The governor of Mississippi made a remarkable statement on his Facebook page this week. Tate Reeves wrote: “It is fair to say that this last week and a half has been—personally for me—the most difficult of 2020—a year we can all agree has by its very nature been tough on all of us.”
He explains: “My two oldest girls have been by themselves in self isolation since the Wednesday after Halloween. My youngest tested positive (along with many of her precious friends and classmates).” His family’s difficulties, along with all that he faces as a governor in these hard days, have obviously been painful for him.
As a result, he admits, “I wanted to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to focus on the challenges. Honestly, I wanted to focus on all of the negatives. But then I prayed.”
When he did, “God put the book of Isaiah on my heart. Specifically, Isaiah 41:10—’Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’”
As a result, Gov. Reeves wrote, “We are going to get through these tough times. We are going to persevere. We are going to come out even stronger on the other side. Why? Because God is with us and because God is our ‘strength and refuge’ (Psalm 46).”
I am grateful to live in a nation where the governor of a state has the freedom to express his personal faith so powerfully and persuasively. And I pray for the courage to do the same, despite the growing chorus of opposition to such freedom today.
Hamlet’s misguided motto
Yesterday we focused on the escalating threats to religious liberty in a culture where so many consider biblical morality to be bigoted discrimination. Today, let’s ask: Why is this such an issue in our day? Biblical truth with regard to abortion, homosexuality, and marriage has not changed. What has?
In what could be the motto for our day, Hamlet claimed, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” For decades now, we have been taught that “truth” is the result of our subjective interpretation of our subjective experiences. Your mind processes your senses differently than my mind processes mine. As a result, there can be no such thing as objective truth, only “your” truth and “my” truth.
The fallacy of this reasoning becomes apparent the moment we recognize that those who reject absolute truth do so absolutely. “There can be no such thing as objective truth, and we’re sure of it,” is their claim. It also fails the practical test: If all truth is personal and subjective, what objective basis do we have for rejecting al Qaeda’s version of 9/11 or Hitler’s beliefs regarding the Jews?
Nonetheless, it is conventional wisdom today that because truth is personal and subjective, all truth claims must be tolerated without judgment. This is the approach our culture takes to abortion, homosexual acts, marriage, and other divisive moral issues. It’s commonplace to hear someone say, “I would never have an abortion, but it’s not my place to tell others what to do with their bodies.” Or “I would never marry someone of my sex, but I have no right to tell others who they can love.”
Opposing the worship of Molech
If you and I reject these claims on religious grounds, our religion is branded by definition as discriminatory and bigoted.
It’s important to note that most evangelical Christians would agree if the issues in question were different. I would never countenance the claim that the Bible justifies racial prejudice or forbids interracial marriage. I would obviously oppose someone who champions child sacrifice to Molech, the deity worshipped in this horrific way by the ancient Canaanites. Or a Jehovah’s Witness physician who refused to give my wife a blood transfusion on religious grounds.
This is how many feel about evangelicals who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage today. As a result, we can expect battles with regard to religious freedom to continue and even escalate in coming years.
The reason this is especially challenging in the United States goes back to the First Amendment of our Constitution, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion [the “establishment clause”] or prohibiting the free exercise [the “free exercise clause”] thereof.”
An article in NPR raises the foundational questions being asked today: Does the free exercise clause mean that believers can act on their religious objections to abortion, same-sex marriage, and accommodation policies for transgender persons? Or does the establishment clause mean that religion-based arguments should not be used to justify so-called discrimination or the denial of civil rights and basic human services? (For more, see my latest video, “What does the Bible say about freedom?“)
“He makes me tread on my high places”
We can expect this issue to be litigated in the courts on a case-by-case basis for years. My focus today is more personal: How can you and I find the courage to testify publicly to our faith in our Lord despite the opposition of our culture?
Habakkuk was God’s prophet in a day when “the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted” (Habakkuk 1:4). Nonetheless, he foresaw a day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (2:14).
And he could close his book with one of my favorite faith statements: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (3:17–18).
As a result, Habakkuk could testify, “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (v. 19).
Can you say the same today?