Rome, Obama, and Calm Assurance of Things to Come
You have probably observed the recent firestorm of publicity responding to the changes proposed by the Obama administration concerning contraception and religious institutions other than churches.
Chuck Colson has written that the issue of contraception is in fact only a symptom of a greater root issue:
Because what's really at stake here is whether or not there is any limit to government power.
That's the point made by Daniel Henninger in his excellent piece . . . in the Wall Street Journal. "The American Catholic Church," he writes, "is now being handed a lesson in the hierarchy of raw political authority."
But the question for all of us, Henninger writes, "is whether anyone can remain free of a U.S. government determined to do what it wants to do, at whatever cost."
Friends, the answer to that question depends on whether we the people, and especially we Christians and people of all faiths will rise up and say, "Enough! You may not intrude on our religious beliefs, you may not prohibit us from living out our faith."
I join the chorus of voices that are grieved and outraged at the current proposal and the implications therein for people of faith. It signals an unprecedented shift in the relationship between government and religion that should be vigorously resisted through written persuasion, the voting booth, and if necessary, civil disobedience. Much has already been written along these lines. (See here, here and here.)
In no way should we minimize the current controversy. In my estimation, the current response from many thoughtful writers is warranted---indeed, necessary. But with any potential crisis that looms on the horizon due to the collision of Christianity and secular culture, we have centuries of church history to inform and perhaps, temper our response. Reflecting on church history does not censor our response but should define the tone.
Media in our culture tend toward alarmism. When media moguls smell fear they see dollar signs. But Christians are different. We have not been given a spirit of fear. And a view to church history should fuel hope in spite of challenging circumstances.
Let's remember that Christianity emerged in the shadow of a political regime that was the most ruthless force of bloody domination the world had ever seen. Said plainly, the Obama administration is child's play compared to the Roman Empire. Unlike the situation today, there was no limit to their power. Remarkably, contrary to Roman will, Christianity became the most explosive religious movement the world had ever seen. The mere fact that Christianity exists is a miracle of God and testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Though we no longer live in the shadow of Rome, our culture is dark and will probably grow darker. But whether we lose our jobs because we refuse to participate in the abortion industry or, God forbid, one day an anti-Christian government actually murders children in the streets, the light of Christ will never be extinguished.
So let's respond to a political regime that is unjust and out of bounds. We have to. But as we do, our tone should not be driven by fear or panic, since we are receiving a "kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Heb. 12:28). There is no dichotomy between vigorously fighting for justice and a confident, quiet assurance that the sky is not falling. Let's embrace both. We fight for justice, but we know that even when the battle is lost, victory belongs to our God in the greater war. So let's proceed with hope, love, patience, and a superior vision that looks to the past to inform our future.