“I’m going to stand firm in the faith. It is my First Amendment right!”
That’s funny. That actually made me laugh.
Apparently the city of Houston, Texas has decided that in order to assuage the possibilities for LBGT discrimination, they must engage in the persecution of Christians.
The whole thing stems from a non-discrimination ordinance passed by the Houston City Council which allows some pretty ridiculous things to happen…like men using public bathrooms designated for women and vice versa. Needless to say, there were quite a few citizens bothered by this ordinance, so many in fact, that they started a petition to get the legislation thrown out. Of course, the folks in charge figured out a way to get the petition thrown out, even though it contained nearly double the number of signatures required for filing. Adding to the intrigue, the newly elected and openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, has now seen to the issuing of subpoenas through the courts to certain pastors requiring that they submit sermons and other personal communications to governing officials in order that they might inspect them for any language that could be considered discriminatory against homosexuality.
Yep, you heard that right. First Century Rome just landed in Houston, Texas.
Now, why am I laughing? Because of statements made like the one at the beginning of this post. One of the pastors was asked what he intended to do. Well, he was adamant that he was not going to turn over his sermons, that’s for sure. No way. He will stand firm in his faith because the First Amendment guarantees his right to do so.
My first thought was, “So, pastor, buddy, you’re going to keep the preaching of the Law and Gospel out of the hands of those who need it?”
My next thought… “What if the First Amendment didn’t exist… as was the case in first century Rome, or 20th century Nazi Germany?”
How about this, instead: Forget the First Amendment. The intention behind that particular amendment has been misplaced by the ineptly progressive dolts of the 20th and 21st centuries and now nobody really cares or knows how to care anymore. And because the U.S. Constitution has been so interpreted and re-interpreted, it is almost unusable as it spins on an axis of subjectivism, completely distinct from anything that might be identified as absolutely and objectively true. Honestly, it bears no resemblance to what the founders intended, and that being said, the First Amendment (and so many others for that matter) pretty much guarantees that post-modern American citizens have the right to say and do anything they want all under the nebulous banner of “rights” and individual freedoms. This is where America is going. The citizenry is allowing it. In some ways, when it comes to dealing with false teachers and false doctrines, this ineradicable tendency can be seen plaguing the LCMS. So, forget the First Amendment. You are not enabled to stand firm in the faith because of the First Amendment or any other supposed “right” that bears the “American” stamp.
As a pastor, as a Christian, ask yourself just what it is that you fear losing. This will be a good indicator to the location and strength of your stance. Are you concerned that your speech is being censored, that your right to practice your faith is being limited? Are you worried that you might lose your 501c3 status? Are you concerned that you might have to spend a night in jail? Are you worried that you might be out of a job, that you might lose your income? Are you afraid of death? Do you fear faithlessness to Christ?
The Apostle Paul wrote something that, even though it is true, often troubles me, especially in light of the subject at hand. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). This is indeed interesting, but even more so because Paul wrote these very words (A.D. 55) to the Christians in Rome while Nero was the emperor (A.D. 54-68). That’s right. The Apostle offered these words to the community of believers who had little if any religious liberty and who would very soon (A.D. 64) be witnesses to their loved ones being fed to lions or being dipped in oil, impaled, and set on fire to light Nero’s roadways at night. But the following words also happen to be in the very same Epistle. In fact, they lay the foundation for Paul’s theme: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes…” (1:16). And then, after reading through for a while, the Roman Christians would have landed in those well-beloved words from chapter 8: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height to depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv.38-39).
These Christians were being urged to submit to Nero’s government, but they were not standing firm in the faith by anything his government could provide, and neither were they moved to action because they felt as though their civil rights were being usurped and that by taking a stand, real moral progress would be accomplished toward religious liberty for those who would come after them. They, you, we are standing firm in the faith because we are not ashamed of the Gospel, and we know by the Word of God, the objective truth, that not even the law of the land can so dominate us in spirit that we must cower in fear from believing, confessing, and fighting for the Good News of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:29). First Amendment or not, we stand firm in the faith by a power from a completely different sphere (John 18:36). This may mean, perhaps, that we go to jail. It may eventually mean what it means right now in Iraq, that we lose our heads. But when your Christian head leaves your Christian shoulders, make sure it was not done because you were fighting for your First Amendment right or you were desiring to heighten awareness to social inequality, but rather, because you were being pressed to be severed from your Savior, and no matter how glisteningly sharp or vicious the world’s weapons were, you weren’t going to stand for it.
So, should refusing to send sermons to the government officials in Houston be a part of the effort toward faithfulness in this case? Maybe. Maybe not. I guess I’d encourage those men to use the rule of law in place to keep emails and personal letters under lock and key, but go ahead and send the sermons. In fact, I think that every Christian pastor in America should send every sermon they’ve ever preached that touched on the topic of homosexuality to these knuckleheads. Let’s fill up their mailboxes. And why shouldn’t we? We already believe that it is the Gospel that has the power to change the heart, right, and they said they wanted to read some sermons. Maybe they’ll read one of the hundreds of thousands of sermons and be changed. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll read it and decide that the pastor who preached it should spend some time in jail. Maybe they’ll read it and decide that he should be tied to a stake and propped upside down. Maybe such an amplified and visible form of the Gospel will be what is required. That’s okay. The objective truth upon which we stand has already assured us that hell will not prevail (Matthew 16:18) and death has no hold (1 Corinthians 15:53-57).
*Now, I suppose I should offer an addendum so that there is no reason for my own ranks to read anything I’ve said and somehow find a desire to prop me on a stake. In this life, we are citizens of two kingdoms. I’ll be the first one to say to the American Christians with regard to engaging in the public square, “Get off of your butts and get in the game.” I agree that we most certainly should be sure to maneuver within the given laws in order to push forward and preserve rather than giving in and drawing back. In other words, yes, it is a good thing to protect the First Amendment. But the church does this for the sake of faithfulness to Christ and the preservation of His Gospel and for no other reason.
And finally, I wasn’t kidding about sending sermons to the folks at City Hall in Houston. Here’s the address:
The City of Houston, City Hall
Houston, TX 77002