Southern Baptists, through their Ethics And Religious Liberty Commission and their International Mission Board, have joined hands with Muslims and others to help build a mosque.
But they have to. It’s inevitable when you hold closely to the tenets of American Christianity.
While Muslims across world want to see the demise of America and Israel, the SBC’s ERLC and IMB have joined in with the likes of the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, the Sikh Coalition, and other unlikely allies to support building a mosque. According to The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty (An organization in which Russell Moore is on the Board of Directors) over 20 “interfaith” groups have united to push forward the agenda of the god of religious liberty in support of the mosque.
The specifics of the case itself are described in the March 10 article in the New York Times, Muslims Sue Over Denial To Build A Mosque in New Jersey. The New Jersey township of Bernards, a suburb about an hour from Manhattan, has denied an application for a mosque to be built in their town. The two SBC agencies have joined in the legal brief supporting the Muslims because of the religious liberty implications of the case.
For those who merely worship Americanism – with no regard for any God – the notion voiced by an opponent of the New Jersey mosque is likely amenable, stating that Islam and its Shariah law is “one of the greatest threats to American values and liberties.” How can a mosque be allowed merely an hour away from where Islamists perpetrated the greatest act of terrorism on American soil?
However, for one driven by the theology of “American Christianity,” the prevalent flavor of faith within evangelical pews, especially Southern Baptist ones, mosque building becomes, perhaps, a “love your neighbor” issue. When you define your faith by your nation, and that nation inherently defends “freedom,” the American Christian must abide by the demands of tolerance implicit within the framework of the Constitutional Republic. But freedom, unrestrained, leads rapidly to corruption, destruction, and civil anarchy.
Indeed, American Christianity, as exhibited here by two SBC agencies, must worship the idol of religious freedom. Southern Baptists, led by Russell Moore and the ERLC, are increasingly vocal evangelists for this god, and they do it without clear Scriptural compulsion. The compulsion they presume comes from the implied notion that America is particular to God, chosen by God, favored by God. But, again, this notion glaringly lacks Scriptural credence.
It is the necessary worship of the god of religious liberty that compels Moore and the ERLC to be regularly out front chanting the mantra of a god not found in Scripture. From aligning with Muslims in the mosque lawsuit to standing with Catholics over Obamacare abortion mandates, the hypocrisy of failing to stand firm with any and all in the protection and propagation of this fundamental tenet would be tantamount to engaging in harlotry.
The Baptist Press, on May 25, reported on the latest interfaith consortium led by the ERLC. All Need Religious Liberty, Baptist, Others Contend highlights the latest multi-faith panel assembled by Moore to promote religious liberty in America. Moore is quoted stating that religious liberty “is about having the freedom and the opportunity to be genuinely different, to be able to genuinely respect one another and be able to have disagreements with one another, including about the issues that we believe are of ultimate, ultimate significance, while at the same time saying, “These are not matters of coercion, and we do not need a government referee to come and settle those issues.”
Looked at in light of American Christianity, it seems incumbent that Christians vigorously defend religious liberty. After all, they may shut us down if we don’t. On the other hand, Moore and others look to the government for the very thing they bemoan – interference that demands protection but not authoritarian coercion. But looking to government, rather than God, for protection seems a woefully unfaithful form of obedience, does it not? Is our God not faithful should persecution come our way?
While it is unsurprising that the ERLC would join hands with the world – the agency does that zealously – it does come as a surprise that the SBC’s IMB, under David Platt, would find a motive to add its moniker to the legal battle. Are they hoping that such a stance might be a “scratch my back” example of co-existence that might be reciprocated elsewhere in the world? Do we have some denominational plans for a church plant in Mecca? While that would be tremendous, the fact remains that the Saudis do not entertain the worship of this particular idol.
Herein lies a critical issue when your flavor of faith is first “American” and then “Christian.” The Word of God nowhere offers such a contracted definition of faith. While some may claim “Christianity” is the priority – as surely the ERLC and IMB would – it is their behavior that reveals the truth. “American” takes precedence.
Proclaiming “there is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved” seems uncannily hollow when you’ve just joined hands to help build a Christ-denying mosque. Once again, Christianity becomes just another flavor of religion to an onlooking world and our witness as Southern Baptists diluted by our religious liberty defenses.
If your faith isn’t viewed through the lens of God’s sovereignty or His faithfulness and is seen instead through the lens of theologically-aberrant “American Christianity,” it is of little comfort that God is with you always. What seems, rather, substantially more important is that the god of religious liberty is with you always. And that god demands defense for itself at all costs with whoever is willing to battle alongside for it. Indeed, the first commandment is supplanted in “American” Christianity, it seems, by one more akin to “you shall have no other gods before me, except the god of religious liberty.”
We have been supremely blessed in America to have been founded on principles drawn from Scripture. But those principles, in themselves, do not make us an intrinsically “Christian” nation. By strict definition, we have never been a “Christian” nation, but rather we have, for a blessedly brief tenure, been a nation of Christians. We once were Christians first, and Americans second. It wasn’t a subtle distinction, but an intentional one. It’s one we seem to have lost since now we worship religious liberty, rather than the God who is with us always … regardless.
Should Christians stand and fight for religious liberty? Of course. Absolutely. We should not forsake a vigilant fight to maintain fundamental American freedoms. But, as Christians first, should we not be intentionally cautious as to how and with whom we defend them? Scriptural commands for us to be separate from the world are thoroughly ignored by the SBC in pursuit of a right that, while certainly expected in America, is unessential to our faith. I’m not too comfortable knowing a portion of my tithes went to help argue a legal case for the construction of a mosque. What is the price of our witness, our faithfulness, and our trust in God’s sovereignty as we usurp His commands by our worldly alliances pleading for legislated freedom?
We should be cautious about how we align with this god of religious liberty because it is nothing less than the current “spirit of the world,” the one beckoning for tolerance and co-existence. If you’re an American only, you likely find that acceptable. But if you’re a Christian first, you might find yourself Biblically bristling at the notion of co-existence. Indeed, you should.
How long is the leap from governmentally legislated religious liberty to authoritarian-induced tolerance for anyone and anything, regardless how bizarre, ungodly, or vile? When will a transgender bathroom be dictated for your sanctuary’s foyer? Religious liberty is not that dissimilar, you see, from personal liberty, in the tenets of Americanism.
Should we not be overly cautious with our alliances when lurking around the next corner may be a stronger, more powerful personal liberty lobby that, beseeching the government for its protection too, may one day dictate distinctly unpalatable expectations on the church? Can we be certain that having our cake of mandated religious liberty might not later mean we may be forced to eat a slice of legislated personal liberty blasphemy? Does it not seem likely that gay marriage ceremonies, transgender bathrooms, and the like, as protected personal freedoms, forcefully find their legislated ways into the church?
The church is called to be separate from the world, not to join in building temples to its pagan gods. But in the name of religious liberty the SBC stands united with pagans for the construction of a mosque. How long before, perhaps, it is equally required to stand for the building of an abortuary in the name of defending personal “liberty?” Would never happen, you say? How long ago would you have denied the possibility of your tithes and offerings going to an SBC agency that would use them to stand in support of mosque building?
Religious liberty, for all the wonderful blessings it has bestowed in America, can quickly become a favored tool of a definite, destructive, God-hating enemy. Is it necessary for us to stand with evil to build their temples in order to protect ourselves? Must we stand with pagans pleading for legislated safety, unsure that God will actually be faithful?
Sometimes God blesses us, and increases His glory, by taking things away and allowing persecution to come. It worked for that early, first Jerusalem church when persecution intensified the spread of the Gospel. It worked again in the 16th century when the Reformation exploded God’s Word across the world.
We ought to pray it works again because the god of religious liberty doesn’t play favorites – it will eventually slay all comers by granting unfettered “freedom” while Truth goes ignored, un-worshipped, and increasingly unknown. When our assurance is based on legislated tolerance in our favor, we must recognize the double-edged sword of tolerance slices not only along lines of religious liberty but also along personal liberty lines too. Trusting government for religious liberty seems rather culturally hypocritical when they come to change the bathroom signs in our churches in the name of personal liberty.
Is religious liberty perhaps just another mask of the enemy as he whispers appealingly for us to co-exist? When do we determine “what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) Freedom, unrestrained, rapidly becomes enslavement. The world under Romans 1 judgment thinks it is free to do as it wills, unaware that very freedom leads to God’s full and final, wrathful justice. Rather than standing for unfettered freedom with no regard for the embrace of a pagan world it seems to necessitate, at least for the SBC, should we not, instead, stand in obedience to the Truth that truly sets us free? (John 8:31-32)
Let us continue to stand for religious liberty in America. But let us stand first on our firm convictions that our alliance with God is paramount, that He will accomplish His ends without the necessity of our alliances with evil. “Come out from among them.” (2 Corinthians 6:17)
There just may come a day, delivered to us via the god of religious liberty, and its close cousin of personal liberty – though under the certain, absolute, providential, sovereign permissive will of the true God – when we will be faced with an opportunity to echo Joshua’s words. It might be best if we committed to it now …
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
It’s worth thinking about …
( Thousands of Muslims in Chicago Chant ‘Death to America’ )
Contributed by Bud Ahlheim
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