January 16, 2018

Three Important Ways to Honor “Religious Freedom Day”

January 16 has been declared “Religious Freedom Day” in the U.S. and this is an important subject.

Because religious freedom is so basic, the Apostle Paul urged a focus on this. No matter what country you live in, true religious freedom is a not something to be taken for granted but is something vital to pray for and support. It's now perhaps more important than ever to understand that U.S. Christians are increasingly being attacked for simply refusing to support anti-biblical values, as Christian bakers have experienced, and for personally holding to biblical values, as was the case of former fire chief Atlanta Chief Kelvin Cochran. While persecution in America has not reached the levels seen in Saudi Arabia and China, 2016 was the first year that the U.S. reached the 'top 12 list' of countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith. 

History Informs our Present Needs

National Religious Freedom Day commemorates the Virginia General Assembly's adoption of Thomas Jefferson's landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. That statute became the basis for the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and led to freedom of religion for all Americans.”

President Trump today issued a formal proclamation to declare and commemorate January 16th as "Religious Freedom Day" suggesting that "religious freedom around the world" is a good goal. It would be wonderful if this became an international commemorative holiday based on a need to address increasing opposition to freedoms based on unfair laws and practices:

"Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification."

Religious Freedom overlaps the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. This 'trinity' of freedoms is under attack in many countries today, including the U.S. We can honor and celebrate this day of supporting religious freedom first by joining in prayer for the freedom to hold to our values and share the gospel without obstruction. The Apostle Paul urged the following type of prayer for religious freedom:

1. A Call to Prayer

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:1-5 NIV)

2. A Call to Educate

There is an increasing tendency to shut down discussion of basic religious issues. Many Christians are unaware that religious freedom is seriously under attack and they will actually oppose religious freedom by, for example, opposing politicians working to protect religious freedom. One of the leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that escaped from China became a Christian and understands the important connection between freedom and morality urged by the U.S. Founding Fathers exemplified in her own quote: "A nation cannot form a strong democracy unless it has a Christian foundation." It is not necessary to have a theocracy in order to protect religious freedom. People born in the U.S. often don't seem to appreciate the foundation of spiritual freedom that had led to the success and prosperity of the country. Following are two of a number of examples in which President Trump has taken practical steps to protect freedom of conscience for holding biblically-based values:

February 22, 2017—'President Trump rescinded former President Obama's pro-transgender guidelines for schools receiving federal aid that are subject to Title IX. A day earlier, the Trump Administration announced it would discontinue Obama's pro-transgender policies.'

May 4, 2017—On the annual National Day of Prayer, President Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty. Among its provisions, it loosened IRS restrictions against political activities by tax-exempt religious organizations, effectively weakening the Johnson Amendment; and it attempted to make it easier for employers not to provide contraceptives if they had religious objections. The order gave conservative Attorney General Jeff Sessions greater authority regarding religious liberty policy. Although well received by some Christians and conservatives, others criticized it for being ineffective and easy to repeal.'

Unfortunately, some evangelical leaders today are either not aware of the serious threat to basic religious rights or have come to use faulty logic in believing that opposing and vilifying the current president is helpful. It does not make any sense to pray for peace while undermining it through actions. The fact is, sin destroys lives. And if we as Christians give up the legal right to discuss what sin is, then we are helping to destroy our own society. The more a society is committed to unobstructed idolatry, the less hope there is. There is a downward progression described in Hosea 4 from ignorance to obsolescence: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge....Ephraim is joined to idols; Let him alone."

3. A Call to Sincere Love

Everything that A Christian does should be based on God's intrinsic agape love. When a Christian embraces the person of Christ and the teachings of Christ, then God's nature should become central: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NIV). True love does not mean compromising truth for the sake of appearances and a superficial peace, but being transparent about what we stand for and sharing the truth with love even though others might become offended by it: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV). Keep in mind that people will reject you for sharing the truth. But we are called to stand in God's truth by faith and to be please God above all, not people. (Galatians 1:10, Acts 5:29, Ephesians 6:13)

The gospel of Matthew describes the beauty of religious freedom that is widespread:

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden." (Matthew 5:14 NIV)

We can hinder this potential by lightly esteeming the value of religious liberty or by supporting laws against it. A city on a hill shines brightly unless of course the lights are dimmed by government opposition to religious freedom.


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Tags: What is National Religious Freedom Day, What is the basis of religious freedom? why is religious freedom a right? List of countries with least religious freedom, when did Religious Freedom Day begin? Is there a commemorative international religious freedom day?


  1. I hereby wish to partially address comments made by Dr. Tim Keller Redeemer Presbyterian Church in an article published in the New Yorker (12/19/17). I will also address other antiTrump comments made by other evangelical leaders.

    Dr. Keller. It seems clear that by writing this article Dr. Keller, against better advice, has become “entangled in civilian pursuits.” He has discarded prudence, has become distracted, and susceptible to error/disqualification (2 Ti 2:4-5). Writing this article means he has been caught in the trap he has tried to avoid since starting his ministry in Manhattan. I can imagine this has been a difficult disjunctive for him, almost dilemmatic—if he stayed silent, liberals (~his main ministry target group) would regard him as sympathetic with the “Trump crowd.” If he talked/took a side, he could be boxed in. What did he decide? He calculatingly decided to break his silence and visibly tag himself as anti-Trump. And of course, what could be a more appropriate medium than the New Yorker to create this splash and catch the attention of the liberals he is appeasing? In so doing, he gave to Caesar what Caesar demanded. Essentially, Keller’s article is pandering to liberals and NeverTrumpers (more on these group later). Why is Dr. Keller doing this? For those who have listened to him enough or read some of his works through time, it is apparent that his thinking in socio-political matters has “evolved.” Keller figured he needed to take a stand, as his audience has become more suspicious of his loyalty to their activism. In this rabidly partisan times, Keller could no longer equivocate in this matter. I probe a little further. How does he subjectively get to the point of writing the article? If he truly believes what seems to be his position in the article, then we could say it is evidence his evolution is now complete—he is a now a liberal/elitist; otherwise, he is struggling with himself, and the article represents a particular expression of his self-deception (at best his symptoms are like his own “Stockholm syndrome”). His likely internal struggle is whether he should force himself to support liberal views he knows (in his heart of hearts) have little to no foundation/science behind them; or force himself to “believe” that the liberal issues have sufficient support/reason for him to lend them his public support. I would grant though that only the Lord knows truly what the truth is, since only He can know us better than we know ourselves (Jer. 17:9). Whatever Keller’s true beliefs are in the list of subjects he mentions in the article, he has now publicly sided with the liberal elites. Yes. This article places Dr. Keller squarely in the camp of the elitists. He has gone full throttle trying to get the approval of the Illuminati—not a compliment in the Bible (Lk 6:26; Mt 16:26). Even Hillary Clinton understood clearly that the elites, the suave, as a group, where supportive of hers; that Trump had the knaves, the unpolished behind him. Keller is now officially a sophisticate. For his own sake, I hope he rethinks and retracts this article, repents.

  2. I would only discuss one of his main attacks against POTUS because it is a common theme among the GOP NeverTrumpers as well. Keller mentions that Trump lacks decorum. The decorum argument has been uttered by many evangelical leaders by now, in one form or another, some veiled, some overtly. The decorum-peddlers is large, boasting (closeted or public) NeverTrumpers among conservative Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Catholic clergy and politicians. With Trump’s candidacy and WIN, all of the sudden, decorum is the essential virtue of any person in public office. Forget about the truth, about evil, about deception, about murder of the innocent/unborn, about support of perversions—no-no! The essence of a good politician is proper DECORUM. As I tried to figure out this decorum outrage, I tried to search the word in a well-reputed Bible translation and could not find it. But I do remember that our Lord and the disciples, in one way or the other, were accused of lacking the “virtues” signified by the word decorum. The disciples broke those decorum norms in their time (Mtt 15:2; Lk 7:25-35). [I would grant that Trump is a deviation from what is expected in the “palaces”, but this attribute is not valued by the Lord.] I would say, let those seeking the approval of men keep their decorum. If I must choose, I would rather stay with those loathed by the decorum elites. In Keller’s case, could this be one more straw he is using to disguise his slide toward the graveyard of theological liberalism. We all have to pray for Keller, that he may not end up filling his churches with Christianized social justice warriors, environmentalists but not with Christians.
    Beyond Keller, I have listened to some evangelicals stating they should be the Nathans, the John the Baptists of our time, that they should be consistently pointing out the sins in Trump, lest they be regarded as hypocrites. One thing about all these evangelicals is that they are all group-thinkers. If you hear one, you hear them all. This bunch should not be regarded as careful thinkers but ducks in a row. Some are very gifted in some areas but blinded by their passions and prejudices in regards to Trump.

  3. Beyond Keller, I have listened to some evangelicals stating they should be the Nathans, the John the Baptists of our time, that they should be consistently pointing out the sins in Trump, lest they be regarded as hypocrites. One thing about all these evangelicals is that they are all group-thinkers. If you hear one, you hear them all. This bunch should not be regarded as careful thinkers but ducks in a row. Some are very gifted in some areas but blinded by their passions and prejudices in regards to Trump.
    Let’s discuss their calling themselves Nathans, when they keep pointing out Trump’s past indiscretions/sins. I will submit that Nathan did not go to David because he committed adultery, or because he had multiple wives at the same time (which he did). Nathan ONLY showed up to talk about the time David engaged in murder to cover his adultery. There was no condemnation for having many wives (or affairs). There was no denunciation when he took Abigail for a wife when he already had other wives (2 Samuel 3). The issue Nathan was denouncing was very specific: Powerful David stole a wife from a man that was alive; and then he did even worse, murdered the husband to avoid living with this sin in the eyes of the public.
    The issue of John the Baptist was very similar. Herod stole his brother’s wife while he was alive. The issue was not that he took another wife, or event the wife of a deceased brother, he stole his living brother’s wife. We know that according to tradition and the Decalogue, a man could/should take his defunct brother’s wife to raise a progeny (Deu. 25:5-9; Mtt 22:23-33). It is known that King Herod the Great had many wives, though John was probably a toddler at that time. Regardless, John did not go about denouncing all polygamists at the time, nor did the Lord. There is no word from the Lord about Herod’s wives, not even about Herodias. Neither the Lord nor his disciples pursued this particular sin of Herod’s. And Paul, as he went overseas peaching, did not practice to publicly and persistently focus on any politician’s sin(s). We don’t find this focus in Paul either. It is most that there is a trait of legalism in the decorum crowd, and that they still don’t understand the focus of the Christian is to preach the Gospel to all, in a winsome manner, rather than being confrontational. If we are asked about any sin, we mention that it is against God’s law. But we do not use the Law to attack any person—that is not our call.

  4. So all the current evangelical leaders with an ongoing criticism of Trump due to his past sexual immorality cannot confound their prejudice with their responsibility of spreading the Word. Again, we can point out (if asked; not gratuitously) that adultery is a sin, condemned in the Bible. But we should not dwell on Trump or anyone else. The believer’s mission is to preach Christ not to point out people’s sins. The reason why many popular evangelicals keep on pressing the matter with Trump is due to the lack of respect for authority we have in our society. The church leaders are very much guilty of this (though they were very afraid of criticizing Obama--an evil man). If these cadre of Trump critics lived in other places on earth, they could be killed for criticizing the king/leader. So they would not do it, even when they still do missions in places with flawed leaders today. And in those places, they would not (and should not) feel they are compromising the church’s message because they don’t single people’s sins out.
    The last thing I would address is the issue of immigration and the church. The bottom line with this is that evangelicals should not be pushing for the government to be bringing in refugees or any immigrant. That should not be a position of the church. The mandate is for the church to GO and preach the gospel not to BRING anyone in. And to advocate for unfettered immigration is irresponsible unless the church is going to pay for the cost of the immigrants. Yes. It does cost more taxpayer money than the advocates can pay—the cost is in the billions of dollars. This country is financially broke. Church leaders, such as Russell Moore, should not be asking for others to pay for what he believes is the mission of the church. Whereas you may allow for an argument that the church should have the door open for the displaced when they come to the church, the church has no immigration-meddling mandate. It is surprising that many of these advocates are Southern Baptists pushing for the STATE (remember Southern Baptist views of the church and state relation) to perform any of the church functions. Some cite Israel’s expectation to provide for the “sojourner”--yes, but the sojourner was supposed to submit to the religious laws of the land. Otherwise they were sent away or worse. That is not what is happening with US immigration. The state has no power to dictate that submission. So let’s not have unfettered immigration with people that don’t assimilate. That chaotic immigration serves globalism and the New World order proponents—they say, “let us destroy the current order in the US, to usher a New World”—really a global totalitarianism (the Antichrist prelude?). This should be opposed vehemently. Trump/the state/Ceasar has his own God-ordained domain. Let this order be respected. If they want to achieve any change in this matter, do it through the ballot box. In the meantime, their views were rejected in the last election. Respect that and stop attacking POTUS.

  5. Some of the same antiTrump evangelicals are in defiant hypocrisy supporting Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. If you check the voting records of those two, you would find that from time to time they fund/vote for bills that include abortion funding, and many times have been involved in voting to increase the national debt (or national thievery from the future generations; but of course, this thievery in somehow consistent with “decorous, flawless personal character”). If these two and other like-minded politicians had “principles” they would not have done so, to be consistent. But the “principles” advocates do not come in public name-calling those two and other GOP politicians. This is an old practice of favoritism. This selective condemnation of the “principles” violation was what allowed the South (and many places in the North) to keep slavery going and then establish the Jim Crow laws. Guess who supported or did not publicly opposed those laws? The same evangelical clergy that showed the proper decorum. Yes. It is people with the highest level of decorum that have supported slavery, Jim Crow; the same decorum people listened to Wagner in Germany while sending the Jews to the crematoria. Like I heard recently about a black Southern woman: The most proper ladies in the South would give the most dreadful of beatings to the household women slaves. So much for this decorum push. Given what is inside the white-washed sepulcher of many of the decorum-peddlers, I would side anytime with the “deplorables.” The Lord made this choice and was harshly criticized by the decorum people of His time. I don’t care about proper manner but about restoring order and justice in this land, and Trump, unpolished Trump, is doing just that.

    For the Kellers et al that believe they should attack those other Christians that support Trump, I tell to leave them/us alone. Dr. Keller, who are you to judge someone else’s servant? Russell Moore and others, who are you to judge someone else’s servant? (Rom 14:4) Dr. Keller should stop focusing on Trump. Please stop being so sycophantic with the liberals. Mind the Gospel! The gates of Hell cannot stand against the church, Trump or no Trump, judge Moore or no judge (I gladly supported both). The Gospel is transcendent. If you wish to worry about something try minding what you see in the mirror every morning (Mtt 6:42). Nobody has placed you as the judge of your brothers.
    Last thoughts. I see Trump like the rebellious brother that said he would not do his father’s bidding but ended up doing it at the end. Hillary/Obama—promising healing, universal wellness—are like the smooth brother in the story that said “yes,” but ended up disobeying (Mtt 21:28-32). Also, I don’t ask for proof of repentance from Trump as I don’t have any right to demand that. I pray for him that the Lord may change his heart. That is my part of the deal.
    Pray for mercy upon the Israel of God!

  6. Anonymous, I believe that your point here is true and also smacks of a pervasive sense of self-righteousness within the 'decorum-first' crowd:

    "The believer’s mission is to preach Christ not to point out people’s sins. The reason why many popular evangelicals keep on pressing the matter with Trump is due to the lack of respect for authority we have in our society. The church leaders are very much guilty of this (though they were very afraid of criticizing Obama--an evil man)."

    There is not only a lack of respect for human law and human authority, there is a subtle lack of respect for God's law and God's authority by popular evangelical teachers today. Before there can be repentance by such teachers there must come an epiphany from God of their warped perspectives and values. If possible, simple logical arguments might help to confront theological errors:



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