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Dear Barbara

I must admit that I was deeply shocked to read this headline:
City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons

Hasn't America always been about freedom of speech?
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/10/14/city-houston-demands-pastors-turn-over

But maybe it's exaggerated Ė it's hard for me to know exactly whatís happening, based as I am in such a different culture many hundreds of miles away from America. Surely any attempt to enforce it would be thrown out of court as unconstitutional?

Anyway, if the report isnít exaggerated, my question is: what do you think the Christian response should be? To what extent is civil disobedience acceptable scripturally? Is this such an egregiously bad case that a greater degree of civil disobedience is acceptable than in other cases?

Of course, civil disobedience would be a last resort, after constitutional efforts have failed, which I hope they won't. But what if such efforts do fail?

Every blessing,

Simon

Answer
Hi Simon, it's good to hear from you.  :)

You're absolutely right.  America used to uphold free speech as a right of every citizen.  Freedom of religion.  Freedom of the press.  All these things were cherished as foundational by America's founding fathers.  They were foundational to maintaining a free and orderly society.

The headline you cite did in fact happen.  The action by the Houston mayor--a lesbian and liberal gay rights activist--was later retracted as an over-reach.  What it signals to me is that powerful people of anti-Christian attitudes are testing the waters and challenging the boundaries of what the American public will accept.  It didn't stick this time but in my opinion, it's a harbinger of what is headed our way in the States.  With greater frequency of attempt, it will eventually become routine and normalized and considered acceptable by people who really don't care to think about the consequences to a free society.

The American Experiment has been wonderful and for those of us who understand freedom as a gift from God, we cringe as we see freedoms vanishing through an ever-increasing government.  It's not just powerful anti-Christian sorts in the public arena, but it's also infiltration into the Church warping the teachings so that even those who go to church will be steered away from God's ideas of purity and His rule over humanity.  The natural tendency of cultures or the material world is from order to chaos, life to death, and freedom to bondage. America will not escape the natural trajectory apart from an act of God.

Civil disobedience, therefore, may someday become necessary.  Two passages of Scripture that form the boundaries for acceptable action would be:

Acts 4:18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Romans 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

My personal view is that I will uphold God's righteous requirements and wherever I can adhere to US law without violating God's, I will do so.  Wherever I'm asked to deny Christ in order to adhere to authorities who have been put by God into power to punish a wayward people, I will pick up my cross and follow Jesus.  Even in the passage about obeying authorities, it does not say I must do evil because I am commanded by some man to do so.  Therefore I will look to Jesus and how He dealt with it.  I will go to my death the way Christ did--not accepting that what was happening to Him was right, but only that God would give Him the words and the courage to live to please God until His death that would be an acceptable sacrifice.

There are instances in which civil disobedience...in peaceful ways...is what will be required of Christians.  And there are some cases more clear than others.  So we will use whatever legal means are at our disposal, the Congress, the State Legislatures, the US court system, peaceful protest, and fleeing to avoid abandoning God because of the oppressive state.

I do not look forward to the day that America is overrun with anti-Christian forces and we will be persecuted for our faith, but in the course of history, this is nothing new.  Until then, I will just preach as well as I know how and will be in submission to authorities--even those like our President--with whom I completely disagree on just about everything.  Under his so-called leadership, we are being led from order to chaos, freedom to bondage, and definitely from truth into the land of chronic falsehood.  I did not elect him.  I do not hold him in any kind of esteem and I look forward to the day in which his elected term is over.  I hope the American people are wiser next time than to listen to a complicit press and devilish demagogues who satisfy the itching ears of a populace whose stomachs are bigger than their minds and hearts combined.  

Such, however, is a picture of the last days.   2 Timothy 3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.

We accept that apart from God's order and God's rule, we return to chaos and anarchy.  The world is falling apart and all I can say is that I hope Jesus returns soon.

As always, I appreciate your questions and welcome your feedback and follow-ups.  I pray for you often.  It's a dangerous and unhappy world out there especially wherever Christ is being edged out by those who are against Him.

I love hearing from you.  
Blessings, B<><

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Barbara Shafer

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Barbara Shafer (Seminary Gal now also at http://seminarygal.com ) I am an Evangelical Christian who is willing to answer faith questions in a thoughtful, researched manner. In particular, my heart`s desire is to assist those who need answers regarding suffering and those seeking to reconcile the Christian faith with the field of science. SeminaryGal.com

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I have a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I particularly enjoy apologetics (defense and explanation of the Christian faith) and systematic theology (understanding how the Bible itself supports various aspects of Christian doctrine). Both of these play a vital role in the "nuts and bolts" of evangelism... but the heart of Christian evangelism is love and compassion. A turning point for me was when I experienced the loss of my daughter Julia. Since then, my heart has been to help people who struggle to understand the Christian faith (and those who may be questioning the goodness of God) in light of the problem of evil and suffering. I've been informally answering Bible questions via other Internet avenues for over 10 years- to skeptics and believers alike. Thank you for blessing me with these opportunities.

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Master of Divinity, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

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