Friday, October 28, 2016

Religious Freedom & Public Service. Are They Compatible?

We are all aware of the County Clerk, in Kentucky, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples due to her "right of conscious" in exercising her freedom of religion. In that case the surprise was the number of Christians who objected to Mrs. Davis exercise of her religious beliefs. Some said that she did not have a right to object because gay marriage had been ratified by the courts as law and because she was in a public position that the duties of that position were greater than her ability to carry out her faith in public. The controversy lasted for quite some time and ended when the Governor signed a court order which allowed marriage licenses to be issued without the name of a County Clerk attached. Therefore Mrs. Davis was relived of any obligation to endorse gay marriage publicly while exercising her freedom of religion against nuptualizing such arrangements by signing marriage certificates.

Fast Forward...Midnight Train To Georgia
Rev. Dr. Eric Walsh 
Georgia, quickly becoming the hotbed of activity AGAINST religious freedom, has not only been threatened by Tyler Perry (that he will move his studio unless the State denied a religious freedom bill...result: I WON'T BE SEEING HIS MOVIE ANYTIME SOON!), also recently issued a sanction against a State employee.

It seems that Dr. Eric Walsh was fired from the Georgia Dept. Of Public Health earlier this year because his personal and religious views of homosexuality and evolution were contrary to the "State's" views of those same issues. What is equally as bad, is that the State, evidently prior to dismissing the Dr., demanded that he fork over his sermons and messages preached to his congregation regarding those issues. In addition, the GA Attorney General is now asking for a copy of the minister's sermons to examine them as well. What is worse is that the state is now doing this under a court order.

The State's Way Out

Of course the GA. State Dept. Of Public Health had to know how absurd that their request was. Evidently, instead of claiming that the Dr.'s personal and religious beliefs were the culprit and reason for his termination, they tried to switch the issue as many employers often do in current times, claiming that the Dr. failed to disclose that he had employment "outside" of the Dept. of Health. According to them, it was his failure to report that information that was the cause of his dismissal. Do we think that if he was "cutting grass" on the side, that he would have been dismissed? I don't think so!!!! So at the very least this shows that the State may have discriminated against him in employment if he disclosed that he was a pastor or receiving salary or compensation from a church as well. 

The Real Deal

Anyone that can read "between the tea leaves" can see that the GA. Dept. Of Health is CHALK FULL OF GARBAGE and the Attorney General's office is on something too...the truth is that they actually fired this man because of what he believes, and what he affirms by way of his belief as it pertains to religion, and Christianity in particular...
“He was fired for something he said in a sermon,”“If the government is allowed to fire someone over what he said in his sermons, they can come after any of us for our beliefs on anything.” ~  attorney Jeremy Dys 
Now fire a Muslim for what they say or teaching in a message and see what happens??? Speaking of public service, under Sharia, a Muslim woman cannot even shake a man's hand and a man is restricted from touching a woman that he is not married to...Now, do that in the GA. Dept. Of Public Health. Refuse to even touch or engage individuals of the opposite sex based on religion and the exercise of religious freedom, and I guarantee that there would be all kinds of accommodations and there would NEVER be a problem with employment...In fact he or she would probably get a raise or some deep promotion and plenty of recognition. Allow the Muslim to continue to believe teaching against homosexuality and evolution (as Islam teaches) and they would STILL BE WORKING and secure on the job today!

What the state of GA did is called the new style of Christian persecution, or persecution against Christian and biblical belief. In other words the Christian minister is singled out and treated differently because of what he or she believes, and then the employer seeks some way to rationalize their actions in distancing themselves from the person. The main effort is to rid the workplace of beliefs and belief systems that are contrary to the morality that the workplace feels that it would like to establish, no matter how immoral that workplace or work environment may be.

The very fact that the State feels that they can regulate personal belief that is rooted and based in religion, especially peaceful religion and religious practices and concepts, is rather disturbing and should be something that every serious Christian should be aware of. 

Same Thing, New Era, Different Twist

Looking back at Nazi Germany, we are reminded of the need of the State to create and present a culture and demand that the church to submit to it. The State seeks relationship with the church as much as it, the State, can be preserved or preserve itself.

Take a look back at Nazi Germany for a minute. 
"German tradition had no room for political resistance from the theological perspective, because for more than four hundred years, the evangelical churches in Germany had been closely tied to the state for protection. Using Luther's teaching of "the two kingdoms" (zwei Reiche) , the church and the state had long agreed that the church would not reach into the political sphere and the state would not violate the spiritual realm." [ Stroud, Dean G, "Preaching In Hitler's Shadow, sermons of resistance in the Third Reich" 2013 William B. Eerdmans Link: HERE]
Yes, from a historical perspective, the Socialist State had an interest in what was being taught from the pulpit, even to the point of making "agreements" on how to engage publicly. The agreement that the state needed was for the church to not engage itself in attempting to change and or regulate the State in its ideology allowing the State to set the cultural mood. In other words, the church was to be "quiet" as possible publicly, but take care of its business internally. This compromise had a great price as many non-Jewish clergy would be persecuted and killed simply because of what they believed and taught. The Nazis knew that ideas have consequences, and the brutality of their Reiche against ideals that it did not like or accept, proved it.

Landscape Of The German Church 

In Nazi Germany, among the Protestant churches there arose primarily 2 different divisions or beliefs. There arose the type of Christian known as the Deutsche Christen, or "German Christians. and the other type known as the Bekennende Kirche—the "Confessing Church Christian". The Deutsche Christians were fervently rooted in State leadership, accepting the State Socialism that defined it, loved and taught commitment to the Fiihrer, calling for nationalism and embracing whatever they could that would affirm their racism and superiority based on race. 

On the other hand, the Bekennende Kirche or the "confessing church"Christian, introduced the Barmen Confession of the faith which tied the church to the leadership of Christ and the supremacy and leadership of the word of God as opposed to an earthly leader. From these ranks, whether reluctantly or not, leaders such as Deitrick Bonhoffer, who was executed for a plot to overthrow Hitler, and Martin Niemoller, who was banished to concentration camps for speaking against Hitler, arose. 

Of course there were moderates in these positions as well. Those who called themselves "neutral". It was the neutral church that did not see a benefit in opposing the State, claiming that the plight for all would simply be made worse by resistance. Therefore, some were relegated to doing anything else but addressing the real issues and bringing about change.

There were individuals who would simply help as well. Those who would help Jews escape, provide shelter, food and clothes even against executive orders of the Fiihrer. Many of these individuals would severely suffer for their actions, being betrayed by neighbors, called unpatriotic, and would ultimately be mixed in with Jews and marked for death and killed.

The Catholic Church did not seem to suffer from as much confusion as the Protestant church did. They stuck to Papal Encyclicals which appeared to walk a fine line between the worship of Christ and allegiance to the leader of head of State. Many of the Catholic clergy also availed themselves to helping Jews and speaking against the antisemitism of the state. they too were ripe targets of State anger.

An article on the reaction of the State to openly confessed religious views said this:
When a protest statement was read from the pulpits of Confessing churches in March 1935, for example, Nazi authorities reacted forcefully by briefly arresting over 700 pastors. After the 1937 papal encyclical Mit brennender Sorge ("With burning concern") was read from Catholic pulpits, the Gestapo confiscated copies from diocesan offices throughout the country. [ HERE]
Conclusion, What Can We Learn?

When viewed through the lens of history, we can say that there are many things that remind us of what has taken place and what we observe today. However, there are many things yet different. Here we are in a "free" nation and one that is not a Socialist empire, but we are faced with many challenges of racism, nationalism and a host of other issues. Politically, we yet remain a "free" society although a great deal of the country wants state socialism both in economics and in governance. 

As proof of this we see politician Bernie Sanders, who took his socialism to the democratic party and was nearly made the party's nominee for President. In response to the popularity of the Sanders platform, Hillary Clinton not only adopted, but endorsed many aspects of the Socialist agenda of Sanders in order to appeal to many of his followers. That same sort of socialism is highly accepted in the Black community especially when the talk of it pertains to greater government support within the community, free education and the illusive level playing field and inclusion of all and the elimination of social class. What many have not thought of, is under this rubric and ideology, what happens to personal freedoms? What happens to religious freedom and the ability to self-govern? 

What happened in Germany was the power of the State directly confronting the freedom of mind, heart and conscience through and by religion. Notice, that a person can come up with some of any kind of idea and not have it challenged too much until there is a near tragedy or tragic event, whereas any practice, tenet or belief, especially that based and rooted within Christian theology, seemingly no matter how innocuous, is met with harsh resistance, skepticism, disdain, and even intolerance.  

In this case the State is primarily contending that Christian values and teachings are so incompatible with the State, that if someone believes what the bible teaches and embraces it as a sincerely held belief that their belief makes them incompatible with even employment by the State. It doesn't matter if your public teaching aligns with the State or that you do your job, it matters what you believe.

Maybe the church can take a marker from the world here. The world knows that "belief" is important. The church has a hard time understanding that concept. Ooh, it often says what it believes by way of confession, but as I stated earlier, beliefs have consequences. Are we wishy-washy in or beliefs or are we centered and focused on Christ life Germany's "Confessing church" was? 

These are the times that God is calling for every Christian to make their faith known to the world. I believe only them that stand WILL stand in the day of judgement. I know I want to be one that stands for my Lord. How about you?


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