There is an old hymn that says, "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross" Nowadays it seems we are doing less standing and more sitting back. For years we have seen religion, especially Christianity, attacked and systematically removed from public life. It can be safely said, most people believe it is at least politically incorrect and probably illegal to openly proclaim their faith.
In 2002, the Southern Clinton County Association of Christian Churches hosted a community vigil, at the amphitheatre, to honor those lost on 9/11. Part of the program consisted of prayers and a sermon that mentioned Jesus. A couple of people called to complain that we mentioned Jesus and threatened legal action because the event was on public property, and they said, "If we would have known it was going to be religious, we wouldn't have come." I asked them, "What did you expect the Association of Christian Churches to do?"-Dah.
A couple in Colorado were fined $10,000 for holding a Bible study at their home. City officials said the property was zoned residential, so they could not hold "religious services." A book club was OK, but a bible study was not.
The ACLU files countless cases across the country attempting to have court-ordered removal of any symbols of religion, crosses, the 10 commandments, nativities, etc. Several cases have been brought to forbid high school students from even mentioning prayer, the name of Jesus, or reference to faith in their graduation speech.
A fifth-grader brought her bible to read during recess. She was ordered not to bring her Bible to school. (The Supreme Court later upheld her right to read a Bible on school property.)
Several years ago our own school district took the religious Baccalaureate Service out of the mix for our local graduates, citing "separation of church and state." The venue was moved to a church instead of school property.
In our legal zeal to be secular, we are falling into the slippery slope of denying our faith, because as the Federal Courts forbid prayer in any public forum, they are actually establishing the religion of atheism - a clear violation of the Constitution, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech."
Many Christians believe that we have no right to express our faith in public. We take the meek and mild position and tend to roll over and take it on the chin, but we may wish to reassess our reaction to the so-called "separation clause," which actually does not appear in the constitution.
God bless those who are courageous in their faith. I was pleased to read that there is at least one set of county commissioners, in Rowan County, North Carolina, who are standing up for Jesus and their right to pray. They are defying a court order to refrain from Christian prayers at public meetings.
Locally, most of our clergy are dedicated to Jesus. In 2000, the ministerium was asked to provide someone to give an invocation at a public meeting - the one stipulation was that Jesus not be mentioned. Only one local clergyman was willing to refrain from praying in the name of Jesus. Additionally, many families proudly display crosses on their lawns that were passed out last Easter season. But many are still silent.
So why is this an issue worth discussing? It's the slippery slope. When we start accepting limitations on our freedom to express our religion, we may well risk eternal damnation. In Matthew 10:31-34, Jesus said, "So do not be afraid... Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven. But those who reject me publicly, I will reject before my Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
Being a Christian is not about taking a low profile. It's about being fearless in the Lord. We are NOT called to shove our faith down someone's throat, but we are called to be fearless in our public proclamations of our love and faith in Christ - that is our constitutional right, and our religious obligation.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week's column comes from Rev. Zelma Lang, chaplain at Clinton County Correctional Facility and director/pastor of WordSong Ministries, Inc.