Todd Starnes writes, “Five Christian pastors will no longer have to turn their sermons over to attorneys for the city of Houston. Instead, they will be forced to turn over their speeches related to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).”
Isn’t a sermon a “speech”?
What are they actually looking for? Did the pastors misrepresent what the bathroom ordinance will do? So what if they did? Please tell me what political campaign has ever fairly represented the views of the opposition. What politician has ever been taken to court for misrepresenting his or her opponent in an election?
How many times has this type of request been made for other referendums that required a certain number of signatures on a petition to get it on the ballot? California’s Proposition 8 got on the ballot without subpoenas for pastors to turn over speeches, communiques, and sermons.
I thought Democrats were all about Democracy. What is Mayor Parker afraid of? She should welcome a vote on what the city council has proposed.
What’s really going on here?
Mayor Annise Parker said on Friday, “We don’t need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston, and it was never the intention of the city of Houston to intrude on any matters of faith or to get between a pastor and their parishioners.”
There’s an unstated qualification: “As long as Christians keep their mouths shut, stay out of politics, and stop ‘petitioning the government for a redress of grievances.’”
If a pastor preaches on the evils of despotic government or what the Houston city council did, individual Christians can nod in agreement but they can’t exercise their rights to oppose that government action. “As long as you preach your sermons and teach your Sunday school lessons in the context of a church service and keep your views private,” secularists argue, “we have no problem with your religion. It’s when you make your religious views public that we object and will do something about it.”
Here is how one editorial writer put it: Christians can “rant and rave against humanism and feminism and any other ‘ism’ on Sunday, come Monday, the children belong in school.’”1 And what applies to the government schools also applies to city hall.
Jay Bookman, writing in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, stated that “faith should be personal, not political,” except, of course, if you’re a liberal. This was the view of the Roman Empire and every despot who has used the sword in defense of his divine right to rule his way with no competing opposition.
The goal of tyrants in Houston is to shut down or at least make it very expensive for Christians ever to speak out publicly on an issue and take action against it. Small schools and city councils that may open a meeting with prayer or have some religious ritual or image are threatened with expensive legal challenges from well funded secular organizations.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of pastors who believe that they should not get involved politically. It’s one of the reasons we’re in this mess. For years they told their congregations:
- Jesus didn’t get mixed up in politics.
- Religion and politics don’t mix.
- Jesus was not a social reformer
- Politics is dirty.
- God’s kingdom is not of this world.
- Politics is not spiritual.
- Our citizenship is in heaven.
- We’re not to judge.
- There is no such thing as a Christian culture.
- We can’t impose our morality on other people.
- There’s a separation between church and state.
- It’s never right to resist authority.
- We’re just to preach the gospel.
- We just need to pray about it.
- We’re living in the last days.
Guess what, decades of preaching this kind of stuff got Houston its first married lesbian mayor and a whole lot more.
(For an answer to these, see my book Myths Lies and Half-Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians and Empowers Liberals, Secularists, and Atheists)
Bojidar Marinov, a resident of Houston and an incisive thinker on this topic, remarks:
“What is inconsistent – and even openly hypocritical – is the outrage and the actions of the pastors. For over 100 years they and others like them have preached a theology that made it possible – and actively led to – the surrender of political power and cultural dominance in the hands of moral perverts. Suddenly, when that theology produced a political and cultural practice that came around to harass them personally, they are so outraged.”
There are numerous Christians who believe that a personal, private faith is all the gospel requires. Look where this belief has taken us.
“We should abolish, and forever banish,” Charles Galloway wrote in a 1907 address titled The Ethics of Politics, “the false distinction between the sacred and the secular. The functions of citizenship are as sacred as the songs of Zion. The ballot is as holy as the book of common prayer.”
Will what’s taken place in Houston be a wake-up call to the churches? It remains to be seen. If they win this battle, will they go back to their pietistic, other-world preaching and teaching? The pagan left will never stop, even if they lose this battle. I should say, especially if they lose this battle.
It wasn’t that long ago in a nation not that far away that Christianity was seen as a threat to the governing authorities. Over time, churches in Nazi German were “confined as far as possible to the performance of narrowly religious functions, and even within this narrow sphere were subjected to as many hindrances as the Nazis dared to impose.”
This is the evaluation of a 1945 report published by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA. It was called The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches and was prepared for the War Crimes Staff. It offered the following summary: “This study describes, with illustrative factual evidence, Nazi purposes, policies and methods of persecuting the Christian Churches in Germany and occupied Europe.”
The next step was to neutralize the impact that churches would have on politics. “Under the pretext that the Churches themselves were interfering in political and state matters, [the Nazis] would deprive the Churches, step by step, of all opportunity to affect German public life.” How often do we hear that the “separation between church and state” means that churches must remain silent on social and political issues, that pastors cannot use their pulpits (unless they’re liberal) to influence legislation?
Speak up and act now or the time will come when we won’t be able to do either.
- Rheta Grimsley Johnson, “‘People’ vs. Fundamentalists,” The Marietta Daily Journal (September 2, 1986), 4A. [↩]