I have spent the last three weeks warning my readers of the dangerous trend that we are taking in this country when it comes to silencing the voice of religion in general (but more specifically Christianity in particular) from the public sphere. Even as I write this article, I have learned that a new lawsuit has been entered into our already over-burdened judicial system claiming that allowing ministers a certain tax-break is a violation of the establishment clause of the first amendment. If the plaintiff’s succeed in this case, it is not a far leap to assume that their next argument will be against the tax exempt status of the church itself.
In my recent articles I have argued from history both for the inclusion of the religious/moral voice in society and have shown from history the catastrophic results on a society when the church is silenced. Our society cannot hope to succeed much longer should we continue our movement away from Judeo-Christian principles. John Adams, the second President of the United States warned, "Our Constitution was only made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." And he said, "There is no Government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion."
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can have morality and integrity without God. Morality and religion can never be divorced. In fact, the very basis of morality lies in the existence of God. Dr. Erwin Lutzer reminds us: "In no past era has a culture been able to maintain morality and political freedom without the support of religious values." So as the voice of Christianity is silenced in this Country, the voice of repression will grow ever stronger; ever louder.
What then should the role of the church be? Should we mobilize in and for political causes? Should we engage in the many cultural wars we are currently facing? My answer to these questions my surprise you.
While as Christians we certainly want to exercise the rights we have as a free people, to allow political causes or social issues to divert us from our true calling is to perhaps win particular battles at the cost of the war. Peter Marshall once said " It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail." Good advice.
When all is said and done, the churches power does not come from political favor, or from even just causes. When we fail to realize that, we have failed in our very purpose. The power of the church is not in her social voice but rather in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we fail in that, we should not even call ourselves a church!
Benjamin Franklin wrote, "He who shall introduce into the public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world" [Letter to French ministry, March 1778–Source: Federer, William J., America’s God and Country, (AmeriSearch, Inc. Saint Louis, MO, 1999)]. I cannot argue as to the spiritual standing of Mr. Franklin. I’ve heard the claims of the revisionists and the secularists, and I will not attempt here to advance a rebuttal, but regardless of where Mr. Franklin stood spiritually, his letter to the French Ministry speaks volumes as to his beliefs. Why would he say such a thing? Because he, and others who led in the founding of this Country knew the power Christianity had to change the heart. No government can do that. A government may change our thinking on certain issues, but only Christ has the power to change the heart. Hitler knew this, that is why he feared and persecuted the church. That is why on his rise to power he insisted that the voice of the church had to be silenced "for the good of the German people."
We, who believe in Jesus as God’s Son, the Anointed One, Savior and Lord, need to focus our message on proclaiming him. We need to be careful of substituting causes for the proclamation of the cross and resurrection. The church’s power in a society is in direct proportion to her fearless proclamation of the Kyrigma — the cross and resurrection. We can fight a life-time of causes, but when we preach Christ crucified and risen again, there is a wonderful heart change that takes place and with the heart change, a million causes will be won.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.