When The State Becomes God
When the State Becomes God:
What to do when government invades your God-given freedoms
To obey, or to disobey?
History is filled with stories of conflict between the church and state. More often than not, these conflicts happen when the state overreaches its proper role and stifles its citizens’ freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, and the right to propagate one’s faith. Perhaps one of the most egregious examples of this happened in the first century when Christians who would not declare “Caesar is Lord” were ostracized or put to death. This was based on the accepted dictum that if you wouldn’t bow to the lordship of Caesar, you couldn’t be trusted to be a good citizen. The “religion” of the lordship of Caesar would be the “glue” that gave the state its unity and identity.
The United States is unique. Our Founding Fathers believed we could be united by a constitution rather than religion. They argued that it was possible to be loyal to the state without religious conformity, even though they saw religion as indispensable for the continuation of democracy. America gives its citizens freedom; it assumes most of the people can be trusted to have shared moral values. To quote the famous words of John Adams, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” America, like no other republic, puts trust in the people themselves; the belief of our Founding Fathers was that people could, to some extent, govern themselves. Limited government was seen as better than big government and certainly better than government overreach. As our nation decisively abandons our heritage, the state takes an increasingly greater role in its control of citizens.
Courageous Christians throughout the centuries have always believed that the state was to be obeyed but not at the expense of one’s religious convictions. For example, John Knox was one of the most radical political thinkers among the European Reformers. In justifying revolution against an unjust or ungodly ruler, Knox was shaking the foundations of authority that had been in place for centuries. He said:
“True it is, that God hath commanded kings to be obeyed, but like true it is that in things which they commit against His glory, or when cruelty without cause they rage against their brethren, the members of Christ’s body, He hath commanded no obedience, but rather, He hath approved, yea, and greatly rewarded, such as have opposed themselves to their ungodly commandments and blind rage.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused the king’s order to bow to the statue on the plain of Dura. And when told that disobedience would lead to the fiery furnace, they said that whether God delivered them or not, they would not bow. Simply put, they feared God more than the flames.
History is replete with examples of martyrs who have refused to obey governmental authorities. We believe that an example of such disobedience is when the Apostles, though warned to not speak in the name of Jesus, responded by saying, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge” (Acts 4:19).
Remember it is our duty, as God’s people, to defend our right to worship and continue bringing others to Christ.
How Big Government Threatens Your Freedom
When to defy restrictive orders…
Pastor Lutzer gives practical counsel as he discusses dark clouds ahead for Christian liberty in America. He defines when Christians must resist government overreach. And he explains the “exemption” Islam enjoys from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. Ominous challenges lie ahead, he warns. We must be ready.
Q: During the COVID-19 crisis, churches were told they could not meet. Many submitted to this governmental edict; a few did not. This became a controversy among some church members. Your thoughts?
A: I have no objection to churches being subject to the same rules as other businesses. What we witnessed, however, was that casinos were allowed more people in their buildings than churches. This was a double standard that unfairly targeted churches. Should churches defy these orders? We have to allow some freedom here; this is not worth a church split. But if such unfair rulings were to continue when the risk of catching the virus fades, then yes, churches should defy restrictive orders.
Q: What is the most dangerous government overreach that we might have to face on the horizon?
A: There are so many ominous threats that it’s difficult to know where to begin. We all know instances where bakeries and photography shops had to close because they refused to do business with same-sex couples, etc. But there are other, more sweeping laws believers will likely have to face.
There is already a call for legislation to deny funding to all schools—including Christian schools—that receive financial loans if they don’t accept the full spectrum of LGBTQ rights. The Equality Act (HR 5) passed by the US House of Representatives would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the bill. This would, among other things, give males who identify as females the right to use women’s washrooms. Religious organizations could be denied discretion as to who they can hire. Imagine the legal challenges if you wanted to terminate a church staff member because he or she was marrying his or her same-sex lover. The list of such possible conflicts is endless.
Q: What about hate speech?
A: Look at Canada. Its hate speech laws prohibit preaching about certain forms of sexual sin, etc. Many believers have already been punished for refusing to abide by state-approved speech. We might not yet have such laws, but cultural pressures often achieve the same result.
Q: Why is Islam not subject to the same laws as the church?
A: Because the radical left has, for now, decided to team up with Islam to destroy Christianity and capitalism. This explains why the ACLU strictly forbids the teaching of Christianity in schools based on their definition of the separation of church and state, but there is no such distinction between mosque and state. The ACLU allows teaching Islam in our public schools and using our tax dollars to build prayer rooms for Muslim students.
Q: Throughout history, there has always been a tension between security (the responsibility of the state) and personal freedoms, including freedom of religion. In times of crisis, people usually choose security over liberty. Is this a danger?
A: Yes, it is. D.H. Lawrence, in his poem, “Liberty’s Old Story,” gives us this quote, which we should all pay attention to: “Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.”
Q: Final thoughts?
A: The more we lurch toward cultural Marxism, we can expect our freedoms to be challenged at every level. We will be told that we can have freedom of worship (worship however you want within the walls of your church or synagogue), but we will not have freedom of religion—that is, living out our convictions in the public square. As our cultural dominoes collapse, we will find ourselves with increasingly severe restrictions to the point where we will eventually better understand the citizens who lived under the flag of the Soviet Union. I pray we will be up to the task.
 Charles Francis Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States; With a Life of the Author Notes and Illustrations of his Grandson Charles Francis Adams. Vol. IX, (Boston, Little, Brown And Company, 1854), 228-229.