The Church will triumph, activist judges or not
May 17, 2005
While America’s struggle between those who hold to a Christian worldview and those who do not intensifies (manifested in the current so-called “culture war”), I am reminded of the Israelites in the book of Judges.
Like our Founding Fathers who were brought to these shores by a loving, providential God, so it was that the same God brought the Israelites to the land of Canaan. America is barely 200 years old and already beset with pagan ideas like moral relativism and the hostility it breeds toward God’s absolute truth. Likewise, just a generation after the death of their leader, Joshua, the Israelites also began a descent into a protracted season of sin. Even the judges (they were actually not judges, but in most cases clan chieftains and military leaders), who were sent by God to rule and protect the Israelites, fell into sin. In the beginning of the book Othniel is seen as a good judge, but his successors are progressively worse — with the exception of Deborah. It may be that God, like in the book of Judges, will – not in anger, but in mercy — send oppressors as reminders of how America has rebelled against Him.
A friend of mine, James Freeman, a respected Kansas City attorney and deacon at Oakwood Baptist Church, Kansas City, recently shared with me a conversation he had with a federal district court judge’s law clerk. The young man graduated in the top of his law school class, was a Republican conservative, and as of today directly impacts federal judicial decisions as he does substantial research for a lifetime appointed federal judge. As James noted, 20 years from now the young man will likely be a judge or occupy a similar position of authority in our legal system.
What James related to me made me think of the condition of the Israelites in the book of Judges and the oppression God brought upon them so they would repent.
He said the young man was adamant and detailed about his “legal reasoning” as to why it is illegal for a person to wear a “Jesus saves” T-shirt in public.∫He distinguished an obvious “religious liberty” exercise from a “freedom of expression” exercise, i.e. political speech – like anti-draft, etc. (which he acknowledged is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). He went on to, in effect say that, “the Constitution does not guarantee your right to proselytize, it only guarantees your right to be free from unwarranted religious intrusion.”
The young law clerk said “proselytizing is not exercising your religion. Where your religious speech outside the four walls of your home or place of worship causes offense to your fellow citizen — whose free exercise of religion is to be free of all religion — then your right to proselytize must be silenced in order not to impair your fellow citizen’s right to be free of all religion while engaged in the common sphere of human interactions.”
Using his reasoning, a person’s rights to “exercise” their religion is limited to their home and church. It does not exist once one enters “the common sphere of human interactions.” As James noted, “to this young man ‘exercise’ of a religion was limited to the bare indicia of religion, e.g., prayer, singing hymns, Bible reading, confessionals, etc.”
I, like James, have no confidence in the shield of the First Amendment and our Founders’ intent. Our current activist judiciary that has legalized the murder of babies and may soon allow homosexual “marriage,” must be reined-in by our constitutional “checks and balances” type of government. The legislative and executive branches must act against a non-elected and increasingly imperial judiciary.
The views expressed by the young law clerk are further evidence that America is heading down a dangerous path. This should come as no surprise given the relativistic, humanistic morality with which our children are being indoctrinated through too many public schools, higher education (including our law schools) and the media. It is a recipe for disaster when it is combined with the universal Church, much of which is theologically anemic. For starters, the so-called theological left that controls so much of mainline Protestantism must stop running cover for such paganism. Just a few months ago my pastor, Monte Shinkle, was one of six Mid-Missouri clergymen interviewed by a local television news team about amending the state constitution to ban homosexual “marriage.” Shinkle was the only one who spoke for the amendment, while the others either expressed opposition to it or offered no comment at all.
It is in this environment that the Church – the whole body of Christ — finds itself. Given the pagan influences to which they are exposed, is it any wonder that too many of our evangelical teenagers do not even know and believe Christian fundamentals, much less Southern Baptist historical fundamentals? They most certainly do not know what our Founders intended. As evidenced by the young law clerk, people are already in place to remove legal protections of freedom of religion and free speech.
While all this is ominous, and while God may indeed allow a season of persecution to come upon the church – the likes of which Americans have never experienced –we believers must engage the culture. It must be done in every discipline that comprises a worldview – theology, philosophy, law, politics, science, psychology, history, sociology, economics and ethics. Bible-believing Christians can no longer lay down in the face of intimidation by those who would beat us over the head with a perverted view of “separation of church and state.”
We should give thanks to God for putting a governor like Matt Blunt to rule over us in Missouri, a governor who is deeply concerned about judicial activism in this state. Yet despite his concern, he is powerless in the face of the federal judiciary — that is unless he resists (which he will not), a move that would undoubtedly cause tanks to roll through the streets of Jefferson City.
Finally, let us rejoice for we know our God will prevail. If it be God’s will that oppression comes to American Christians – as it did to the Israelites in the day of the Judges – we should endure it with confidence and mighty acts of obedience in response to a merciful and loving God whose church will ultimately emerge triumphant.