True Religious Liberty

You know, I’ve been a Christian since I was saved as a 9 years old at Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Statesboro, Georgia. 35 years is a long time, and much has happen during that time. But there are many things that haven’t happened over that period.

Not even once.

Not once in those 35 years have I needed government protection to follow the example that Jesus gave to me of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, giving clothing to the naked, or visiting and taking care of those who were sick or imprisoned.

Not once in those 35 years have I needed legal protection to show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness or self-control towards others.

Not once in those 35 years has my religious liberty to love God and love my neighbor as myself ever been threatened.

Not once in those 35 years have I ever been persecuted for treating others the way I wish to be treated.

Not once in those 35 years has anyone ever tried to stop me from loving people the way that I have been loved.

I must be truly weird, I guess, but in my experience, no one has ever tried to stop me from living like Jesus lived.

Not once.

Those who are actually trying to live a religious life don’t need governmental protections to do it. True religious liberty is not given by government fiat. It comes from remembering that religion, at its heart, is love. And nothing more.

“Against such things, there is no law.”

14 thoughts on “True Religious Liberty”

  1. Very, very well said, sir. If more people who call themselves Christians were like you, I would have a lot fewer problems with organized religion in general and Christianity in particular.

    BTW, are you the boy in the photo up top? And is the woman shown your mother? Just curious.

    1. Thanks!

      Actually the two in the picture are my kids. My daughter with her little brother. I picked it as an image of love.

  2. Rusty, this sounds nice, but it rings hollow for those fired from their jobs or bankrupted for not wanting to celebrate what God calls an abomination.

    1. Jason,

      I don’t believe it rings hollow at all. No one has ever attempted to stop me from loving God nor loving my neighbor as myself.

      If you don’t want to “celebrate” something, don’t. No one is forcing anyone to celebrate anything that they don’t wish to celebrate.

      And since I suspect you’re referring to gay marriage and bakeries, getting paid to bake a cake is not “celebrating.” That’s commerce. Commerce isn’t the practice of religion. Jesus kinda demonstrated that fairly clearly when he drove out the money changers (Mark 11:15).

      Selling someone a wedding cake does not imply endorsement of the wedding. If it did, then all the Christian bakers who have sold a cake to a couple on their second or third marriage is also guilty of “celebrating” something that the book of Leviticus has labeled an “abomination” (Lev. 18:29).

      God calls us to love. Love need not be protected by the government.

  3. You’re avoiding the issue. Some bakers are inconsistent, so no bakers are allowed freedom in their business life? By whose standard? Thirty years ago, the City of San Francisco said it was just commerce when they required churches to hire homosexuals as organists. Were they wrong? Why?

    Last year, a police officer in Salt Lake City was assigned to lead the motorcade in the Gay Pride Parade. When he asked for reassignment, he was suspended and eventually forced from his job, because the police chief said he could not be trusted unless he was willing to celebrate homosexuality. This is happening all over the county as Christians are being forced from the public square. Christian ministries are being forced from college campuses unless they endorse homosexuality, and Christians are being threatened with termination if they mention their faith in the workplace, but you seem to fine with all that because you have redefined the Christian faith into what H.L. Mencken described as “a series of sweet attitudes possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony.”

    You say you were saved at Eastern Heights, but saved from what? The wrath of God?

    1. Jason,

      I don’t think I’m avoiding “the issue” either, but you’re certainly free to hold that opinion.

      Concerning your suggesting that “no bakers are allowed freedom in their business life:” Yes, they are allowed as much freedom as they wish so long as their freedom is not limiting the freedom of someone else. Is it okay for a business to claim that they don’t serve Christians because their personal beliefs are offensive to them? No. It isn’t. That would be discriminatory and wrong. Christians refusing to bake a cake for someone because of the customer’s personal beliefs is also potentially discriminatory and wrong. The standard for that is, here in the United States, ultimately the Constitution.

      I’ve looked for details about the City of San Francisco requiring churches to hire homosexuals as organists, but I have not been able to find any yet. If you have evidence supporting this, feel free to share it.

      Concerning the Salt Lake City officer who stepped down after being placed on administrative leave for, according to the department’s spokesperson, refusing an assignment to drive in front of a Gay Pride parade: I have found zero evidence that he was “suspended and eventually forced from his job, because the police chief said he could not be trusted unless he was willing to celebrate homosexuality.”

      No one goes to a parade to watch the police officers who are directing traffic. Doing his job is not “celebrating homosexuality,” but I’m sure that you will disagree, and that’s fine.

      Christians are not “being forced from the public square.” According to a PEW study in 2015, Christians represent 70.6% of the American population. No one can force 70.6% of any population from the public square. The overwhelming majority of the political leadership of this country has identified as Christian. Your suggestion that Christians are being “forced from the public square” is simply not true. Again, I’m sure that you will disagree, and that’s still fine.

      But you’ll note that even on a personal blog, that I pay for with my own funds, I am allowing you the opportunity to express your opinions and views without editing or censorship despite your having disagreed with me. In other words, you’re not even being forced from this privately owned square.

      God called Christians to love. No one is keeping us from doing that. Love is not a “sweet attitude.” It is the most difficult thing of all to do at times.

      I was saved from a life that devalues love. For that I am grateful, and this is my attempt to share that with others.

  4. Rusty, I encourage you to read Police Chief Chris Burbank’s direct comments on the Salt Lake matter. He said he suspended the officer because he could no longer trust him to serve all parts of the community. The issue was not over directing traffic, but over riding a motorcycle with a group of other officers as part of the celebration of gay pride. Essentially they were serving as the city’s representatives as one of the entries in the parade. The homosexual organist case was involving First Orthodox Presbyterian Church of San Francisco. The city sued them when they violated a city ordinance against non-discrimination. When the church won in court, the pastor’s home was firebombed.

    The love of Christ is far more radical than you seem to admit. It was not offered to good people, but to his enemies. It is a love made all the more gracious against the backdrop of His righteous hatred of sin. The Jesus of the Bible is the one from whose wrath the whole earth tries to hide (Revelation 6) and in whose presence the wicked are tormented (Revelation 14).

    I’ll leave it here. Louisville seems to have done a number on you. You seem to be articulating what Richard Niebuhr described so long ago: “A god without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” It’s sad enough to see this in anyone, but especially in one that showed promise as a kid.

    1. Jason,

      If you have a direct quote you can refer me to by the police chief, I will be happy to read it and respond. Otherwise it’s difficult to know exactly what quote you’re finding so oppressive to religious liberty. Either way, the officer in question chose to resign before the issue could be addressed in the courts, so we’ll never know if that would have actually ended up being a case of religious oppression or not.

      Concerning the San Francisco gay organist case, you wrote, “Thirty years ago, the City of San Francisco said it was just commerce when they required churches to hire homosexuals as organists.” Now you’re writing that the Church actually won that case and that they weren’t “required to hire homosexuals as organists.” Thank you for making it clear that the church was not required to hire homosexuals as organists.

      It is, of course, terrible that the pastor’s home was firebombed. I hope that everyone escaped unharmed and that they were able to apprehend the bomber and determine the bomber’s motives. But unless the police refused to investigate the fire bombing, or unless the fire department refused to put the fire out, I don’t see how that is then an example of his religious liberty being infringed. Religious liberty does not mean that religious people will never have anything bad happen to them because of their religious beliefs.

      I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that I’m not admitting to the radical nature of the love of Christ. I fully understand that Jesus offered love “to his enemies.” When Jesus said that we should, “love our neighbors as ourselves,” and he was asked, “but who is my neighbor,” the response he offered was to tell the story of the Good Samaritan where a Samaritan, who had likely lived his entire life being abused by the Jewish people, when he saw someone who was likely Jewish, went to care for him (Luke 10:25-37). I assume that it is that kind of selflessness that Jesus was talking about when he said we should love our neighbors as ourselves.

      I disagree with your vision of “The Jesus of the Bible” being taken strictly from the book of Revelation. I think the Gospels actually paint a fuller picture of “the Jesus of the Bible” than Revelation does, but on that we can thankfully disagree, which is, by the way, the entire point of religious liberty. I have the freedom and responsibility to, as Paul said to the Philippians, “work out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12). I don’t have to worship God as you choose to worship God. I don’t have to believe what you believe. I am expected and required to develop my own understanding of who God is, of who Jesus is, and of who God wishes for me to be.

      Thanks for noticing that Louisville “did a number on me.”

      Actually, I tend to attribute the person that I am today to Georgia Southern just as much as I do Southern Seminary and Louisville Presbyterian. By the time I arrived in the city of Louisville, my ideas of love, fairness, and equality were certainly in development thanks to the books that I read at GSU and the teachers who showed me that there was more than one way of living a Christlike life.

      I never understood why so many at Eastern Heights would warn me not to let, “Southern change you.” I was then and remain today convinced that education and life should change a person. If it doesn’t change your understanding of the world and of the nature of reality, it was certainly a waste of your time. But I suspect that you and I disagree about that as well, Jason.

      It wasn’t my intention to make you “sad” that I failed to live up to whatever “promise” you saw in me as a kid. But then again if even Jesus was rejected by his home town, I don’t know why I should expect to be treated differently. In fact, now that I think about it, your closing expressions of disappointment actually sound like high praise. So, thanks!


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