Monday, September 7, 2015

Christian Persecution or Christless Christianity?

The headlines this week are filled with reports about Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in Kentucky.  After a federal judge ordered her to comply with the law she still refused and was held in contempt of court, arrested, and jailed.  Ms. Davis claims she is being forced to violate God's law by signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples and that she has been sent to jail for exercising her religious freedom.  If true, it would be a serious charge against the nation and our justice system not to mention a violation of the First Amendment protection of religious freedom.  Yet, in this blogger's view, Ms. Davis does not literally have a leg to stand on and neither do her supporters, regardless of my own beliefs about marriage and the sanctity of the institution.

Ms. Davis claims to owe obedience to God's law rather than to men (or man made law as the case may be).  Even if we concede that position to her as a Christian, it is unclear precisely which of God's laws she has been asked to violate.  Now, if the state of Kentucky required Ms. Davis to perform a marriage for a same-sex couple she might have a stronger argument.  It has not required this of her.  All she has to do is affix her signature to a license permitting couples to marry (regardless of sexual orientation).  I wonder if Ms. Davis had the same objection to traditional couples seeking marriage licenses who had engaged in pre-marital sex or been divorced for non-biblical reasons?  If Ms. Davis truly wanted to take a stand against same-sex marriage (and all other unbiblical marriages) she should have resigned her office.  That, however, would not have made her into the martyr she has become and endeared her to the Christian right.

You see, the Christian right wants desperately to believe that Christianity itself is under attack from the left.  It desperately wants to believe that it is being persecuted for being faithful to the Scriptures and being reviled for righteousness sake as Matthew 5:10 says.  But this is not what's going on here.  Kim Davis is not in jail for taking a stand for righteousness.  She is in jail for refusing to do her job and obey a court order.  As an elected official she took an oath to obey the law and she violated that oath.  Wait, you say, doesn't Scripture say that Christians must obey God and not man?  Yes, but the context of that statement must be considered.  In Acts 5:29, Peter utters those words before the high council of Sadducees and Pharisees.  What command had Peter violated?  A command that he should not teach the people about Jesus Christ.  If Ms. Davis were being punished or persecuted for teaching about Christ I would be on her side.  She's not and so I am not.

Isn't taking a stand against same-sex marriage tantamount to teaching about Christ, you ask?  No, it isn't.  There is a big difference between moralistic Christianity, which in my view is Christless, and preaching Christ and Him crucified.  Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, was frequently persecuted for preaching Christ.  He spends little to no time commenting on the ills of 1st century society other than urging Christians to avoid idolatry, sexual immorality, and such things.  He never instructs Christians to go out and oppose the sins of an unbelieving world.  He says to preach Christ and Him crucified and let God take care of the sanctification of repentant sinners.

Herein lies the whole problem with American Christianity.  Much of it does not know the Christ of the Bible.  It is a moralistic, Christless religion that reduces God's law to a set of commands it can easily keep.  Obey a command, check a box, feel good about yourself this week.  It is not a Christianity that mourns over its own sin, that is meek, that seeks to make peace.  It is a brash, in your face brand of Christianity looking for persecution under every rock and crying about 'wars' on Christmas and religious freedom.  It is a Christianity that tells everyone outside the church how they ought to live while refusing to pay attention to their own lives.  If American Christians really want to know what persecution feels like they should try doing one simple thing:  Preach the gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully to a lost and dying world.  Stop making people like Kim Davis into a cause celebre and teach people about the Jesus who stooped low and told the woman caught in adultery to 'Go and sin no more.'  Or, they could just keep picking up stones and see how that works out.

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