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Persecuted Christians and legislated morality

Courtesy of F. LaGard Smith
Courtesy of F. LaGard Smith

In 2020 alone, more than 2,000 Christians were brutally hacked to death by radical Muslims in Nigeria.  Add to that the wife in Uganda whose Muslim husband forced her to drink pesticide after he found two Bibles in her suitcase, and the minister shot to death by three gunmen in India while returning home after baptizing new believers.  Religious persecution is alive and well. 

Why do folks want to impose their beliefs on everybody else?  Is it a control thing?  A way to validate one’s own faith?  Or, perhaps thinking it’s God’s will to force a particular religion?   

We may not have “religious wars” in this country, but simply mention “culture wars” and we’re back in the same boat, except that the struggle is more likely between religious faith and secularism — its own faux religion.  Given thorny matters of conscience and conviction on all sides, are any of us right to impose our values on others?  While on many fronts there can be peaceful coexistence, some issues are simply non-negotiable, most notably abortion and same-sex marriage, which causes raging conflict even among those who wear the name of Christ. 

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Legislating morality is tricky business.  Witness the chaos caused by Prohibition.  Yet, virtually all crimes are nothing less than legislating morality, be it “Thou shalt not kill,” or “Thou shalt not steal.”  Murder and theft are such universally recognized moral offenses that not even secularists are demanding their repeal.  Indeed, crucially separating the act itself from the underlying motive (as in “a woman’s choice”), if abortion were ever honestly acknowledged to be what it is in actual fact — the killing of one human being by another (homicide) — the abortion debate would be over in a fetal heartbeat! 

Consider this: If an emerging infant is a human being, was it not a human being minutes earlier while the mother was in labor?  And an hour before that, and a day, a month, three months, and six months before?  Even earlier?  Did you know that in many jurisdictions civil actions can be brought for wrongful death when a fetus is accidentally killed at virtually any point early in the pregnancy?  “Trimesters” and “viability” are disingenuous red herrings.  Beyond conception itself, it defies human ability to draw a line between “human life” and “non-human life.”  “Live and let live,” you say?  Then let live! 

As for same-sex marriage, not even moral conservatives want bedroom police intruding into anyone’s sexual activities, hence there are no calls to re-criminalize homosexual conduct.  Conversely, legally recognizing same-sex marriage turns the tables, imposing state-condoned immorality through non-discrimination laws (that discriminate against religious beliefs!).  Understandably, the gay lobby recoils against any comparison with marriage for incest or bestiality, but — given their insistence on mandating legal sanction for all sexual expression — the only argument that can be made against a man marrying his sister or his horse is a moral argument.  If moral objection is a legitimate reason to deny marriage on other grounds, why not same-sex marriage?  Only yesterday, gay marriage was equally repulsive, and is immoral still.

But we were talking about religious persecution, and especially Muslims, under whose Sharia precepts (the ultimate in legislating morality) homosexuals are put to death.  Whereas Islamic fervor for upholding morality is admirable, how they treat moral offenders is in stark contrast to how Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8:2-11).  To be sure, the context is complicated by the hypocrisy of her sanctimonious accusers, and their attempt to trap Jesus.  But, if only we could capture Jesus’ balance in that case — neither legally punishing personal sin nor validating it (“Go now, and leave your life of sin”) — even Muslims might sit up and take notice. 

The question for us is: Whether in law, church attitudes, or in our own families, are we able to distinguish between Christian tolerance and openly sanctioning the sin?  With increasing militancy, today’s religious persecution is against those who dare make that crucial distinction.

F. LaGard Smith is a retired law school professor (Pepperdine, Liberty, and Faulkner law schools), and is the author of some 35 books, touching on law, faith, and social issues.  He is the compiler and narrator of The Daily Bible (the NIV and NLT arranged in chronological order), and posts weekly devotionals on Facebook, drawing spiritual applications from current events.

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