Admin’s note: The following is a guest blog post by Christopher Lee, an engineer who lives in Northern Virginia. He longs to see Christ proclaimed and His kingly authority recognized in all areas of life. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America.
I have been reading with particular interest on the recent news regarding the tax exempt status lawsuit against ministers (and other religious leaders) in Wisconsin. On Friday, November 22, federal judge Barbara Crabb ruled in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who argued that exemption violates the establishment clause because it “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”
According to ReligionNewsService.com . . .
the case, decided in the District Court for the Western District Of Wisconsin, will likely be appealed to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the states of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
What I noticed after having reviewed various blogs and articles in response to this recent ruling was the significant level of work and research that went into discussing this issue from the constitutional, legal and historical perspective. One might get the impression that after having read multiple articles from these perspectives that that is all there is to this topic.
I find this to be a grave mistake.
What is glaringly missing is the discussion regarding foundational motives and the basis behind why these issues are even arising in the first place. In other words, peeling the onion back even further than the various seemingly academic and legalese musings surrounding this issue, what exactly are the root causes that prompt the FFRF to do this? (By the way, those academic and legalese musings are needed, don’t get me wrong).
Also, this isn’t the first time that FFRF has attempted to do something like this. You may remember that a similar thing happened back in June 2011, when the same group attempted to do this same thing in California (see The Aquila Report).
It should be pretty obvious that the FFRF is bringing this lawsuit and others like this because of its atheism. Big surprise? “Oh, Chris, this has been going on since the beginning of the church. Why are you making such a big deal about this? This kind of stuff happens every Christmas and Easter. This is no different and it isn’t a big deal.”
It is a big deal and let me explain why.
We can see that the Bible does talk about various hatred and animosity that Christians will face (see Godvine.com). This is certainly true in this particular housing allowance case. So, tying it back to the original question, what exactly is it about FFRF’s militant atheism that motivates them to hate Christians?
According to atheism, of course the belief is that there is no such thing as the Christian God, or even any god. Atheists at FFRF (and atheists not associated with FFRF, for that matter) believe that natural man is the sole authority for truth, reason and facts. If there is no God to tell man how to reason and understand truth, man can do it himself. This also is normally coupled with an evolutionary/naturalist understanding of reality. If man is not a creature of God, a creation of God, man now de facto becomes his own creator, and there is no one higher than he.
With natural man’s understanding of how he is his own authority on knowledge, facts and reasoning, with his understanding that he is not a creation and is not accountable to the Triune God, this would then logically inform his subsequent ethical conduct and actions.
It isn’t an exact science and various ethical conduct and actions manifest themselves in different ways depending on the agenda and motive of the particular atheist. However, take any particular ethical conduct, the common thread amongst all atheists is that they refuse to see God as the moral authority that guides their actions.
When atheists don’t see God as the authority, they themselves take on that authority. Paul saw this very clearly when he says this in Romans 1 in which he talks about how man suppresses the truth of God, and that natural man does know that God exists, and yet they willfully deny Him because of their sin.
This issue of tax exemption, or the war on Christmas or Easter, etc., isn’t simply the fact that atheists are really irritated with or hate Christians, although this is certainly true. The real issue, from a Biblical perspective, stems from the fact that they have suppressed the truth of God and the truth of his all encompassing authority and have replaced Him with a lesser god, man himself. I seem to remember that anything that replaces God, whether it be a golden calf or anything else, is idolatry.
If this is the case, if it is in fact deeper than simply that atheists wanting to bully Christians, if we really are to see from the Biblical lens of how we should be viewing the world, we would see that these actions that the FFRC are taking are logically a result of its hatred of God and idolatry that is on full display and, sadly, being given legitimate legal consideration in our courts of “justice.”
Therefore, if we are to understand that idolatry and hatred towards God is the real issue, this should help us to understand that this tax exemption issue really isn’t a dirty “political” issue or a useless culture war issue that has no place in the church but it is a moral and profoundly religious issue.
What else can idolatry be but a religious issue?
Idolatry and idolatrous acts expressed in any context, whether putting so much stock in a famous personality or in yourself, or worshiping a golden calf, are all heinous in the sight of God.
While these actions that the FFRF are taking may initially seem irrelevant to the Gospel, let’s not forget that the root cause of idolatry is clearly not irrelevant to the Gospel and that any action that is stemmed from the root cause also is equally as concerning and relevant.
Where do we go from here? What should the church and Christians do when we are faced with this idolatry and have it shoved up in our faces as it is in this court case?
(1) The first thing we do is to repent of our sins. Too long has the church been dormant while the rest of the world has cried out for truth, justice and love. With the church being dormant, people have found other means to fulfill their false conceptions of truth, justice and love and yet the church has done nothing to counter this with the proclamation of Biblical truth.
(2) We must pray for the salvation of the souls of those who attack us. If not for God’s grace, we would be in that exact same position.
(3) We must take loving action (as individual Christians and as a church, yes, as a church) to ensure that the rights and responsibilities that God gave us to proclaim His name is not hampered. Encourage those directly involved in this case.
Be wise as serpents for any hint of these kinds of things happening in our areas.
Today it is housing allowances. Tomorrow, who knows? The very existence of the church.
Don’t think that it will happen in the US? Let’s not be dangerously careless in thinking that it can’t happen here.
If we have Christians that are being slaughtered in Syria and not a word from our leaders on any efforts to stop this persecution or any word about it in the mainstream media, what makes you think that there will not eventually be a day when those very same leaders will have that same level of indifference and careless attitude and in fact, concerted efforts directed to physically snuff out the church’s very existence here at home?
If that day comes (and let’s pray that it doesn’t), let’s remember that it isn’t primarily because of the atheists’ efforts that have caused this, but because of the church’s willful disobedience to defend the truth of Jesus Christ in all areas of life. I earnestly pray that that day may never come.
Repent, pray, and take action through Jesus Christ.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this court case in Wisconsin is about tax exemptions. It is about hatred of God and idolatry. It always has been and it never is ultimately about anything else.