(Photo courtesy of user John Flannery and Flickr).
The oppression of Christians in the United States is once again back in the news this week. Reminiscent of what happened in Houston, TX just two years ago, this is story rooted in Atlanta, GA andwe are told of a lay pastor who has been ordered to turn over his sermons, notes, and transcripts. The request is the result of a lawsuit filed by Dr. Eric Walsh and his attorneys.
While it is hard to recount all of the details here for the sake of space and time, I would urge you to read some of the stories linked below. For the sake of understanding it is necessary to recount some of the details. Walsh’s degrees and background in healthcare lead to his hiring as district health inspector with the Department of Health in 2014. Within a week he was being asked for copies of sermons that he had given at the Seventh-day Adventist Church that he serves as a pastor. Human resource staff were also assigned to watch his sermons on YouTube. Within days, Walsh was fired in what appears to be based not on performance, but his religious convictions. Some justify it saying that his religious convictions could isolate already vulnerable people, although there does not seem to be evidence that he had then, or would in the future, let his religious convictions hinder his ability to adequately and appropriately serve people.
It is easy for Christians to gloss over stories such as these. They seem to happen so frequently, and we have gotten so used to them, that we brush them off as just another indicator of sin in the world. In some ways, we should not be surprised and should actually expect it. After all, if the Lord Jesus Christ was put to death, it is not unreasonable to expect the world to hate those who follow Him, or at least claim to. Yet this stories warrants our attention because it clearly represents the continuing transforming cultural landscape in which Christians must exist, operate, and share Christ. Through the story we see three areas of concern:
- The Suppression of Speech: At the most basic level this is an outright rejection of free speech. What we see taking place is a person, in this case a pastor being punished for what he has said. Therefore it denies part of the basic principles that were laid to keep the United States in tact.
- The Suppression of Religion: Furthermore, this goes further to not only punish Walsh for what he said, but specifically for what was said in relation to his foundational religious beliefs. Again, we see a denial of the basic principles to our country’s founding. It is a bit more aggravating here because what has been taking place is not the suppression of religion, but more specifically is the suppression of Christianity.
- The Suppression of People: To suppression the basic fundamentals of a person’s right to speech and religion is nothing less than the suppression of people. To punish a person for what they have said is nothing short of bullying people into submission.
From what has taken place this week, we see that there is much at stake.
Unfortunately, what is being perpetrated is done by people in authority and power. It is unfortunate that the government has become the Devil’s greatest enforcer. Through their actions they repeatedly promote the agenda of the fallen contrary to the nation’s Founding Fathers, contrary to the morality of people, and ultimately contrary to the truth of God. Because both the stakes and perpetrators are so high, a response is required.
Feeling powerless, many people are unsure how to respond and thus they are left paralyzed with inaction. Therefore, the first step must be that we respond. We cannot sit idle and be forced into a place of constant submission of unbiblical practices (I say this while acknowledging that God is in control and it is not our response that will dictate the course of events, but God’s sovereign will). Aside from the basic premise that we should respond, I give you three specific ways that our response is warranted:
- We Response with Questions: First, we must respond with questions. Questions that challenge and confront the fallacies and illogical thinking of those embracing an anti-Christian agenda. We must force them to consider the consequences and recognize that the suppression of speech, religion, and people is not distinctly a Christian impact. While it may start out that way, the reality is that when leeway is given to suppress one group of people, it offers legitimacy to the suppression of others. Questions much confront them with these hard truths and force others to think about not just the immediate impact, but the long-term one.
- We Respond with Character: Regardless of the manner in which we respond, it is important that we respond with Christlike character. Our character must be such that it points others to God through Christ.
- We Respond with Meaning: Finally, we respond with a message that carries significant meaning for the lives of unbelievers: the Gospel. This is related to our character. As our character should point them to God, so should our words. Until the gospel is understood, our disagreement with the immorality of our culture will not be understood.
The key is that we cannot be merely overwhelmed by what is taking place and fearful of what the future may bring. Instead, because we do trust that it is God plan, we respond in God’s way.
Christians, who are truly preaching the Word of God confront the culture in a way that is convicting. Entrenched in sin, it is to be expected that the response would be one of hatred, anger, and oppression. However, a response is what is needed.
1) State of Georgia Demands Pastor Turn Over Sermons by Fox News
2) The Devil Came Down to Georgia and Stole Sermons by Christian Index