by Nathan A. Cherry, 12/22/2011
Martinsburg, WV – One of the key components to America’s foundation of religious freedom is the bold, outspoken patriotism of America’s pastors and evangelical citizens. These men and women recognized that our religious freedoms are constantly under attack from those that disagree and seek to “silence the opposition.” Pastors boldly spoke through the lens of the Gospel on issues from their pulpits while encouraging people to be active in civil service. Evangelical believers were not apathetic to the political process but instead saw the direct connection between politics and religious freedom.
Unfortunately, it seems those days may be long gone.
Pastors today appear sometimes more afraid of the government and the issues than willing to stand up and speak out. Perhaps the hollow IRS threat based on the unconstitutional “Johnson Amendment” is too much to overcome. (By the way, legislation has recently been introduced to repeal the Johnson Amendment. If it is repealed, I wonder what the next excuse will be!) Ironically, the fact that no church has ever lost its tax exempt status as a result of the Johnson Amendment is not enough to embolden pastors to reclaim their historical role of speaking truth to socio-political issues
If a pastor adheres to the admonishment of Scripture to “preach the whole counsel of God,” (see Acts 20:27) he will inevitably have to apply the Gospel to the socio-political issues that some consider controversial: homosexuality, the definition of marriage, the issue of life, religious freedom, and more. But when many of America’s pastors are afraid to discuss the issue of divorce and what the Bible says about it for fear of “offending” a divorced person in their congregation we end up with watered-down pulpits standing on the fence rather than the front lines.
Certainly I’m not suggesting that every week should be a political discussion at the expense of the Gospel. The Gospel must be the central focus of our lives as believers, and our churches. However, the idea that our life as believers is somehow compartmentalized from our lives as American citizens just does not make sense. Nor does it seem to be in keeping with Scripture’s command that we be a faithful witness in the city to which God has placed us (Jeremiah 29:7). I am first and foremost a citizen of Heaven. Until I take up residency there I am a citizen of America; and as such I have a duty to be active in the political process in order to help ensure my religious freedoms continue. Would any of us honestly like to see America end up in the same situation Chinese Christians face each day?
The fact is, if Christians continue to ignore their responsibility before God to be faithful citizens there is a very good chance we will one day see the same persecution here in America. And no one will be to blame except those believers that refused to speak up for their faith and the religious freedoms we hold so dear. (It’s kind of like complaining about the president when you didn’t vote for anyone.)
It is indisputable that our nation was founded out of religious persecution with a desire to ensure religious freedom for people of faith. But without faithful citizenship our faithful Gospel witness is lost at the hands of an unjust government and that means religious freedom shrinks.This makes absolutely no sense. Why would we be so indifferent and apathetic to the very thing our founding father’s sacrificed their reputations, fortunes, and sacred honor for?
The bottom line to this issue is very simple and black and white for me. We cannot expect liberals and those with no religious beliefs to protect religious freedoms. They have no desire, drive, or purpose for doing so. And if evangelicals are unwilling to stand up and be bold in our defense of religious freedoms we can rightly expect to see those freedoms stripped, one by one. Then, we will be left complaining that we have no religious freedoms when we were the ones that let them be taken away right in front of our noses. Is this the legacy we want to leave for our kids and grandkids?
What makes more sense to me is that we properly steward the religious freedoms we currently enjoy while proclaiming the good news of the Gospel. This includes faithful congregations sending men and women from their midst to be the ‘ministers of God’ in government that Romans 13 contemplates them to be, opposing candidates that seek to limit or end religious speech simply because it’s deemed “offensive” in schools, opposing laws that seek to remove conscience protections for those who seek to live faithfully according to their conviction, and standing against those who demand acceptance of policies that violate the moral instruction of Scripture. This also includes a willingness to call elected officials, write letters, and let our lawmakers know where we stand-that is part of what it means to be a faithful steward of the government entrusted to our care.
If not you, then who? If not now, when?
About Nathan Cherry
Nathan Cherry is the chief editor and blogger for the Engage Family Minute blog, the official blog of the FPCWV. He serves also as the Regional Development Coordinator as a liaison to the pastor's of West Virginia. He is a pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-religious freedom conservative. He is also a husband, father, pastor, author, musician, and follower of Jesus Christ.