We are seeing more and more laws passed, and court decisions handed down, that are chipping away at one of our first freedoms – the freedom of religion. This started in earnest several years ago with the push to legitimize homosexual marriage. In those initial efforts, the push was primarily aimed at forcing businesses to provide goods and services to homosexual couples, even if doing so violated the religious beliefs of the owners.
But this effort is not standing still. Homosexual rights advocates are continuously expanding their efforts. The latest push is to force the entire population to accept a non-biblical point of view concerning sexuality by allowing “transgendered” individuals to use the rest room and locker room facilities of their choice, regardless of the sensibilities of the public at large.
But now we are moving to a new phase where the activists are attempting to force even pastors and churches to go against their religious beliefs. The Pennsylvania senate is currently debating a bill that would force religious organizations to hire and retain employees, even if that would go against their religious beliefs. Whether the bill passes this time around or not, this is a trend that we will see more and more going forward. But the most direct challenge to religious freedom yet is the result of a recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to tell certain pastors how to counsel their people.
In 2012, the California legislature passed a bill that made it illegal for licensed counselors to assist youth who want to change or reduce their same-sex attractions. It also prohibits any counseling that would steer youth away from “gender confusion.” But here is the kicker; this was made to apply also to pastors in their own churches who are licensed counselors.
Here is the deal; if laws can be passed which can tell pastors how to counsel their church members, they can be passed to tell churches in general what they can and cannot believe about anything else. If this kind of mindset is accepted, freedom of conscience, as a legal right, exists no more.
The very idea of freedom of religion, or freedom of conscience, is specifically a biblical concept. God created human beings as creatures made in his image with the characteristics of personhood. One of the most important elements of personhood is the ability to choose what we will do in life. That includes the ability to choose where we will spend eternity, but also the moral choices we make in day to day life. Those who would try to force people to violate their moral convictions are operating out of a set of beliefs that are specifically non-biblical.
As persons made in the image of God and called by him to express his truth to the world, we cannot simply sit by and allow untruth to dominate the world unchallenged. At this point, I want to make it very clear that I am not calling for a political movement, though some of the efforts Christians make will necessarily be political. Rather, I am calling for a spiritual movement by Christians to more actively live out and share their faith. As a person’s faith, no matter what it is, will be expressed in every part of life, the political element is in the mix. But for Christians, while we cannot avoid the political implications of our faith, our focus must rather be on accomplishing God’s greater purpose – bringing people into relationship with him. True change will not happen without hearts and minds being changed. What are you doing to make a big splash for God?