Public Square

Should We Stand for Religious Freedom in Houston?

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I will use them to test Israel and see whether the will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did.

– Judges 2:22

This week has brought some interesting developments to the story of the Houston mayor who issued subpoenas demanding that five local pastors turn over their sermons to be scrutinized for “objectionable” material.

Outrage stemming from the mayor’s request swelled across the nation while lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom asked a court to throw out the subpoenas.

At first, city officials seemed to be doubling down, with Mayor Parker stating, “If the five pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game.”

But Houston officials later said they would narrow the scope of their demand to “speeches” instead of sermons, a move ADF legal counsel Joe La Rue said was “wholly inadequate.”  Some, including Christina Holcomb, ADF litigation counsel, dismissed the notion that the city had in any way backed off.

In another interesting twist, Mike Huckabee and influential Christian author Eric Metaxas have called for pastors across America to voluntarily send Bibles and their sermons to the mayor of Houston. Metaxas told one news outlet:

Never in our history has religious freedom been so brazenly defied. A bold red line has been crossed. The Houston mayor’s inexcusable demand to see the sermons of pastors is an outrageous and shocking affront to all Americans and to liberty itself. If the American church does not rise up and stand against this, there is no American church.

It is interesting how history repeats itself. While he did not demand sermon texts from American pastors, in 1775 the King of England issued Writs of Assistance to royal officials in the American colonies. Those writs gave these royal officials the power to hunt for all the same things listed in the Houston subpoenas.

As a result, the founders denounced King George III as a tyrant. They eventually adopted the Bill of Rights to prevent repeating these types of abuses by the government they were founding.

Houston’s mayor and city council have overstepped their authority. As James Madison once said: “The people are right to take alarm at the first advance on their liberties.”

How should Christians look at these recent events? Dr. Bruce K. Waltke’s commentary on Genesis is instructive here. In it he writes,

The serpent’s final defeat under Messiah’s heel (3:15) is delayed to effect God’s program of redemption through the promised offspring. In the interim, God leaves Satan to test the fidelity of each succeeding generation of the covenant people (Judges 2:22) and teach them to fight against untruth (Judges 3:2).

The secular worldview that so dominates our current culture will only tolerate Christianity so long as it remains quiet. But as we act as salt and light, bringing our biblical values to the public square, we will see more and more of what we are seeing in Houston.

As Christians we must understand that there are times we should turn the other cheek, but there are also times we must overturn the tables of the money-changers.

Our generation will be tested. Will we stand for biblical virtue and righteousness, the key components of sustainable freedom? Or will we be bullied into submission by government officials who believe that their agenda supersedes the law of the land?

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