It was never reviewed by the literary critics of any major newspapers or magazines. In fact, while Dr. Schaeffer’s writings have sold more than three million copies, many “secular” bookstores and libraries seem loathe to stock his books.
In Louisville, Nebraska, seven fathers were jailed for violating a court order to cease operation of a small church school. The state demanded that the school submit to state accreditation. The parents, along with the church pastor, believed that the government has no right to interfere with a church operated school. The pastor has already been jailed several times for resisting state regulation, and just one year earlier the sheriff actually padlocked the church door to close down the school set up in the basement.
In Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the ACLU sued the city to remove a nativity scene from its elaborate Christmas pageantry thus leaving only so called “secular” displays to celebrate the holiday. Throughout the nation, public school teachers and administrators have been warned that holding Christmas programs with any religious content is strictly forbidden by the First Amendment.
To demonstrate God’s condemnation of the killing of human life, David and James Henderson picketed an abortion clinic in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Two physicians including the head of the clinic that aborts 8 to 10 unborn children everyday took the brothers to court in a $200,000 libel lawsuit.
Two college students in Georgia were arrested for disturbing the peace when they picketed an abortion clinic in downtown Atlanta. The charges were dropped, hut one of the men was nearly fired from his job when his employer said the arrest “reflected negatively” on the organization he works for.
In Louisiana, the state legislature passed the Balanced Treatment Act requiring public schools to give equal time to the teaching of evolution and creation- science. Many Louisiana legislators believed that academic freedom would be furthered if students were given the scientific evidence to substantiate both views. The ACLU, however, sued the state, insisting that creation has no scientific merit and that to include it in school cuniculus would he an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
These cases represent just a scant cup of water in the sweeping tide of censorship threatening to drown the Christian voice. Many secularists often backed by the potency of legislative and judicial action are fighting to remove all religious expression from our public society. We have seen by these examples that their methods are varied: “Selective” distribution and publicizing of hooks; Economic penalties (as in the case of the nurse being denied unemployment compensation); Intimidation through lawsuits or criminal charges; Outright discrimination (as in the
case of public schools allowing other clubs to meet while banning religious clubs);
State regulation (as in the case of Nebraska demanding church school accreditation); Absolute censorship, often under the guise of “separation of church and state.”
Through laws and actions that would probably make our founders rear up in defiance, our First Amendment freedoms are being taken away. More than our speech and religious activity, however, is being censored. Abortion is the abhorrent censorship of life itself
The Christian Silence.
But there is another side to the stilling of religious and moral expression. The repressive efforts of many secularists are often aided unknowingly by Christians themselves. Whether intimidated by opposition or misguided by a faulty under-standing of their Christian mission, many live in self-imposed silence. Too many Christians have ignored the mandate to manifest God’s truths in all areas of our culture.
Unfortunately, many Christians have fallen prey to.) the ruse that religion is a personal matter ----“personal” meaning that one may express it. At home or in church. but had better keep it out of the public arena. Thus, many have segregated their lives into the spiritual” and the “secular.’’ Family devotions, evangelism, Bible study Sunday church services and the like fall into the spiritual compartment; every other area-----business, education, politics, etc. is strictly secular. As a result, Christians have privatized their faith, and have withdrawn their influence from politics, education and other vital areas of public life.
This retreat from society has left the field, wide-open for the unopposed influx of secularistic thought that is now entrenched. as the dominant force in American society in this year 1986. As a consequence, America is saturated with a system of arbitrary absolutes and philosophical relatives that have man at their center. Even now, with many of our once sturdy foundations crumbling around us economically, politically, academically, morally, etc. the potency of the Christian voice has yet to he raised effectively.
We must recognize that Christ came to redeem the wholeman, and He is to be he Lord of the Christian’s whole life. As such, we are to integrate God’s teachings into every area of our lives. There should he no differentiation between the “spiritual” and the “secular.” No compartment is outside the jurisdiction of Christ’s lordship. Recognizing Christ’s absolute and all-encompassing lordship-not only in our individual lives, hut in all areas of our lives----should move us to fulfill His commission to make His teachings known in all of life’s areas. This is the true meaning of evangelism.
Jesus has also called us to he “salt” and “light”----- to redeem our present world through the integration of God’s truth. This is a mission many have sorely neglected. Instead of seeking to externalize the gospel and make its application relevant to the world around us, many have hid their lights under a basket and shelved the Christian salt until it has lost most of its flavor.
But the consequences are not irreversible.
The solution to the humanistic crisis in America is for Christians to end their silence and passivity and activate their convictions. We must boldly seek to express God’s truth as it relates to every area of our society, and we must defend against every effort to repress such expression.
We must remember that the great social reforms in earlier centuries were largely the result of religious revivals. These revivals were aimed not merely at “saving souls” hut also at redeeming man’s social environment. Simply put, early Christianity saw God at work in the whole culture, not merely in the hearts of men. This attitude motivated many Christians to fight doggedly for the abolition of slavery and other social reforms that testified to God’s view of the dignity of man.. These Christians were determined to apply the principles of their faith to the practical needs of their cultures. This faith and determination resulted in significant social improvements as well as in personal conversions.
There is no reason to doubt that similar reforms are possible today. We have access to the limitless power of God. We also have the foundation to our nation’s Christian heritage, as reflected in our Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Christians should keep in mind that when it comes to expressing our convictions, the Constitution according to the original intent of its framers---- is on our side. Regardless of how others may invoke the First Amendment to restrict and subdue religious influence, the Supreme Court has affirmed that the Constitution’s intent is not to expunge religion from all public society. Rather, the First Amendment dictates that the government must protect and accommodate religion, not be hostile to it. Thus, we have a constitutional foundat-ion for protecting outright efforts to censor our convictions, since these indeed show hostility toward religion.
It is imperative that the right of Christians to express themselves he carried into all public arenas for our freedom to speak at all maybe, (will surely be) lost. . This includes the public schools. Studies by youth organizations have shown that if a person does not trust in Christ by the time he is 18, the odds are high that he never will. Therefore, if Christians give in to secularistic attacks and relinquish their rights to voice their convictions, then we may totally lose the opportunity to reach a vast segment of society with the truth of the Gospel.
We must also protect the rights of religious parents to direct their children’s education free from excessive government interference. The Bible states that parents are responsible for the education of their children, and allowing state encroachment on that responsibility is a threat to family strength and liberty.
Most important of all, we must boldly speak out against the honors of abortion, aggressively defending the rights of the unborn child. Within the abortion issue lies the total destruction of freedom as we know it. A government that will not protect human life will not, in the end, protect any freedoms or liberties.
Putting Faith To The Test.
Such efforts, however, will he accompanied by risk. In the examples mentioned at the beginning of this article, there was considerable risk to the comfort and well- bing of the people involved. Nevertheless, they stood the ground for their, and our, convictions, refusing to back down even when threatened with financial penalty or prison terms. In most cases, their faith and determination brought about favorable change.
In the midst of legal delays and litigation that lasted nearly two years .David and James Henderson continued to picket the abortion clinic, protesting what they termed the “horrendous and butcheristic slaughter of unborn human children.” The threat of a $200,000 lawsuit was not enough to deter them. The Hendersons’ willingness to choose the right action over the safe or convenient action led to positive results. On several occasions, women decided not to go through with the abortion they had planned to have that day, and one source of statistics indicated that the clinic performed 100 fewer abortions in 1983, compared with previous years. Furthermore, a Superior Court judge upheld the brothers’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech, and dismissed all charges of libel and defamation.
In the case of the Roman Catholic nurse who refused to work for an abortionist, (remember) when the state disqualified her from receiving unemployment compensation, she didn’t passively submit. She sought the help of Christian attorneys, who threatened to sue the state for violating her constitutional rights. At that point the state backed down and restored her benefits. In the home education case, when Terry and Vickie Roemhild were found guilty of violating Georgia’s compulsory education statute, they didn’t acquiesce when faced with a heavy fine. They appealed the decision to a higher court, defending their parental responsibility to give their children good academic and moral instruction both of which they found lacking in the public schools. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the compulsory education statute was “impermissibly vague” and therefore unconstitutional thus upholding the right of the couple to teach their children at home. In effect, the state learned that it does not have the license to regulate through arbitrary interpretations of the law.
When the apostle Peter was ordered to stop preaching and teaching about Jesus, he refused, saying, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Peter was jailed, beaten and finally executed for his commitment to spreading the truth of the Gospel. To him ----and to the first-century Christians —faith was not a “personal” matter, something to he quietly confined to church and home. It was God’s universal truth given to redeem a crumbling world.
We must he diligent in ensuring that Christianity is given an equal voice in the marketplace of ideas. It will not he easy. The closed system of secularism will logically attempt to exclude any mention of Christianity, except to mock it. However, if Christians will consistently, and without hesitation, proclaim their ideas in all areas of the culture, they can he confident that the truth of Christianity will prevail in a truly open marketplace of ideas.
“THE REBIRTH OF AMERICA”
Copyright @ 1986, (pgs. 133-139)
Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation - Philadelphia
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