Most of us haven’t had to choose between God and Caesar—at least not yet. Times are changing like the seasons, however. Secularism is on the march. If religious freedom was an apple, government has been taking quite a few bites from it lately.
Case in point, Georgia. The state legislature passed a bill this week that simply did the following: allow clergy to refuse to perform gay marriages and permit churches and affiliated religious groups to hire or not hire based on one’s faith.
Just after the votes were counted, the cry of discrimination against the LGBT community went out. All kinds of people and groups rallied. The NFL said there would be no Super Bowl in Atlanta. Coca-Cola and other Georgia companies objected to the legislation. Hollywood types and film studios threatened to boycott the state.
The governor caved. He quickly took out his big red pen and he vetoed the new law. He rushed to the mic with his explanation: “This is about the character of our state and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people.”* This means the many pastors, churches, and religious groups that argued for and supported this religious freedom law were cold, rude, and hateful. That’s how it always seems to be characterized.
Just up the road in North Carolina, another new law went into effect—at least for now. It too was commonsensical and reflected biblical norms: People are to use bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate. Nearly 100 state businesses jumped up and demanded the governor repeal what they called an “anti-LGBT” law. Apple, Microsoft, PayPal, Yelp, Marriot, Bank of America, American Airlines, and Uber were some of the signers. Pressure is mounting. Governor Inslee of our state just banned state employees from traveling to North Carolina. Apparently Olympia and Raleigh do a lot of business—who knew?
Caesar has become quite full of himself lately. The frontlines are moving closer and closer to our churches and homes. You’re not paying attention if you don’t think so. Pastors, churches, and Christians will have to decide between God and Caesar. To whom will we submit?
All this happening around us, it certainly would be easy to throw up our arms, succumb, and watch religious freedom vanish altogether. But we mustn’t surrender to secularism. Religious freedom was important once; the founders of our nation and the framers of our Constitution saw to it. It is a founding principle worth fighting for.
In the end, we may not win. The apple may disappear altogether. But what matters most in affairs such as these is to whom will we submit—God or Caesar? That’s what each must decide.
Pastor Rich Hamlin
March 31, 2016