On Wednesday, July 4th, our nation marks it’s 236th birthday. There will be picnics, parades and fireworks. Sadly, only a small percentage of Americans will understand the vision of our founding fathers for freedom the price they paid to achieve it and the alarming rate at which those freedoms have been eroding.
Prior to the Declaration of Independence July 4th, 1776, the tyranny of King George was increasingly oppressive to the people of the American colonies, The colonists were an unorganized mixture of peoples, divided along socio-economic and religious lines. What brought them together? How did they come to understand the principles of a free people? What fanned the flames of revolution? Our historic documents make it clear that the British feared “the black robed regiment” more than any other. This “regiment” was the clergy, who thundered from their pulpits against the oppression of the British Crown, set forth the principles of freedom and called the people to take a stand!
When the British set out from Boston Harbor toward Lexington and Paul Revere made his famous ride crying, “The British are coming!” his destination was the home where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying. They were at the home of Jonas Clarke, one of the pastors who had mobilized his church for this hour. The Battle of Lexington took place in the shadow of the Church Meetinghouse and it was the pastor, Jonas Clarke, who had been the primary advocate for raising the militia that engaged the British regulars that fateful morning. The town’s resolve to create the militia resounds with the voice of Pastor Clarke: “We shall be ready to sacrifice our estates and everything dear in life, yea and life itself, in support of the common cause.” His church members proved those words on the morning of April 19, and the Pastor performed funerals for eight who were killed that day.
The founding fathers felt so strongly about the voice of the church that they crafted the First Amendment to restrict the government from interfering with the free exercise of religion! They exempted churches from taxation, because they knew that what the government taxed, they government could control, and they did not want the voice of the church to be controlled by the state. They knew the preservation of a free people depended on the freedom of religion to speak into the life of the nation!
Over the past several decades, most churches across America have gone silent on issues that are debated as public policy or that are embraced by political candidates. Why? Back in 1954, Congressman Lyndon Johnson was engaged in a tight race for a House seat. There were two non-profit organizations backing his opponent. With the connections he had in the House of Representatives, Johnson was able to get a law passed banning non-profit organizations from speaking out in regard to an election! He later said it never occurred to him that churches would be included in this. But the internal Revenue Service, ever since, has threatened churches with the loss of their tax exempt status if they dare to speak out about the Biblical counsel regarding issues or candidates involved in elections. This muzzling of the church by the state is an outrage. It’s also, experts believe, unconstitutional. It is of interest to note, the Black Church in America is not hindered by this improper interpretation of separation of church and state.
The Family Research Council and the Alliance Defense Fund have taken up this fight. In recent years, they’ve recruited churches to take a stand and, on “Freedom Sunday,” to speak God’s truth from Scripture on issues relevant to the current political situation, so that God’s people may know what He says about these things. Beginning with 33 churches 5 years ago, there were over 500 churches who did so last year. Now the IRS has gone silent. ADF is waiting for the IRS to challenge a church’s right to freely preach God’s Word and stands ready to take the case, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Here’s what we must understand. God gave us freedoms in this country through the courage and sacrifice of patriots. There are those who want to take these freedoms away and, once they’re one, they are gone. Each generation must have the courage to stand and fight for those freedoms, so that the Church may continue to proclaim the truth of God’s Word. By God’s grace, we will do so. Pray for churches of America to wake up and speak up, so that God’s people may know what He says about faith, morality and freedom!
In November we face the most critical election of our time. Let us be informed with knowledge, faith, and then speak with clarity and vote with conviction.