American Christians have long enjoyed a level of freedom and favor in wearing their beliefs on their sleeve. Even in the last few decades, relatively speaking, there’s not been much animosity toward Bible believing and Bible applying folks. I think that this tenure is short-lived, however, with plenty of recent events and legal decisions across the country that would indeed confirm that things are heating up. Todd Starnes of Fox News keeps a running tally
Compared to Christians fighting for their lives in North Korea, the Middle East, or East Africa, we still are not required to weather life-threatening situations every day but the time is near when Christians will have to make a decision about where they stand. This whole idea of ‘persecution’ became very real to me recently as I read an article about a court verdict in Oregon. The Judge’s opinion, the very words he used to issue his decision, were very similar to something I had heard before. The details of the case are actually irrelevant but the verdict and the penalty are not.
Firstly, I personally disagree with the judge’s opinion that the business owners in question discriminated against the clients; I think it’s more a matter of personal conviction than deliberate discrimination (even if discrimination were proven, a private business reserves the right to serve whomever they wish). Regardless of the commissioner’s faulty interpretation of the law, the business owners were ultimately found guilty and fined, but they were also ordered to not communicate in any way about their beliefs. This isn’t just unconstitutional, it’s persecution in its most cunning and covert form.
Compare the following remarks of A. The court order issued by Oregon Commissioner Brad Avakian to Aaron and Melissa Klein and B. The command from the Sadducees in Acts 5 to Peter and John.
“ [they are] to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published … any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations … will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation…” pg. 42 – Findings of Commissioner Brad Avakian, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries
“…they called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. ACTS 5:40
Exhibit A is written less directly and with plenty of legal jargon but is essentially saying the same thing as Exhibit B: you may not continue to talk about the Gospel in any way that’s public.
To be clear, there are distinctions (like the flogging part) and I’m not saying that these two forms of persecution are equal, but I do think that this is something that’s unprecedented in America and the gap continues to widen. This type of censorship in the history of modern governments has never been spoken of favorably nor resulted in anything good, but there is a response to the dilemma we as Christians are currently situated in. Peter and John, having been commanded to ‘cease and desist’ first rejoiced that they had the honor of being persecuted and then continued in their ministry despite the gag order from the Sadducees.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” ACTS 5:41-42
In like fashion, I think that we are called, whenever possible, to submit to our authorities, but never at the expense of the Gospel of Jesus. We can simply thank God for the honor of being disgraced and continue to run the race well!
Joe D’Orsie – Communications & Spiritual Life Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org