We’re not talking “apples to apples”

The Lord spoke the following to me at the beginning of the year:

“2015 will demand believers to be resolute in their beliefs. The media and culture has found a voice of influence into the church and this year will begin to exercise that voice with a greater authority. Culture will seek to define what is and is not acceptable christianity. Many will allow their faith to be shaken. Some will come into agreement. Many will choose to simply be silent. Very few will stand as a resolute voice. We must unashamedly declare truth and boldly display love. There will be many who disagree with you, but let them not be uncertain about your love for them.”

Already we’ve seen numerous examples of this. The greatest to date is the current brouhaha that has erupted in response to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Far-left activists have come out swinging. Mayors and governors are banning travel to the state. The NCAA is considering pulling their HQ from Indianapolis. Major corporations are canceling multimillion dollar projects.

Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an editorial in the Washington Post sounding an alarm, “Something very dangerous is happening in states across the country.” 1

I agree, something “VERY DANGEROUS” is happening, but I imagine Mr. Cook and I aren’t talking apples to apples—although I am currently using an Apple to respectfully disagree with  him.

What a great nation! One that allowed a young Steve Jobs, with aspirations to change the world, the freedom to do so. Jobs started his small computer company in a garage and later grew it into the world’s most valuable company. Our lives have all been enriched by his contributions. Today that same nation affords me the same freedom to use his products to voice my dissent with the current CEO. Such freedom must be cherished!

The growing divisiveness within the nation grieves me. Misunderstandings, politics, animosity, distrust and even hatred has produced a “Divided States of America” where we predictably pick sides and coalesce into opposing factions. Few are willing to listen to the other and engage in meaningful, honest dialogue. America, our division will be our undoing!

Tim Cook stated, “This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings.” That sounds great in an op-ed, but this really does concern politics and religion. And yes, it is also about how we treat one another. So let us consider how we treating one another.

The backlash Governor Pence and Indiana received these last few days was overwhelming and uncalled for. Why the uproar?  I wondered this myself and did what few apparently have.

I read the bill.

You can too and I’d encourage you to do so. Unlike the legislation written in D.C., this one is just over a page but can be stated in a single paragraph:

“The Religious freedom restoration act: Provides that a state or local government action may not substantially burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to the person’s exercise of religion is: (1) essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.” 2

It then outlines that cases of religious discrimination be presented in court and judged by the merits of the individual case, not a predetermined outcome.

This bill isn’t about race, party or identity. It is about an individual’s freedom of religious expression. One could say, Indiana simply doubled down on the First Amendment. I would think such a bill wouldn’t even be necessary. After all, aren’t these things “self-evident”?

What if the state had also added “freedom of speech” alongside “free exercise of religion” to the act? Might the entire uproar have been avoided by adding those three words? If so then what does this really tell us? Is the protest about religious freedom or religious suppression?

What is alarming is how far-left groups defined the bill into something it was not, then argued, judged and punished an entire state in the court of public opinion. The good people of Indiana have been labeled haters and bigots.

This isn’t just about Indiana. The message being sent is clear; comply with us and conform to us or face the consequences. This is a dangerous path. What we are watching play out in Indiana at this moment has been happening across the US over recent years. We’ve seen it in Washington, Oregon, Ferguson, MO, now Indiana. It’s been directed at businesses and individuals, now towards an entire state. How long until the next backlash comes to your front door?

This is not healthy nor sustainable. Our nation is at the breaking point. The only hope we have is in turning back to our Creator and finding the universal values that once united us and made us great. We must seek and depend upon his wisdom and seek to serve one another with love and respect.

Our faith compels us to do just that. Jesus said, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. No, we haven’t always succeeded at this in the past, especially not when it came to homosexual friends and family.  We failed before, but we must not fail here now.  Faith, hope and love are the cherished values we must embrace and display towards all.

At the same time we must be resolute in our beliefs. Our faith is not amendable, it cannot be conformed. We conform to it. It draws a clear division between what is dark and what is light. There is not middle ground in which we can occupy. We will either be defined by the pattern of this fading world, or by the everlasting word. The world has no use for the former, but it is desperate need of the latter.

We may disagree, but we can still show respect and love for one another. Threats, boycotts and public ridicule are not a long-term winning strategy. Especially when demanding someone violate their convictions. Progress is never made when one’s will is enforced onto another’s. Progress is not when people comply out of compulsion, but when they do so out of conscience.

Each of us have the same freedom to express ourselves in our speech and faith. These are the founding principles of freedom that make us great. They must be protected at all costs. That’s why we must stand and defend these rights today. We will ALL need them tomorrow.

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