Silencing the prophetic voice of the church...
(Tim, w/thanks to Brian) The Christian Law Association reports: "For years Crestwood Baptist Church has unashamedly declared the Gospel of Christ and the Word of God through the display of Scripture on the marquee in front of their church. Tragically, this common practice for churches has now come under attack. In the days leading up to the Presidential election, Crestwood Baptist Church displayed Proverbs 29:2, '...when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn,' on their marquee...
"Nearly a week after the election, while jogging past the marquee, a nationally syndicated news reporter took notice of the verse, erroneously assumed it was the church’s attempt to slander a particular candidate, and reported his biased opinion on CNN news. This unmerited report sparked animosity towards Crestwood and its pastor, Phil Edge, who have received numerous emails and phone calls demanding an explanation for his alleged attack on the results of this recent Presidential election."
A couple comments: First, confessing Christians must play hardball to protect our nation's First Amendment rights. We'll lose, but we must go down fighting. We don't live in the Roman Empire; it's our Constitution and we are its stewards.
So, for instance, the actions of the IRS in the past decade have been egregious governmental intrusions into the work of the church. Our government has been rattling its saber
threatening (and sometimes carrying out) action against the exercise of the prophetic gift in the pulpit and their abuse of power has resulted in the silencing of many pastors' voices.
It's been a textbook fulfillment of C. S. Lewis' adage, "They'll tell you that you can have your religion in private, and then they'll make sure you're never alone."
During this past election cycle, many pastors have failed to speak biblically concerning the wickedness of the Democratic Party, particularly; but also the Republican Party and both parties' candidates. We have a nation built on the oppression and slaughter of our weakest citizens, a nation whose balance of trade largely depends upon the export of Whore of Babylon immorality, a nation given over to greed and cruelty on an unimaginable scale; but pastors have been reduced to living in mortal dread of jeopardizing our church's 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. The Word of God has been silenced at one of the places its been most needed in our time, but no one will admit it and some even argue this silence is good.
But when has the Church of Jesus Christ been faithful to Her commission and not been seen by the civil authority as a political threat? John the Baptist lost his head for it. Jesus was Crucified for it. The Apostle Paul was the center of civic unrest--there were riots in almost every city he entered and he boldly condemned the civic religion of Athens in the middle of the the Areopagus. What about Peter Waldo, John Hus, Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Edwards? What about the Great Ejection?
In each of these cases, our Lord's servants refused to be intimidated by the civil authority. Instead, they took a prophetic stand on the Word of God, faithfully exercising their calling to preach and write and speak the Word to citizens and the civil authority, alike.
For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet. (Matthew 14:3-5)
John the Baptist was beheaded and we tremble at the thought of losing our tax deductions?
If Bonhoeffer and the brothers and sisters of the Confessing Church stood against their nation as it slaughtered Christians, Jews, and other undesirables, what's our excuse for our fear and trembling? The immorality and bloodguilt of our nation easily eclipses that of the Third Reich, but we can't bring ourselves to fulfill our prophetic calling as ministers of the Word and Sacrament.
Second, we should all give thanks for the witness of the Roman Catholic church. If the First Amendment rights of confessing Christians are restored in our nation, and protected, it will largely be thanks to our Roman Catholic friends. Yesterday, 300 of America's Roman Catholic bishops gathered in Baltimore. The Tribune reports:
BALTIMORE - In a direct challenge to President-elect Barack Obama,
America's Roman Catholic bishops vowed on Tuesday to accept no
compromise for the sake of national unity until there is legal
protection for the unborn.
About 300 bishops, gathered in Baltimore for their national meeting, adopted a formal blessing for a child in the womb and advised Chicago's Cardinal Francis George, president of the conference, as he began drafting a statement from the bishops to the incoming Obama administration. That document will call on the administration and Catholics who supported Obama to work to outlaw abortion.
"This is not a matter of political compromise or a matter of finding some way of common ground," said Bishop Daniel Conlon of Steubenville, Ohio. "It's a matter of absolutes."
Imagine Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, or the other false shepherds of the Submergent Church demonstrating such love for their neighbor. It's inconceivable.