Word from the Center: Friday, October 5, 2018

Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty, I’m Gregory Seltz, Today’s topic/issue….

Religious Liberty – Protected, for now?

Last month, a few battles for the free exercise of one’s Christian faith were won. The Jack Phillips case, the “cake case” in Colorado, was decided. And, California’s “Anti-Conversion Therapy/Must-Stay-Gay” Bill AB2943[1] was pulled from being voting on in California. Each event, if it had gone the other way, would have had serious repercussions for the public practice of one’s Christian faith in America. That reality, in and of itself, should send shivers down one’s spine. How did we get to the point where holding to a time-tested view of marriage, namely that it is an institution (not just a relationship) best engaged between a man and a woman who commit themselves to each other and to their children for life, makes one a pariah or even a criminal in our culture? Or how could the mere act of counseling people out of a particular “sexual lifestyle” become something one can’t even raise as a possibility?? It is ironic that the authors and practitioners of the sexual libertinism of the 1960s, who demanded tolerance and freedom for whatever they sought to do, are the very ones who are demanding that viewpoints other than their own not only be silenced, but also be made illegal.

One of the reasons that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod established an office in Washington D.C. was because the Church’s public voice proclaiming the morals of the Scripture, as well as its teaching of the Gospel, was and is increasingly under attack in our culture. And since we have unique freedoms in the United States to push back on such governmental coercion, we do. Properly exercised, such public engagement helps us to keep speaking the whole counsel of God for the communities where we live without fear of intimidation, attack, or perilous coercion. We know that if God’s Word does not go out at all, , it cannot accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. For now, those anti-muzzling protections have been reestablished and the stifling has been thwarted for a time. That’s the good news.

The bad news, at least in the two instances that I’ve mentioned, is that in one case, the attackers are back. And, in the other case, the bill is sidelined for now, but likely will be reintroduced when California elects a a new governor. Jack Phillips is under siege again because another litigation-motived customer came in demanding a cake to be made to celebrate his up-coming gender transformation surgery. Again, Phillips offered anything in the store, but he could not make a “Masterpiece Cake” that celebrated something for which his conscience said no. And AB2943 wasn’t pulled because the issue of counseling and the homosexual lifestyle have come to some détente. No, the issue is tabled now most likely because the votes aren’t there yet. (I would love to be wrong on that assessment by the way).

In closing, do you remember the mantra against the church and its people the last few decades that said, “Don’t impose your morality on us?” Well, now which side is actually demanding, coercing, litigating, and bullying? It’s obvious. The ongoing fight then, is not about using the government to demand our view of things. It’s a fight to get the government and its coercive power out of these cultural issues so that we all can live in peace with one another. Thank God that our Founders understood the power of the 1st Amendment for freedom of religion and freedom of speech, exercised by the disciplined, religious individual for the sake of those they loved. They were afraid of the government’s tyranny in these areas. In today’s cultural arena, one can see why!

[1] http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/ab-2943-silences-ministers-on-biblical-discussion-of-sexual-issues/