First Amendment and Muslims
Someone sent me this question on my Facebook wall: “What do you think of these news reports of Baptists against restrictions of the Muslim belief? I know they are backing it as ‘freedom of religion,’ but it bothers me. Interested in your input on this.”
Here is my response.
The First Amendment said:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
It was part of the Bill of Rights that were retained for the people. By the way, the no establishment of religion clause was meant for the national government, that it did not have the right to establish a national Christian church such as was in England with the Anglican Church; it was not meant for the states as most of them already had established state churches, such as Episcopal and others. Many states required their public officials to believe in the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and the Bible as God’s infallible word. If we really held to the First Amendment, there would be no national church but there would be state ones and some censorship at the state level regarding what constituted a church. The First Amendment was never intended to be used by some organization like the ACLU (Anti-Christian League of the Ungodly) to keep all Christian symbols out of the public arena. Of course, atheist symbols are now considered ok.
As for your question about Baptists against restrictions of the Muslim beliefs, it is both good and dangerous, in my view. It is good because if Muslims don’t have freedom of the speech given by First Amendment, neither would we Christians. Even atheists have such freedom, according to the modern interpretation of that clause.
Yet the First Amendment was intended to protect Christians from a national church and to be able to exercise freedom in preaching and teaching without government control. It was never meant to be used to hinder Christian churches from preaching the Gospel or to nullify any and all Christian influence. We were, at the time of the First Amendment, a Christian nation, though not so now. (People will bellow long and loud that not every person was a Christian then and that some were actually opposed to Christianity; both are true. But we mean that the culture was basically Christian, and those politicians who were not, generally kept it a secret [like Jefferson] or they could not serve. This is too complicated for a short article like this.) Here is one example of how the First Amendment was applied:
In the 1830s, a Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, toured the USA, and was astonished at the integrity of our court system. He observed this actual case:
When I was in America, a witness who happened to be called at the Sessions of the county of Chester (state of New York) declared that he did not believe in the existence of God or in the immortality of the soul. The judge refused to admit his evidence, on the ground that the witness had destroyed beforehand all the confidence of the court in what he was about to say. The newspapers related the fact without any further comment. [Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (New York: Vintage Books, 1945), 1:317. The year was 1831.]
If one did not fear the Last Day, there was no reason for him to tell the truth now, for often the only one who knows whether one is telling the truth is the person who testifies (and God, of course). Though this was not the public dissemination of atheism in the court, it at least demonstrated that such speech was highly suspect, and in at least this instance, not allowed. Moreover, Tocqueville said it was taken for granted, which meant it was normal.
It is dangerous in that Muslims are using our freedoms against us. The government should watch them closely to see how they will abuse free speech to set up occasions to blow something up. It would give us opportunity to infiltrate them to see how they will abuse the freedom. But our government treats Christians as engaging in hate speech while Muslims can say what they please.
However, the idea of the First Amendment was never an absolute right to say anything, as one can be jailed for threatening a public official. I met a man once who got five years for threatening an IRS investigator. Likewise, one can be held for libel for lying against someone and be made to make financial restitution. The point is that there is no absolute right for freedom of speech for anyone so we must watch the Muslims and what they are saying. (Christians also can say things not appropriate.)
But we Christians should take advantage of Muslims being in our country to evangelize them. We have tried for centuries to evangelize them in their lands, and they have murdered our missionaries. Now they are here where their murdering for religious hatred is (for now) not allowed. We must not fear them or their religion, which is filled with hate, contradictions, and lack of historical credibility.
(I hope to write an extended blog on how they know they have the correct text for the Koran as contrasted with the thousands of manuscripts we have for the New Testament books, demonstrating that the New Testament is the best supported ancient document, bar none, especially against the Koran.)
But the best way to evangelize them is with love, especially to the women who are the subjects of honor killing and who are sorely abused. Just this past Sunday I talked to an American Army sergeant who had just returned from Iraq, and who confirmed, once again, that the women there are regularly murdered (“honor killing” is their euphemism) just for talking to an American soldier. The men can have four wives and can divorce a woman for just about anything. A woman’s testimony means little in Islamic court, and it takes several women’s testimonies to equal the testimony of one man. It is terribly oppressive for them.
But love also works for the men who are tired of the oppressive nature of their religion, interfering with their families, and the killing of one another (Sunnis versus Shiites versus Wahhabites and so on). It is a religion of death, for the true God has said that when we turn from Him, who is life, there is only one option―death (Proverbs 8:36; John 3:18-20). That is why, by the way, that abortion is so protected by liberals: they have turned from Him who is life to another god, and everyone is exclusive in his worship, so when abortion is challenged, it is a challenge to their god of death.
And Sharia law is likewise very oppressive for Muslims whereas biblical law is the same for all genders, and equally and equitably applied. This is also an evangelistic tool.
Moreover, in today’s social climate, if we start censoring religious speech, who will do the censoring? The government, of course, which means they assume lordship over Christ in the Church, and Caesar as lord over Christ is tyranny. The US government is already doing that with its “hate speech” approach, which is aimed mostly at Christians. It assumes that it (the government god) is morally neutral and should decide which other religions are legitimate. There is no such thing as amoral law, for every law invokes some authority behind it, in other words, some god behind it. You must read this free chapter from my book NOT Ten Suggestions: Chapter 2: God’s Law.
We live in times of tyranny and oppression of Christianity, and getting worse. We deserve it in the West in general and in the USA in particular, for the Church has compromised itself enormously with health and wealth preachers, putting homosexuals into the ministry, date setters for Christ’s return, preaching another Gospel, holding to universalism, denying hell, denying judgment, denying that God is Triune, denying the Bible as God’s infallible word, denying creation (I don’t like theistic evolution but at least they hold to some form of creation), and so on.
Finally, if it is the government that gives us our rights, it can allegedly take them away, but as the Declaration of Independence said:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In the Christian cultural context of that day, “Creator” meant the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and nothing else. This was confessed in the Nicene Creed each Sunday in virtually every church of that time, if not in form, at least in substance. Since God Almighty gave us those rights, King George and England could not take them away, for there was the true God above him and them. In other words, the government was not the court of last appeal, for it was not lord over Caesar. Christ was Lord. Thus, they appealed to Him and declared us another government so that we did not rebel against a constituted government. It was our government against their government. Today, everyone, even Christians, thinks the government is lord of all, and everyone looks to it for “this our daily bread,” for our welfare.
The bottom line is that we must protect free speech, but that does not mean any speech is legitimate. We are not allowed to use speech to promote insurrection against God or against the government. God will defend Himself, and the government will defend itself. No one is allowed to attack Christ’s Church or to hinder it in preaching and teaching the Gospel. All authority in heaven and on earth has been to Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), which means a government is in rebellion if it says Christians cannot evangelize. His word will do its purpose through His people, not returning void (Isaiah 55:11). Russia thought it would conquer the Russian Orthodox Church and not allow it to disseminate the Gospel. They closed down many churches and persecuted Christians and pastors. After the communist wall came down, as reported in the latest Christianity Today magazine (May 2011, p. 41), 15,000 churches have been restored or built new, and Leningrad is once again St. Petersburg. Those who try to hinder the Church will answer to Him at the Last Day. The Triune God will always be just. The government may abuse its power, but Christ will take care of that, and politicians may answer to voters at elections. As for Islam, they cannot win since they are fighting against the one and only Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our Gospel will conquer so don’t worry about the government; it is not God. Let them preach their hatred, and let us preach the love of God in Christ. Paul was satisfied with this in his day with the abuses of Rome, but the Gospel went out and Rome was eventually transformed until in A.D. 313, Constantine, the Roman emperor, declared Christianity a legal religion, indeed, the preferred religion. Thus, government is not our savior to curb the problem of Islamic speech. We must look to the King of kings!