“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:15). Did Jesus use hate speech when He spoke those words?
In today’s world, making any negative statement about the LGBT lifestyle might put you in jail or at least under threat of a lawsuit. Sweden passed a law in 2003 and Finland in 1995 demanding discipline for anyone who says anything negative about the lifestyles of others. J.K. Rowling, the popular author of Harry Potter fame, has been “canceled” in England because she stated that males cannot become females. The question is not whether she is right or wrong, but whether in society today it is permissible to say anything critical of anyone else. George Orwell wrote, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Those of us who are Christians and try to follow biblical teaching do not believe that anything in the scriptures qualifies as “hate speech.” What Jesus said in the passage above is not hate. We need to define what the phrase “hate speech” means. Webster simply says hate is “strong dislike.” We would add that the words “hate speech” describe what leads to physical action against a person. Most people would say it is okay to hate an idea. We can hate the idea of rape or prejudice without an individual being involved. When Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek and to love their enemies, He was certainly not advocating hate speech.
Did Jesus use hate speech in Matthew 23:15 when He expressed rejection of the Pharisaical system that injured other people as well as themselves? We have the moral teachings of the Bible because alternatives to those teachings hurt others and damage the people who promote those alternatives. No one following the teachings of Jesus would do any physical harm to anyone, no matter what their lifestyle. This is in stark contrast to the alternative teachings that would enact beatings, imprisonment, and even death.
In 1906, a British writer summarized Voltaire’s philosophy with the statement, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Others have repeated that phrase many times to describe the freedom of speech principle. Did Jesus use hate speech? No, and neither should His followers.
We live in a world where freedom of speech is becoming threatened, and those in power are trying to limit what someone can say. Ultimately Christians may be faced with the same situation that Peter and John faced in Acts 4:19. Their response to those who would shut down their freedom to speak was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
The 2020 voting is finally over, and we can learn many lessons from the elections, the candidates, the party platforms, and the conduct of politicians in general. It would be nice to have someone running for president that a Christian could vote for instead of having to choose between the lesser of evils.
We have seen false statements to such an extent that there are “fact finders” who do nothing but point out lies, misrepresentations, and exaggerations of the candidates. “Survival of the fittest” seems to be the moral code of our time, or more accurately, the non-moral platform. Someone asked one political speaker who supported abortion, “When does a baby become a human, at conception, at birth, or at what stage of the pregnancy?” The response was, “I don’t know. I haven’t considered that issue.” The question that should be clear is, “How do you take a position on that issue if you’ haven’t considered that issue’?”
Lessons from the elections show us the difference between Christ’s spiritual teachings and the political speeches and party platforms based on the physical beliefs of today’s culture. When Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” He was speaking of a political system very similar to America today. The Roman government provided some physical stability, which Paul refers to in Romans 13. Paul took advantage of his Roman citizenship on numerous occasions, but he certainly did not endorse the morality of the Roman rulers. They allowed prostitution and allowed unwanted babies to be thrown into the streets to die.
The message for Christians in the 21st century is that we can enjoy the blessings of American citizenship but not endorse our culture’s morality, which is sanctioned by the politicians. The use of recreational drugs, the endorsement of prostitution and abortion, and the destruction of the environment are all at odds with what the Bible teaches. When Jesus and the apostles talked about rejecting the world, they were referring to similar destructive practices.
The one bright spot in the lessons from the elections is that we can be shining lights in a world that is getting darker and darker. We remember Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:14-16: “It is you who are the light of the world. A town cannot be hidden if it is built on a hilltop. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bowl but rather on a lampstand so it gives light to everyone who is in the house. In a like manner, let your light shine before the eyes of your fellow-men that they may see the good that you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.”
I have seen many national elections, and I have seen some loud arguments among people who share the same religious or skeptical views. Many years ago, two of my atheist friends got into a fight over a political issue that put both of them in the emergency room. I have also seen religious people want to disfellowship someone for supporting a presidential candidate who favored abortion. Certainly, the current election has polarized our culture more than any other in recent years. With increasing frequency, my mailbox has received inquiries about, “How should a Christian vote?” The broader issue is how Christians should deal with politics.
Let me first of lay down some facts historically and biblically:
*Jesus and the scriptures give us no command to get involved in politics, and no condemnation if we do so. *There is a need for political authority. See Judges 17:6 for the alternative. *The scriptures tell us to obey political authority. Romans 13:1-7 and Titus 3:1 make that clear, even though the government of that time was corrupt, immoral, and violent, Christians used political authority for their well being. See Acts 23:23-35. *Political leaders aren’t always evil or corrupt. See Luke 7:3-10. 23:50-53. John 3:1-10 and 19:39 and Acts 10:1 for examples.
We can see the answer to how Christians should deal with politics in Matthew 22:15-21, where Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes to the Roman government. The question was a trap. If He said “no,” He could be put in prison for defying Caesar. If He said “yes,” He would violate Jewish tradition and law. Jesus answered by giving us in a single sentence how Christians should deal with politics: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
Like people today, the people who asked the question did not understand what Christianity is about. Later in the same chapter, they ask a question about who a man would be married to in heaven when he had more than one wife on Earth. Jesus responded by saying, “You don’t know the scriptures”!
The point of Christ’s teaching is that God is concerned with the spiritual, and politics is concerned with the physical. Ephesian 6:12 tells us that our struggle is not flesh and blood. Christians must be good citizens by obeying the law and honoring our leaders. We are not to bring politics into the Church, nor is the Church to engage in political work. If you want to be involved in politics, do so. Don’t demand the Church to endorse you or to constrain its members to vote for you. Church funds should not be used for political purposes. Read Matthew 25:31-46 to see what the Lord’s money should be used for.
I am an American, a veteran, and a believer in democracy. Those are physical things I support. More importantly, I am a Christian and am in a war with Satan and evil. Ephesians 6:12-18 defines my spiritual emphasis, and Ephesians 3:9-11 reminds me that this battle has been going on since before creation. I will vote and express myself in physical matters for America. However, I will spend most of my energy and time on the more important work of spreading the gospel and doing the work of Jesus Christ.
“Real men don’t play it safe” so many males, including world leaders, don’t accept wearing a mask and social distancing. That is the basic idea of an article by Peter Glick in the August issue of Scientific American. He says that many male leaders are more concerned about projecting a tough-guy image than protecting the common good. He mentions Brazilain leader Jair Bolsonaro, U.K. leader Boris Johnson, and Donald Trump and Mike Pence. When Captain Brett Cozier of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt didn’t radiate the tough-guy image, he was relieved of his command. Meanwhile, female leaders in Germany and New Zealand have had better success in the pandemic than their male counterparts.
This is one more example of how “survival of the fittest” produces competition, promotion of self, and struggles for dominance rather than compassion, empathy, and promoting the common good. It is also why women appear to tend to be more capable promoters of Christianity. As women start competing with males, they tend to demonstrate a great many of the same weaknesses.
Any weakling can turn their back on the needs of the “weak and unfit.” Our experience as the parents of a multiply-handicapped child is dominated by compassionate women who had great empathy and a servant mentality. The number of males who were able to give of themselves to promote disabled adults was pathetically small. As society has rejected the teachings of Christ and embraced a value system based on evolutionary theory, our cliches show our values: “show no weakness,” “I can fix it,” “dog eat dog,” “watch your back.”
It takes incredible strength to be a committed, active Christian. When you read Matthew 25:34-40, you see Jesus commending people not because they were the strongest or the most attractive or successful. He commended them for doing things that an evolutionist would reject, such as giving food and drink rather than using it as a control device. Christ commends them for taking in a stranger, visiting the sick, and clothing the naked. The whole notion of turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and loving your enemies (Matthew 5:38-48) opposes “survival of the fittest” mentality. Are we strong enough to be Christians, or are we trying to earn the title of “real men?”
The Old Testament dietary laws did not allow the Israelites to eat certain foods. Genesis 9:2-4 says not to eat meat that “has its lifeblood in it.” Leviticus 11:1-47 and Deuteronomy 14 spell out a wide range of dietary restrictions. Today we know why those restrictions were put in place because the animals the Israelites were forbidden to eat were carriers of viruses infectious to humans.
In the New Testament, the picture changes. The early Church leaders met to determine what actions they should abstain from and what Christians can eat (Acts 15:28-29). They decided that Christ’s followers should avoid all trappings of idolatry, including licentiousness, drunkenness, and fornication. They should also avoid eating blood; specifically, animals strangled so that the lifeblood was still in the meat.
Colossians 2:14-16 tells us that Jesus nailed the legalistic rules of the Old Testament to His cross. The passage is clear that Paul is talking about “religious festivals, New Moon celebrations, and Sabbath Days.” Jesus did not do away with the lifestyle choices referred to in Acts 15, but with the Old Law’s legalistic demands that were difficult for the people to keep.
The other passage that deals with what we can eat is Acts 10:9-16. God gave Peter a vision in which he saw a sheet full of animals lowered to him, and a voice told him to kill and eat. What we tend to miss is that Peter identifies two kinds of foods he had never eaten. Verse 14 quotes Peter as saying, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten that which is COMMON (Greek word koinoo) or UNCLEAN (Greek word akathartos).”
The word “common” means ordinary, like everyone else. The word “unclean” means defiled, impure. God’s response to Peter was, “What God has cleansed don’t you call COMMON.” “Defiled” would mean what is referred to in Genesis 9:2-4 – having its lifeblood in it. “Common” would mean the things the Gentiles ate that were not defiled. Peter is about to convert a Gentile, a major change in his life. God makes it clear that he can participate in Gentile foods, but this passage does not approve drinking blood or any other impure foods.
What Christians can eat is virtually anything, but they need to avoid those foods that are dangerous for human consumption. By their diet, early Christians could be protected from diseases that were common in the pagan world around them.
We hear it all the time, statements like “I can’t take much more.” “I can’t handle this!” “This is too much!” and “I can’t stand it!!” We all have expressions of frustration and exasperation, and in the middle of this current pandemic like all previous major problems, we hear some wild ones. “I’m going to blow my top,” “I’m going to pull my hair,” “I’m going to the lake and make a hole in it.” There is a theological issue involved here. If God exists, why does He allow things to happen that push us beyond what we can stand? Or does He provide a way out? I maintain that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true.
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13.
Before going further, please do not interpret this discussion to trivialize anyone’s crisis. I just watched my daughter nurse her husband, the father of her three children, through six months of terminal cancer. She is now not only left with no husband and three boys to raise and also with no financial resources and her own health issues. My students in our correspondence courses who are in prison frequently say, “You can not imagine what it is like to be locked up in this hell hole.”
This Corinthian passage was written to Christians and offers unique help. One of the miseries that atheism produces is that it provides no hope of any kind when problems like this pandemic happen. When I was young and fit, I maintained that God was a crutch that I didn’t need. Very quickly, things happened to me that made me not so young or so fit. It wasn’t that I looked for a crutch because I continued to be a vocal atheist. But I was miserable in not always dominating others and getting my way. I was not able to overpower circumstances in life because I simply wasn’t fit.
First Corinthians 10:13 and similar passages don’t tell us that God will shield us from bad things. They don’t tell us that Christians will not face tragedy and frustration and even death. The passage says that God will “provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” That way out is rarely a miraculous zapping of whatever is afflicting us. It is usually God using Christians, His workers on Earth, to help us through it.
Read Matthew 25:31-40, and what do you see Jesus saying to His workers at the end of time? They were those who provided a way out for those in misery. The very nature of Christianity is to relieve the afflicted, and Jesus did that and taught His followers to do it. That is why Christians do the prison ministries, the correspondence course programs, our seniors outreaches, our food banks, our water well diggings, our hospitals, our schools, and many other things.
There are those times when the way out is death. I have lost a wife, a son-in-law, a brother, and dozens of dear friends who were in such pain that death was a blessing. I can only say that with confidence about those who died as Christians. The way out for me is coming, and it will be a blessing, not a curse.
For the 51 years of this ministry, we have confronted religious anti-science rhetoric. Our critics are those who feel that science is an enemy and that you can’t be a good Christian and embrace science. We are now in a period when the issue of whether people can meet together for worship services has become an issue of science and politics. Some politicians oppose churches resuming worship services saying there is strong scientific evidence that it will expose participants to the COVID-19 virus. Many religious leaders insist that this is an attempt by the government to restrict religion. They say that this scientifically-based objection is destroying the right of people to worship together.
In previous articles, we have pointed out that a great deal of ignorance is involved in rejecting science. According to the dictionary, science is knowledge. Knowledge is always neutral. The critical thing is how we use it. When new scientific knowledge gave us lasers, the question was how we would use lasers. Would they be weapons that cause massive destruction, or would they be medical tools to heal eyes?
We now understand how the COVID-19 virus spreads from one person to another. Will we use this knowledge to stop the progression of the illness, or will we use this virus to destroy whole masses of people? The bubonic plague from 1347-1351 killed 200 million people, which was nearly half of Europe’s population. Religious anti-science rhetoric today has the potential to create a catastrophe.
It isn’t our knowledge about the COVID-19 virus that is a threat to freedom or to worship. The reality is that science will eventually develop a vaccine that will allow everyone to worship together. Smallpox was killing 400,000 people a year in Europe, and it only stopped when scientists developed a vaccine. It is hypocritical for religious people to vilify science while they: 1) enjoy modern technology in their entertainment 2) go to medical facilities for treatment of disease, 3) use scientific advancements to grow and prepare their food, 4) use new scientific discoveries in their businesses, and 5) use science in their homes to improve their standard of living.
Proverbs 8 makes it clear that God has used science (wisdom) in all He has done. Psalms 19 and 139 refer to God’s creation, and Romans 1:19-20 points out that science reveals God’s existence through the things He has made. The following verses, Romans 1:21-32, point out that human moral and political choices cause the pain and destruction we see in our world.
Christianity doesn’t need to violate social distancing to worship and to practice our faith. James 1:27 defines true religion, and Jesus made it clear that He is there when just two people come together in His name (Matthew 18:20). First Timothy 6:20 tells Christians to avoid scams and religious claims called science. Ignore the religious anti-science rhetoric and know that God and science are friends. Don’t listen to politicians and religious hucksters and rely on evidence and the message of proven researchers. Join together in prayer and worship in our homes on Zoom, YouTube, Facebook, or whatever method you choose. Rejoice that, through science, God has given us new ways to come together, encourage each other, and glorify Him even in the middle of a pandemic.
“In no way does Living Honorably Day enhance the readiness of our military. This is about destroying men because they are the foundations of the family … Men are so important, and they are walking out of their families today all over America” — U.S. Army Lt. General (Ret.) William G. Boykin
General Boykin made those comments on Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio show. He was referring to a program called Living Honorably Day at the U.S. Military Academy. On January 14, 2020, the Academy at West Point canceled all cadet classes and required all cadets to view a screening of Miss Representation. This is a documentary produced by Girls’ Club Entertainment and featuring Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Rachel Maddow. The feminist leaders label previous military teaching on discipline and accountability as “toxic masculinity.” The phrase “be a man” is no longer allowed in military training.
The feminists running the program at West Point use the term “hypermasculinity” to describe the biblical teaching that men are to be the leaders in the family. It is difficult to read Ephesians 5:21-6:4 and not see the wisdom of God’s plan for the family. Women have some guaranteed roles, and motherhood is one of them. No matter how badly I, as a man, might want to be a mother, it is not possible. The notion that nobody has guaranteed roles is a response to the abuses that have been heaped on women in some areas of our culture. Men need to have a role in life, and feminists like those in the West Point incident demonstrate selfishness and a lack of concern for men while trying to correct abuses women have received.
General Boykin and others in the military see a weakening of our ability to defend ourselves as a nation, and Living Honorably Day is just a symptom of that. We need to consider the reflections of Boykin and others on what is happening to society in general. Christian men and women can correct the weaknesses and abuses that occur in our culture without generating abuses on another part of our culture.
In my lifetime, I have seen several disease epidemics. I find it interesting how differently people are responding to this than they did when I was a child, and polio was running wild. Polio was a much more serious issue than COVID-19 ever thought of being. If you got polio in 1952, you were either going to die, be paralyzed, or be in an iron lung for the rest of your life. For those who are younger, an iron lung was a huge tin can that breathed for you, because polio could stop you from breathing on your own. If you were put in an iron lung to preserve your life, the chances are that you would be in that large tin can until you did die. It was awful, but we did not have the pandemic fear.
Even though polio was much worse than the current virus, my classmates were not absorbed with fear and extreme measures to avoid getting polio. We were told that flies carried polio. I remember my mother stringing flypaper all over the place, and going bonkers if she saw a fly in our garage. I was not allowed to go to outdoor events for fear of polio. Still, there was no panic from the media and no cancellations of anything. That is a huge contrast with what has happened in 2020 as we face this virus. That is even though most people who get the virus do not die or have any long-lasting effects. What is the difference?
In my childhood years, being an atheist was unique. I was the only openly atheistic person in my high school class. Our family went to Brown County State Park every Sunday to swim in the park swimming pool. We had the pool to ourselves because everyone else was in church. I had friends who did contract polio. Outside of a sign which said “quarantine” being placed on their front door, not much else happened.
The panic that has gripped our culture today is amazing. According to the CDC ordinary, run of the mill flu killed 61,000 Americans last year and over 12,000 this year so far. But the pandemic fear of COVID-19 far exceeds the fear that has been with us before.
I would suggest to you that as our culture has drifted away from God, the fear of the unknown has grown exponentially. At least part of the pandemic fear is our lack of faith as a society about life and death and who or what is in control.
One fundamental message of Jesus Christ is that Christians should not be driven by panic and fear of the unknown. In Mark 4:36-41, we read the wonderful story of Jesus and the disciples being caught in a storm in a small boat. Jesus is asleep, and they wake him up. Christ quiets the storm and says to the disciples, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (verse 40).
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible calls believers not to be driven by fear. Joshua 1:9 tells us not to be afraid. Psalms 23:4 talks about walking through the darkest valley. Psalms 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “…the Lord your God will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5-8 tells us that the Lord is our helper, so we should not be afraid. Jesus tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
If you believe that this life is all you will ever have, then you will fear anything that threatens this life.If you believe that there is something better coming, then nothing that happens in this life is of great consequence. However, I have an instinct to survive and knowing that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), I will do what I can to avoid premature death. I am washing my hands, avoiding crowds, and following the other guidelines. Still, I can relate to Paul’s discourse in Philippians 1:21-24, where he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … I am in a struggle between having a desire to leave and be with Christ, but I know I should abide in the flesh, which is more needful for you…”
We live in a time in which many people who wear the name “Christian” are being killed. Various groups who keep track of Christian martyr data have wildly different counts of how many have died for their faith.
The Center for the Study of Global Christianity says that 90,000 Christians were martyred in 2019. The International Society for Human Rights says that 10,000 were martyred. Open Doors puts the number at 4,305. The problem here is that the definition of a “martyr” is not the same for everyone.
The Nazis killed Dietrich Bonhoeffer in World War II because he was involved in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. His Christian faith was the reason he became involved in the plot. Does that make him a martyr? Christians were killed in civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Should they be classified as martyrs? There is a monument in Bicknell Park in Montebello, California, in memory of one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. Between 1915 and 1921, the Turkish government killed 1,500,000 Armenian Christians. Does that make all of them martyrs?
Martyrs have always been held up as examples of faithfulness. In today’s world, there are many countries where converting to Christianity is a sure way to be executed. The early Roman persecution of Christians is undeniable and uncontested. Determining Christian martyr data in our modern world varies by how we define “martyr.”
Those of us who live in the United States should be thankful that, so far, we don’t have to be worried about being singled out or killed by the government because of our worship. That may change, but we should thank God for the freedom Christians enjoy now in the U.S. and other countries.