Friday, January 11, 2013

The State Church

If you don't follow religion in politics very closely, you probably haven't heard about Louie Giglio withdrawing his acceptance to pray at President Obama's inauguration.  Obama asked Giglio to pray, and he initially accepted, but when it was discovered that he has preached against homosexuality in the past, a firestorm erupted.  Amid all the craziness, Giglio withdrew his acceptance, citing a desire to not have the prayer turn into a political ordeal.  You can read his letter to the inauguration committee, and some other thoughts he has on the topic, here.

Who is Louie Giglio?  He's come to the public eye in recent years as he's been attached to the wildly popular Passion conferences, and through his work with Chris Tomlin and others.  I've seen him speak before, and his messages, while a bit on theologically light side, are actually very engaging and eye-opening.  You can watch what is probably his most well-known sermon here.  I may not mesh with him on everything he does, and there are definitely some issues he and his ministry need to think through, but overall, Giglio is a great pastor, communicator, and preacher, and would have been a great choice to deliver the prayer at Obama's inauguration.

But to begin with, something like this isn't new.  As many have noted, the same firestorm erupted after Rick Warren offered the prayer at Obama's 2009 inauguration.  Warren stayed in, however, despite the criticism. That being said, it is becoming more and more difficult to practice religion in America these days, especially when that religion doesn't fall in line with the government.  What's the big deal?  Here's one liberal blogger's point of view on the issue.

There's a bit of uncertainty about whether or not Giglio rescinded his acceptance to pray, or whether the inauguration committee uninvited him to play.  The way I see it, it's kind of like six of one, half a dozen of the other.  Basically, Giglio rescinded his acceptance and the committee said, "Good, because we're uninviting you anyway."  Kind of like what you see in the movies when someone tells their boss they quit, but the boss responds by telling them that they can't quite because they're fired.  Either way, this brouhaha has some significant implications that come with it, and it behooves all Christians in America to take note of them.

Russel Moore points out that what we see happening is the development of a state church.  He notes that Giglio is not offering a point of view on homosexuality in the prayer, nor is he saying or even implying that that homosexuals can't or don't have freedoms in the U.S.  In fact, Giglio has never hinted at any of these things in public discourse.  What he has said, though, is that unrepentant homosexuality is not conducive with the Christian faith.  And, of course, the government will bow to the pressure of the loudest voices who cry foul, and in so doing, will endorse the religious views of those who disagree with orthodox Christianity.  It's government sponsored religion.

Albert Mohler similarly points out that we are moving into a time of "moral McCarthyism."  The government used to have a litmus test to detect communism in its ranks.  Now that litmus test exists to detect religious intolerance, and to expel those who would dare to buck the government-endorsed religious ideals.

The message is this: get your religious beliefs in line with government policy or shut up.  Basically, people with religious convictions that don't line up with the government's agenda are silenced and blacklisted.  Moore is right: this leads to a government run church.  In our time, the government is deciding which religious thoughts, ideas, and speech are acceptable.  Where are the usual protesters crying First Amendment foul?  Where are the liberals demanding a separation of church and state?  You won't find them, because they're at their place of worship, offering sacrifices to the government approved religion of tolerance.

How does a Christian respond to a state church?  Much the same way that Jesus and his disciples responded, I imagine.  In those days, however, you had government officials killing people whose religion they didn't like, and then profaning their bodies and places of worship.  Thank God that we haven't come to that in our country.  Our response should be that of the first century Christians: gather together, devote ourselves to the word, pray, and submit.  I don't like that this stuff is happening in my country, and that our religious liberties are being taken away in shockingly large leaps and bounds, but it is what it is.  God is still on the throne; God is still working in the world.  We should be trusting him, no matter what happens.

America, the freedom of religion you once had is gone, and the little bit you have left is quickly eroding away.  Get ready.  Cling to the truth, because dark days are ahead.  But take heart: they are not so dark that the Light cannot shine through.

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