First there was the cherry-picking of scripture to support the slave trade - and God Bless William Wilberforce for having the audacity to stand against the diabolical practice in what was then the mightiest super-power of it's day. Then there was segregation, deeming the amount of melanin in a person's skin or the straightness of their hair as a reason to ban them from certain areas and deny them civil liberties including education and the right to marry the person of their choice. Martin Luther King in the USA and Nelson Mandela in South Africa were incredible activists to right this wrong, but it's a work in progress in both countries. There is still institutionalised racism active in most Western nations. Some have laws to prevent it. Others have laws to instill it.
I struggle with "issues" being made a headline story in the news. Recently it's same-sex marriage. In the 1970's it was socialism vs capitalism - something the UK is in danger of revisiting over the course of the next few years. In the 60's it was Christianity being taught in American schools funded by federal government. I'm told Lincoln said the philosophy in the classroom of one generation will be the philosophy of Government in the next. I look at the various "democracies" in the world where no religious teaching is permitted and there is a distinct decline in the morality of those countries. Talking in class and chewing gum has been replaced with metal detectors to spot concealed guns and knives in schools as a problem. An entire generation in Africa will be lost to HIV and instead of turning to teaching morality and the sanctity of marriage the message is "use a condom". It's russian roulette not only with HIV but in terms of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies to those least equipped to cope with a child because they are children themselves.
And yet the Governments insist on separation of Church and State. Where are the Christian activists like Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King of Generation X and Y? Where is the moral outrage at unjust wars and ever increasing denial and flat out lies by elected leaders in what is supposed to be the "free" world?
I heard an argument recently that we should obey the laws of the government at all times because of Romans 13:1-7:
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God [granted by His permission and sanction], and those which exist have been put in place by God. Therefore whoever resists [governmental] authority resists the ordinance of God. And those who have resisted it will bring judgment (civil penalty) on themselves. For [civil] authorities are not a source of fear for [people of] good behavior, but for [those who do] evil. Do you want to be unafraid of authority? Do what is good and you will receive approval and commendation. For he is God’s servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, [you should] be afraid; for he does not carry the [executioner’s] sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an avenger who brings punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject [to civil authorities], not only to escape the punishment [that comes with wrongdoing], but also as a matter of principle [knowing what is right before God]. For this same reason you pay taxes, for civil authorities are God’s servants, devoting themselves to governance. Pay to all what is due: tax to whom tax is due, customs to whom customs, respect to whom respect, honor to whom honor."But this instruction is then offset by what Paul writes immediately afterwards vv8-14:
"Owe nothing to anyone except to love and seek the best for one another; for he who [unselfishly] loves his neighbor has fulfilled the [essence of the] law [relating to one’s fellowman]. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet” and any other commandment are summed up in this statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Love does no wrong to a neighbor [it never hurts anyone]. Therefore [unselfish] love is the fulfillment of the Law.The two passages in the same chapter at a glance seem to contradict each other. In the first, and extremist view is to obey all laws no matter what, but as the Amplified translation above points out, we are to obey civil laws or suffer the civil punishment. Blind obedience to the first part of the chapter leads to events like the holocaust.
Do this, knowing that this is a critical time. It is already the hour for you to awaken from your sleep [of spiritual complacency]; for our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed [in Christ].
The night [this present evil age] is almost gone and the day [of Christ’s return] is almost here. So let us fling away the works of darkness and put on the [full] armor of light. Let us conduct ourselves properly and honorably as in the [light of] day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility, not in quarreling and jealousy. But clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for [nor even think about gratifying] the flesh in regard to its improper desires."
The higher law, God's Law, is exalted in part 2 of the chapter. Unselfishly loving one's neighbour as we love ourselves fulfills God's Law. It requires us to seek to live as Christ lived. He allowed Himself to be subject to Roman law, resulting in His crucifixion and our Salvation. He didn't blindly follow the laws man had written. If He had we would be doomed.
We live in a world obsessed with sex and promiscuity. In a local store I counted the magazines on sale. Of 50 titles on sale only 3 did not have what the World says is the "ideal" image of a woman on the cover. And the other three had pictures of the "ideal" physique of a man. I can't switch on my computer without being bombarded with adverts for dating sites and singles or swingers clubs, and it seems the more I try to remove myself from these mailing lists the more other sites begin to send their filth to me.
Sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility are seen as normal behaviour in modern society. I read statistics that a majority of teens from the ages of 13 to 19 surveyed in schools across America saw nothing wrong with oral or anal penetration - it's not considered to be "sex" in their culture. I find that truly terrifying. Even more terrifying was that so many who shared this view also consider themselves to be Christians.
What is happening to us? Where is our outrage of Godly Anger at the perversion of our children and our society?
Maybe I'm just getting old. A friend of mine in her 20's confided in me that her mum is just too old to understand her. She said it was refreshing to have an older friend who she could talk to. Her mum is the same age as me within a matter of days. It scared me, and I don't scare easily. What truly scared me was not that her mum and I are the same age - although that did alarm me a bit - but that her mum sees nothing wrong with the general lifestyle of the younger generation.
It's not politically correct to tell people to compare the modern world with Sodom and Gomorrah. All they see when they do is that God hates sex. But the true moral in the destruction of the cities was not simply the sexual sin. That was a part of it, not the whole of it. A big part of Lot's realisation of what was coming and Abraham's pleading for the sparing of the cities was their realisation that sexual sin was accepted as normal and not considered to be sinful any more. God destroyed the cities in part for that reason. The Roman and Greek empires both normalised promiscuity. Both fell. Now we have Western civilisation slowly imploding under the same issue. Sometime it feels like it's not so slow.
The real issue about the Ashley Madison scandal was that church leaders got caught. We are held to a higher standard than other people but forced to live in the same society exposed to the same filth. So many are conned by the enemy into believing they have to get down in the filth to bring people out, but the reality is that if we do, all that happens is we get covered in the same mess.
But still a corrupt and immoral government insists there is no place for religion - especially Christianity - in publicly funded schools. But then with the other hand this same government seeks to force these religious institutions - especially the Christian ones - to carry out civil laws they feel violate their religious principles. In South Africa some schools provide meals for the children. This is a good thing, but the food is all Halal in nature. An Orthodox Jew or an incredibly Orthodox Christian could not eat this food as it is sacrificed to a false god, Allah.
Don't get me wrong. In certain circumstances, rape being paramount, I believe the harm to the woman carrying the foetus may be greater than her having the choice not to have her rapist's baby, but to use abortion as a form of birth-control in general is offensive. Similarly I have no objection to a secular society legalising same gender marriage under civil laws, but don't force anyone to violate their religious beliefs to conduct those ceremonies.
There does need to be separation of Church and State. The Church needs to be separate from the State to provide a moral compass as it has done for 2000 years.
It's a pity the State doesn't want to listen any more.
We are about to enter into a time when what just 20 years ago would have been unimaginable. A Bigoted, racist, self-important, sexist, misogynistic hypocrite is the front runner for the Republican Party Presidential Candidacy. He claims Christianity as his beliefs, but what he speaks is nothing but fear and hate, not compassion and love.
We are supposed to be a light to the World as Christians. I don't know if Mr Trump has spiritual advisors or if he is just doing what so many dictators in the past have done and feeding off the emotions of the masses. The white majority in America - especially the ones classed as "unskilled" - see their jobs threatened not by the proposed employment policies of the candidates, but by the skin colour or religion of the other applicants.
The answer is simple - a powerful voice rising up and declaring "I have a dream" all over again, except the formerly credible voices who could have stood up to the likes of Trump and his counterparts are being crucified - in some cases rightly so - for actions they themselves committed in the past that should have been dealt with then.
So it's time, Church, for US to be that credible voice once again. Not the right-wing extremists or left-wing liberals, but the genuine Followers of Jesus to refuse to be bound by Man's laws. Stephen was murdered for doing that. And the bloodshed of true Believers has continued when they - we - have challenged the status quo be it in Africa, Asia, Europe or any other continent.
We have a message that is insane to the World. A secular State cannot comprehend it, but for it to become a moral and compassionate state it needs men of conscience within the Church to rise up and do what needs to be done.
I am confident that there is a Wilberforce in this generation. A Wesley, a Dr King who will put their own sense of self preservation and reputation aside long enough to change the world.
And save the State.