One hundred Iowa preachers will be in jail within a few weeks unless the state stops its illegal usurpation of authority against churches. This is the first time I have called for massive civil disobedience but it is required in Iowa. Iowa officials must get the message: no legislature, court, or commission has the authority to tell Christians what they must believe nor can state or federal officials set the moral standards of Christians! It is even folly to suggest that possibility.
From the beginning of America, churches have been the moral compass for the nation so they are the source for what little morality is still extant in the United States. G. K. Chesterton declared that we don’t need a church “that is right when the world is right, but a church that is right when the world is wrong.” The world of Iowa is wrong and church leaders must not capitulate to evil to save their skin or give them a few more years of questionable existence.
The state of Iowa has said that church people can believe what they want but the state will be the arbiter of what they practice–even to regulating church restrooms! Principled Christians down through the centuries would have yelled, “To the arena, bring on the lions.” But most modern church leaders yawn and appoint a task force to look into the matter.
Iowa’s anti-discrimination law is based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” and requires all entities engaged with the public to not discriminate. The state is seeking to give special treatment to homosexuals and transgenders. But then, sane people know that homosexuals are only heterosexuals who choose to do vile, even unspeakable things to each other. Transgenders are people who don’t like the way they were born so they pretend that they are the opposite sex. Such people, if sincere, are deeply disturbed and should not be sexually mutilated or have abnormal hormones pumped into their bodies but need to be taught or convinced that a person with a male organ is identified as a male whatever he may feel like.
Iowa officials state that any place that is “distinctly private by its nature…offers some services, facilities, or goods to the general public…will be treated as a public accommodation for those services.” Since churches are open to the public, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission has determined that they are subject to anti-discrimination laws. There is an exception for churches but not if their services are open to the public! If church members want to pray, preach, and sing without inviting the public then the law does not apply–but few churches do that. But if they have a Christian school, a day care, a softball league, food pantry, homeless ministry, etc., then compliance is required–or else. The state assumes the right to decide what is “a bona fide religious purpose.”
But that bird won’t fly. The Bible does command us in Mark 12:17 to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” However, the church can never permit “Caesar” to determine what is his and what is God’s. If so, then the whole principle is nullified.
The practical repercussions to a church will be devastating, defeating, and destructive; but then, maybe that’s what the secular crowd wants. That means churches must permit men who refuse to admit that their genitals identify them as male and choose to think they are females must have access to the ladies restroom! Not even if pigs learn to fly! But it gets worse! It also applies to locker rooms and living facilities “without [anyone] being…questioned.”
That means a pastor or deacon must never inquire or question a person about his/her/its sexual identity and guide them to the “proper” restroom nor can a pastor expound Lev. 18 or Romans 1 or ridicule transgender insanity. That would be, according to the commission, “illegal harassment” which could include “repeated remarks of a demeaning nature…demeaning…stories…and intentional use of names and pronouns inconsistent with a person’s presented gender.” That means I could not follow my resolute decision to always refer to Bruce Jenner as Bruce and always use he instead of she. Because he is not a she. He has always been a male, is a male today, and will be a male in the future. Church leaders who don’t conform can spend a long time in the courtroom and/or pay heavy fines.
So the august state officials have decided that they will set the standard for what is modest, decent, safe, normal, acceptable, sane, and biblical! Any pastor who submits to such outrageous, odious, and overreaching demands will prove that he is a pathetic preacher unworthy of his calling and should quickly return his ordination credentials and choose a profession that doesn’t require much character.
Since I am a Baptist and we make much of separation of church (but not God) and state and much of the sovereignty of Christ over His church, I assume that Baptist pastors in Iowa are preparing to resist the state. Maybe they are prepared like Chinese dissidents who keep a small bag handy at all times in event of their arrest. Such pastors had better look at the big picture because they may spend years in jail for defying the state and federal authorities. If they have true convictions, there will be no compromise, no concessions but plenty of confrontation and conflict.
The Bible is full of courageous, consecrated, and committed men who took a stand for principle even risking their lives. The Disciples told the authorities in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” We still must do that whatever the price!
Hugh Grotius (1583-1645) of the Netherlands is the “father of modern international law.” He wrote in The Law of War and Peace, Book 1: “Among all good men one principle at any rate is established beyond controversy, that if the authorities issue any order that is contrary to the law of nature or to the commandments of God, the order should not be carried out. For when the Apostles said the obedience should be rendered to God rather than to men they appealed to an infallible rule of action.” That is as true today as it was 400 years ago.
John Knox agreed: “But thereof be assured that all is not lawful or just that is statute by civil laws, neither yet is everything sin before God which ungodly persons allege to be treason.”
Even Albert Einstein said, “Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.” He also said, “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” Many Iowa pastors are mentally preparing their justification for compromise and cowardice: “Well, Christians must always obey the law.” Or, “We must be examples to others.” Or, we can never agree on everything the government does.” Or, “I will obey the state until they tell me I can’t preach the Gospel.” (That one is so threadbare that it is embarrassing it is still being used.)
I suggest that Iowa pastors meet to inform their local “Caesars” that they will not obey their intrusive law. They should meet on a week day at the capitol building and form the word NO! with their bodies as they stand silently. No doubt, many laymen will also attend the rally and will help make the exclamation point. No singing, praying, or preaching is necessary but a silent thirty minutes saying, NO! After the rally, there will be no candy wrappers, cigarette butts, water bottles, or beer containers on the street. No one will curse and no one will threaten the cops. No one will break windows, turn over cars, or loot the local stores. No one will light a match to a cigarette or molotov cocktail.
To my pastor/friends in Iowa, it’s time to fish or cut bait. You have preached all your lives about standing for truth. You have often used John Bunyan as an example of courage. Now, it is time to prove that a God-called preacher has a compassionate heart, a working brain, a chest with some hair on it, and a spine in his back.
If, instead of a spine, there is a yellow streak, then it’s time to do the principled thing and leave the ministry.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.