Religious freedoms under attack — lukewarm, mushy middle Christians will have to choose hot or cold
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STRONG BELIEFS, WEAK BELIEFS
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, a fascinating story out of The Free Beacon: as America grows less religious, strong believers persist. Let me read you a key out of this recently published paper that suggests that drops in religiosity are confined to the moderately religious while America’s strongly religious stay as firmly dedicated to their beliefs as ever.
“This trend plays out in other measures of religiosity,” the report says. “The proportion of Americans who attend religious services multiple times a week has remained constant, while the number attending ‘sometimes’ has dropped and the number attending ‘never’ has risen. Belief in Biblical literalism has also been constant, while belief that the Bible is divinely inspired but not literal has fallen and that it is a book of fables has risen.”
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RULES ARE CHANGING
DR. REEDER: Let’s set the backdrop, Tom. The backdrop is we are in a concentrated almost 75 to 80-year attempt to secularize America and to sanitize the religious influence to declare it a secular nation with Christianity as a “philosophy” allowed to be tolerated but not any “favored status”, which means not simply that it has the freedom to practice, but to try to prohibit its practices.
The notion today is that the secular cultural elite are telling religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, and with great virulence that, “You are free to believe these things in your head, in your heart, in your home, and at your church, but nowhere else. Your view of Christian marriage, your view of Christian sexuality, your view of Christian work, your view of Christian ethics – wonderful, believe them, keep it, but not here.”
Now the cultural elite are using governmental enforcement. A lot of these new ordinances that are coming out about businesses is an attempt to tell Christians, “We don’t want you to tolerate the sexual revolution – you must participate, you must propagate, you must perpetuate, you must celebrate it. If you don’t, we will punish you with our newly established ‘human rights commissions,’” fining them and putting them out of business. It’s already happening and it is spreading to multiple states.
A DOUBLE STANDARD SEEKS TO SILENCE CHRISTIANS
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, and it’s happening on college campuses as we’ve cited in a number of times. Interestingly, today, as we’re recording this program, a federal court has just come out and ruled that the University of Iowa must reinstate a Christian organization that was banned from campus for refusing to allow non-believers in leadership positions.
DR. REEDER: Yeah, wasn’t that an interesting story, Tom, because the university put them off because they said, “Listen, our organization must be run by professing Christians who believe what the organization stands for.”
Do you think that Iowa University – which, by the way, was the home of one of the great Christian academics of all time, George Washington Carver – let’s say the Greenpeace organization tells them, “As your vice-president or your treasurer, you must allow someone that believes that climate change is a hoax. You’ve got to have them represented in your leadership.”
Our doors are open in these Christian organizations to anybody and everybody – that’s what Jesus has called us to do is to reach the world – but, leadership, that just stands to logical consistency. That’s just an attempt to shut them down. Thankfully, a sensible court had a sensible order and a sensible ruling on that matter.
SURVEY SHOWS MIDDLE GROUND SHRINKING
Let’s get back to this other statistic, Tom. Here is this statistic that says, “What about the strongly religious – attends services multiple times a week – those who attend every once in a while and then those who never attend?” What that survey said is those who attend multiple times each week has actually increased during this sexual revolution. Those who never attend has increased.
Well, where in the world did this increase come? Well, on both sides, it came from the mushy middle, as some people call it, where, “I was a nominal Christian, but I really wasn’t practicing my Christianity. I only attended every once in a while – maybe at Christmas or Easter or something like that.”
WHEN PRESSURED, MUSHY MIDDLE GOES DEVOUT OR DROPS OUT
Well, when the sexual revolution hits that person and when the secular culture elitists begin to put the pressure on them, they easily navigate to the, “I’m just not going to go anymore. I don’t want to be identified with this Christianity because it’s being mocked and ridiculed,” and so they win them over.
Now, some of them and some out of the “nevers” are still being pursued in love and truth by Christians and they come over to the other side so you’ve got this significant increase on those who are intentionally committed, you’ve got an increase of those who are saying, “No, I don’t want anything to do with it,” and then those in the middle, that’s the statistic that’s losing all the ground as people get converted, and committed to Christ, and trust in Christ, and follow Christ and they go to the committed side, then the other side.
TIME TO SURRENDER TO JESUS AND TAKE UP THE CROSS
And, believe me, folks, if you think you can hide from this sexual revolution within nominal Christianity, they’re not going to let you. You’re either going to have to become a card-carrying secularist or you’re going to have to say, “Jesus, I surrender. All I have is yours. Let me come to you.”
Now, Tom, one other thing I want to mention, that other set of statistics compares with it. What do those who are committed believe? We believe the Bible is the Word of God – it doesn’t contain the Word of God, it doesn’t become the Word of God – it is the Word of God. Those who believe it’s just a book that kind of becomes meaningful from time to time, well, that’s the mushy middle again. They will dissipate and they’re now over there with those that believe, “The Bible is nothing. That’s why we never attend.”
Those two sides show up rapidly. Tom, your church isn’t going to be able to hide, Christians aren’t going to be able to hide – this secular culture now with fascist power that is using the State and the power of the purse and the power of penalties, you’re going to have to find out pretty soon, “Is Jesus Lord or is Caesar Lord?”
And that’s what we’re seeing and what we’re seeing is, those who are committed, it’s rising. Those who are not committed, it’s rising. Those in the middle, they’re having to make the decision.
IS SOFT PERSECUTION HAPPENING?
TOM LAMPRECHT: In past programs, you have said we are not yet to full-throated persecution but, as the church is being harassed, we’re beginning to see people go to one side or the other.
DR. REEDER: And you’re also seeing what has been true in the Scripture, what has been true in history, that, whenever targeting or persecution – persecution, I define as removing people’s lives or livelihoods. Now, in America, we’re not removing Christians’ lives – we did a program on that persecution – though, in America, you are targeting livelihoods. You’ve seen the bakers and the candlestick makers and the photography people – these artists – that, “You can’t practice your Christian perspectives on art. We are mandating that you participate in what you do not believe is right before the Lord.”
That targeting and that soft persecution against livelihood is happening. I don’t like it, I don’t love it, I don’t seek it, but I know one thing: If it comes, what you’re going to have is those that mean business are going to mean that much more business and more are going to mean business.
Persecution, I always described it like the yard we grew up in: we didn’t have a manicured yard – we were just glad to get some weeds – and one of the great weeds in our yard was the dandelion and it would come up and I would go through and kick them and my mother would go crazy. She would say, “Son, quit kicking those. Every time you kick one, you’re not killing that dandelion – you’re spreading about 2,000 seeds of more dandelions.” And that’s what happens: Satan goes through kicking and all He’s doing is making more of us.
FOLLOW JESUS FOR PEACE IN A TRIBULATED WORLD
Here’s what Jesus says in John 16. “In the world, you will have tribulation; in Me, you have peace. Now you take courage: I’ve overcome the world.” And that’s what we’re going to see so let’s keep doing it, let’s keep proclaiming it, let’s stay ready and we are ready for the persecution or the targeting.
What’s going to disappear are those who say they are Christians but they are not. Here’s the way Jesus said it to the seven churches: “I would that you were hot or cold. If you’re lukewarm” – that mushy middle – “I’ll spit you out of my mouth.”
And, by the way, the world is going to spit you out of its mouth. You’re going to have to make your decision on one side or the other. The world will make you make the decision, but Jesus calls you to make the decision. Come, taste and see: The Lord is good.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.