The Test

I don’t know why liberals gravitate toward journalism. It’s most obvious in college newspapers, where the little darlings seem to think they’re on try-outs for The New York Times or CNN. It’s amusing to see indignation of Columbus Day when ol’ Christopher had more of a clue than undeclared majors (and he used someone else’s money to pay the bill, too). But one editorial, on Kim Davis, caught my eye. The liberalism wasn’t surprising, calling on Kim Davis to resign because she did not follow government orders. Had the writer been in a state that ordered the flying of the Confederate flag, she likely would have called on defying the law. Whether liberals demand obedience to the State depends on whether the State supports their cause du jour.

The interesting thing is this call of submission to the State comes from conservatives as well. The difference is that the conservative take is based more on Socrates’ social contract theory than the Machiavellian “The end justifies the means” so adored by liberals. At least the conservative take is base on sounder logic than the liberals, who haven’t figured out that a government with the power to do what they see as good also has the power to do what they see as evil. You’d think that the French Revolution and the socialist revolutions of the 20th Century would have given them a clue.

That alone should give pause to conservatives as well. In arguing that the dictates of the State must be followed, they are also arguing that religion exists only at the pleasure of the State. What that means for religious liberty is obvious. If religion exists at the pleasure of the State, then the State can do with religion whatever it pleases.

Such was the fears of Danbury Baptist Association, who wrote to Thomas Jefferson of their fear that the constitution gave inadequate protection to religious liberty. Jefferson responded with an assurance that the government would never impose its will on religion, from whence liberals takes the” wall of separation “ phrase whenever they want to do just that. The colonists were no stranger to various religious persecutions, and more than a few had fled Europe for this reason. Danbury Baptist Association didn’t have to look very far in the past to see what happens when government exercises power over religion.

It says much of our post-Christian age that many have no problem with the demand that religion must follow the dictates of the State over those of God. If someone sees religion as contemptible; or as nothing more than tradition; or a thing to be worn only on holy days, they will have no more problem with this than the pagan Romans who poured out drinks and burned incense before images of the emperor. And just as those pagan Romans looked askance at Christians for their refusal to bow before the State gods, those who hold to the supremacy of the State look askance at the refusal of Christians to bow before the dictates of government where they conflict with the dictates of God.

Even some who call themselves Christians have demanded that Christians submit to the will of the State, taking half of Jesus’ words “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars,” but omitting “and unto God the things that are God’s.” With great irony, I’ve heard a Jew make the same argument, though the Christians who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust acted against the demands of the State.

For Christians, those who trust Jesus for salvation and believe He is God the Son, who died for our sins and who God the Father raised from death, the admonition to give to God the things that are God’s takes precedence before the State. In the case of Kim Davis, submission to the State means putting a Christian’s stamp of approval on what God Himself has declared as sin. Demanding she give her approval because of a court order is the same as arguing Christians should have turned over a Jews to the SS because it was the law. Whether Christians in the same position as Kim Davis will submit to the State is a religious test in more ways than one.

Nor is this the only such test. Christians in the United States are increasingly in the position of having to choose between submission to the State or submission to God. Such as military chaplains told they must not pray in the name of Jesus, or Kentucky telling chaplains they must not say homosexuality is a sin. In Florida, two school officials were threatened with jail time for daring to pray on school property. Nor is it only a test for those in direct conflict with the State; all involved, from the judges who make the decisions, to those called on to enforce it, to the legislators who permit it; all are faced with the question of who to they ultimately serve: The State or God.

What shakes out says much about religious liberty in America. No one who truly calls Jesus Christ Lord will put him second. Demands that Christians put the State first is tantamount to demanding that no Christians serve in any office. And the sad thing is few have any problem with that at all.

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