Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Obama And The Principalities And Powers

By now we have heard of Obama’s attempt to coerce members of religious institutions to violate their own consciences. This is an attempt to force these institutions to provide contraception and abortion services for their employees. This issue is not old news. Obama’s apparent compromise mandating that the institution’s insurance companies foot the bill is a subterfuge. The cost to the insurance companies will be passed on to the religious institutions. Therefore, the institutions will still be footing the bill anyway by paying higher premiums. Much has been written why Obama’s attack on religious institutions must be opposed. Opposition has centered on the unconstitutionality of Obama’s policy as well as the frontal assault on religious liberty it represents. Many have pointed out the hostility of Obama’s administration towards religious institutions, particularly Christian institutions, that this policy reveals. But what are the roots of this hostility? Do these roots originate in the secular mindset Obama and his circle have embraced? No. We must dig deeper to understand where this hostility originates.

How does Obama articulate his position that the government has the power to force religious institutions to violate their core beliefs? Leondra Kruger is Obama’s Assistant Solicitor General; the Solicitor General’s Office argues in behalf of the President in cases before the Supreme Court. Kruger argued for the administration in the recent Hosanna Tabor case involving the firing of a teacher at a church-run school.  It was Obama's position that churches that provide social services to the community must surrender to the government their autonomy in employment matters. Kruger said this in her argument : “The government’s interest extends in this case beyond the fact that this is not a church operating internally to promulgate and express religious belief internally. It is a church that has decided to open its doors to the public to provide the service, of educating  children for a fee, in compliance with the state compulsory education laws…”  (From Gene Veith's blog.)This argument represents a very narrow view of not only religious liberty, but also a very narrow view of ministry. Only what happens within Church walls is protected against governmental intrusion. Any activity a church undertakes within the community is not ministry, but secular in nature and therefore can be regulated by government. Only the work done by professional ministers is beyond the power of government to regulate. Do you think I am reading something in Kruger’s remarks that isn’t there? Just listen to Obama himself speaking on the issue. Here is video from Christianity Today's Politics blog of  Obama stating that the activity of professional ministers is the only sphere of activity that may be labeled church ministry. He says in this clip that church endeavors such as Church schools are secular enterprises because in his mind their purposes are secular. He has no clue why churches undertake such activity. If a church runs a school or a drug rehab center, it may be engaging in services that secular organizations engage in, but it has a different motivation. A church school not only educates children, but it seeks to equip it’s students with a Christian world view in which to engage the world. A Christian drug rehab center not only seeks to get people off drugs, it also seeks to make people disciples of Jesus Christ. Churches operate in the public square not as secular entities but as ministries. Their goal is to form Christian character in people. It has been this way since the founding of the Church. After all, hospitals were introduced into the world by the Church seeking to minister to physical needs in an unsympathetic pagan world. As they ministered to patients' physical needs, these early hospitals provided spiritual guidance and comfort as well. Obama’s narrow view of religious liberty  was unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court in the Hosanna Tabor case.

Lets not think that the threat to religious liberty is limited to a few liberals such as Obama. The threat is present throughout all the western world. Trevor Phillips, the head of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission, said this about religious exemptions to anti discrimination laws: “The law stops at the door of the temple as far as I’m concerned…Institutions have to make a decision whether they want to [provide public services under public rules]…but you can’t say ‘because we decide we’re different then we need a different set of laws.’” (From Christianity Today's Liveblog) This is another way of saying that religion is a private affair that has no place or influence in the public square. Obama and Phillips are telling Christians to keep their religion behind closed doors. While this attitude permeates secular ideology, its roots go deeper.

The book of James defines religion for us: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit widows and orphans in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). The visiting of those most vulnerable includes meeting their needs. James’ definition applies to the Church as an institution as well as individual Christians. Piety is to be practiced out in the open for all the world to see. “I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the assembly; indeed I do not restrain my lips. O Lord, You Yourself know,” David wrote. “I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your loving kindness and Your truth from the great assembly” (Ps. 40: 9-10). Jesus himself said, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5: 13-16). Who is it who wants the Church to retreat within it’s walls? Who is it Obama and his secular cohorts listen to? Paul tells us who our real enemy is. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6: 12).  It is Satan, the father of lies, who wants us to practice a private piety that the world never sees. Satan wants to keep individual Christians as well as the Church from ministering to a world that does not know Jesus Christ. And one of his lies is that the Church has no legitimate sphere of action within the public square, by telling us ministry only takes place within Church walls. Supreme Court victories gladden the heart, but they will not stop the spread of this lie. Obama is not the real enemy, but in this case, he is listening to the enemy of his soul, our true enemy.

(All scriptural quotations are from the NKKV.) 

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