Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Punish Those Who Disagree?



In the first few years of our marriage, my wife and I had the benefit of wonderful Christian mentors in our Church in Miami, Florida. One concept that they taught us young couples to use in creatively resolving marital conflict was to learn how to “Agree to disagree.” This is tolerance in its truest and most noble form. Agreeing to disagree realizes that you can have differences of opinion without resorting to silencing, or worse, punishing each other. But, tolerance like this only works when tolerance itself is not distorted into something that is anything but tolerance. When "tolerance" is redefined to where only one type of opinion is tolerated, it actually devolves into the worst form of intolerance. In fact, it morphs into an intolerance that actively seeks to punish those who disagree. Allow me to illustrate. Unfortunately, this is the type of intolerance we are witnessing on the world stage where ISIS is actively exterminating Christians and any marker of their faith. Even this week, ISIS is destroying and removing all physical signs of Christianity from the villages that they are subjugating. ISIS is even resorting to destroying historical landmarks that are thousands of years old because they bear the marks of Christ's church. And, before America calls the ISIS “kettle” black, it may want to examine its own darkening color.

I have lost count of the cases regarding Christian florists, bakers and photographers who have been harassed, sued and financially ruined simply because they exercised their Constitutional freedom of religion to boycott working for a particular “gay wedding.” One of the recent high profile cases is Barronelle Stutzman. All she did was lovingly inform a gay couple that her religious views do not allow her to service their ceremony. Barronelle knew they were gay and had served them many times before and happily so. But, when the couple asked her to service a “gay wedding,” she lovingly declined. As a result, the Attorney General of her state (not the couple) is taking her to court for all she is worth. This elderly lady has given numerous interviews where it is clear to see that she is a very soft-spoken and grandmotherly type. Although she is meek, she is also bold. In one interview she made the truthful declaration, “A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions and surrender her livelihood is a government every American should fear.” So, you might conclude from this display of our society’s values that boycotts like Barronelle boycotting “gay weddings” are a bad thing that discriminate against people. And, seeing that discrimination is actually protected explicitly for religion, you might assume that boycotts against people with views aligned with religious conviction would also be out of line. I’m afraid not.

For example, take the case of the famous Italian designers, Dolce & Gabbana. In a recent interview, among other statements, these two Italian men stated, “The only family is the traditional one.” That is a statement that is innocent enough except that it opposed “gay adoption.” Therefore, since the gods of “gay marriage” were profaned, of course such blasphemy must be punished. The calls for boycotting Dolce & Gabbana started to mount including the likes of Sir Elton John, Ricky Martin, Victoria Beckham, Sharon Stone, Courtney Love, Martina Navratilova, and even Al Roker. But, wait, I thought it was not okay to boycott, especially based upon a religious view? Well, apparently, boycotting is only acceptable for one side of our perverted culture’s coin. Apparently, it is okay to boycott certain people based on their beliefs and not others based on the same. Does that sound equal to anyone?

You might say this inequality is isolated? Well, then allow me to name a couple more from just the last couple weeks. This week at the South by Southwest Festival, featured speaker and former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, focused on the need to “punish climate-change deniers.” He further concluded that “politicians should pay a price for rejecting ‘accepted science.’” Put aside for a moment that “climate-change” (a.k.a. Global Warming) is not accepted science, and let’s assume that it is. According to Al Gore and those who agree with him (which are many), anyone who disagrees with science should be punished. Well, that means we should punish every famous scientist that we have ever known, including Isaac Newton, Galileo, Einstein, and even Stephen Hawking, all of whom disagreed with previously accepted science. Stephen Hawking, for example, even opposed his own accepted science. But, no, once again, what Gore really means is punish only those who inconveniently oppose the particular “science” that has padded his bank account to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. In other words, anyone who opposes science that lines Gore’s pockets should be punished. Does this sound reasonable to anyone? Sadly, to many in America it does.

Here is another example. Earlier this month, Sarah Mbuyi, a Christian nursery worker who expressed her opinion on marriage, was notified that Christian views on marriage should not be expressed in the workplace (that is unless they are views in favor of “gay marriage” – then you can express whatever you want). Last year she was terminated from Newpark Childcare in Shepherd’s Bush after a colleague filed a complaint against her. Ironically, Sarah’s views were requested to be shared by the colleague who made the complaint. You see, the colleague is an outspoken lesbian and informed Sarah that she might consider Christianity only when she and her partner could get married in church and if they thought God would approve. This was not a rhetorical statement by Sarah’s colleague, but an invitation to discuss the topic inviting a diversity of views. Therefore, Sarah shared her Christian views. As a result, Sarah was investigated and immediately terminated for “gross misconduct,” a penalty typically reserved for theft and fighting at work. In other words it is not misconduct to express your views in favor of “gay marriage” and even solicit a Christian’s views on the subject. It is only worthy of punishment if the Christian responds honestly to the trap.

It is one thing to not tolerate something. Intolerance can take passive, even silent forms. But, it is horribly wrong to actively punish people just because they disagree with you. So much for “live and let live.” So much for “coexist.” So much for “to each his own.” So much for … reason. Critical thinking is in a serious drought while rampant emotionalism reigns and dangerously so. 

Christian, you might be reading this while getting angry. That is okay as long as your anger is not towards people but towards our true enemy which is not flesh and blood. And, keep in mind that all of this was prophesied to happen by Jesus Himself. Remember what he said in Mark 13:9-13, “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” So, be the one that endures. Be the Christian that tolerates even while being persecuted. Let’s not lose our noble form of tolerance in the face of the worst brand of hypocrisy. We are called to tolerate such persecutors.

For example, there are many verses that tell us what to do regarding those who persecute us regarding Jesus. My favorite is from Jesus’ first sermon as recorded in Matthew 6:22-23, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” In fact in keeping with last week’s post, Jesus even went on to say in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is true tolerance. Who can reasonably disagree?

America and her perverted culture are exhibiting behavior increasingly more like the behavior they condemn in ISIS. America is setting up a cultural intolerance that will drive Christianity underground. In the name of tolerance, America’s society will actively seek to punish those who disagree with political correctness, and specifically Christians. In response, love your enemies and pray for them. For that is what Jesus did for those who nailed Him naked to a cross.

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