by Bill Muehlenberg at Culture Watch I have written extensively as of late about how religious freedom in the West is slowly but surely coming under attack. State-sponsored anti-Christian bigotry is on the increase throughout the Western world. Various forces have been warring against the free expression of faith. These include radical minority groups, secularist groups, the forces of political correctness, and meddling governments.
The reasons provided to justify this crackdown on religious freedom and expression often sound good: the need to prevent discrimination, vilification and the like. But the effect of various equal opportunity laws and religious vilification bills is to effectively silence the church.
And it is a lot sneakier way of doing things. If the state announced that all churches would be closed and all Bibles confiscated, there would be â€“ hopefully â€“ a huge public outcry. But these indirect and sneaky methods are really achieving the same thing. Religious freedom is being taken away, and soon the only churches will be those which have the government tick of approval.
This incremental, piece-by-piece approach seems to be working quite well. Most religious folk have no idea that the public expression of their faith is slowly being strangled. They do not seem to know or perhaps care that each day the state is intruding more and more in religious affairs.
The coming state-approved PC church is not just the stuff of conspiracy theorists. This site has documented numerous cases of this very thing. We are well on the way to the sort of brave new world scenarios often depicted in works of fiction and film.
Indeed, it reminds me of a 2002 film I saw recently, Equilibrium. In a futuristic police state, people are banned from all things which might trigger emotional responses: books, music, art. They are even forced to take drugs which suppress emotions. This is done for a very good-sounding reason; to maintain peace and stamp out war.
But of course the price for such coerced peace is too high â€“ the loss of freedoms, and the deadening of humanity. So a group of rebels arise to fight the system. The film is well worth renting and watching.
It seems we may not be so far off today in the West. We live in an age in which the state knows that bread and circuses will do the trick. Keep the masses fed, and keep them entertained and amused. As long as that is done, most people wonâ€™t mind the steady erosion of other freedoms and the very things which make us human.
Thus even those who should know better â€“ biblical Christians â€“ are sleeping through this slow and steady rise of state-approved religion. Fortunately I am not alone in these concerns. Chuck Colson in the US is also greatly concerned about these trends. His most recent article also warns about the suppression of religious freedom.
He begins with these words: â€œIn China, Christians have a choice: Join a government-approved church - which is constantly monitored by the authorities - or join an underground church. Thank heavens things like that donâ€™t happen in the West, you may be thinking. Think again. In Britain, the government has begun sticking its nose in church business, telling churches what to do.
â€œAccording to the Daily Telegraph, starting next year, the British government is going to begin forcing churches and other religious institutions to hire open, practicing homosexuals. It will happen under the provisions of the so-called Equity Bill, which forbids discrimination against homosexuals or transsexuals. The law would â€˜cover almost all church employees,â€™ according to Deputy Equities Minster Maria Eagle. â€˜The circumstances in which religious institutions can practice anything less than full equality are few and far between,â€™ Eagle said. Church groups, she said, â€˜cannot claim that everything they run is outside the scope of anti-discrimination lawâ€™.â€
I have written up this case as well: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2009/05/21/is-this-the-end-of-christianity-in-england/
But Colson reminds us just where all this is heading: â€œWhatâ€™s next - regulating the content of sermons? Iâ€™m not kidding. According to Eagle, â€˜Members of faith groups have a role in making the argument in their own communities for greaterâ€™ acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. Maybe it would simplify things if the government simply wrote the sermons for the pastors.â€
He continues, â€œThe Equity Law could lead to some interesting situations. What happens if a church, under pressure, hires a gay youth ministerâ€”and orders him to teach kids about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior? And I can only imagine the reaction of a British mosque when the religion police orders it to hire a lesbian secretary.â€
What we have here is a case of governments â€œbeginning to run the churches. And if they succeed, it will be the end of religious freedom in Britain. Legislation like the Equity Law should concern Americans. So-called â€˜social reformsâ€™ that begin in Europe soon wash up on our own shores. And then, what will happen to the Church? Will we put our congregations under the authority of Caesar? Or will we resist and, if need be, abandon our elegant buildings and, like our faithful brethren in China, form underground churches?â€
Colson concludes, â€œThe Bible teaches that the followers of Christ will be tested. We ought to be in prayer for the church in Great Britain, asking God to guide it as the government bears down. Second, we ought to be preparing for similar laws here. Many churches are already under great pressure by homosexual activists to violate their own teachings under the guise of â€˜fairnessâ€™ - a much abused word. This, by the way, is not a hysterical rant. The threat is very real. Third, we ought to remind our neighbors that the First Amendment was written not just to protect the government from churches, but more so to protect churches from the government.â€
Things in Australia fare no better. We are well down this path of state-approved PC churches. And if this does come to full fruition, in many ways we will only have ourselves to blame. There have been plenty of warnings about all this. The question is, do we take our faith seriously enough to stand up and do something about this. Or will we simply sheeplike take our emotion-blocking drugs as in Equilibrium, and in docile fashion accept what the government tells us to do.
The choice is really up to us.