In 1994 while working at a scientific laboratory, I was told that I needed to remove my Bible from the top of my desk – it was in public view – and to refrain from praying on government property. I asked the question typical of a five-year-old: “Why?” The response was, “This is government property and we need to observe separation of church and state by becoming a religion-free work place.
Now, you may imagine many of the thoughts that raced through my mind. I didn’t want to argue the matter because I was on government time, my supervisor was giving the order, and I desired to honor my authorities. I did, however, realize that this was one side of a double-standard that was aimed against Jews and Christians. So remembering a recent Laboratory-sponsored event, I said:
“Last week we observed Native American Heritage Week here in the laboratory’s main auditorium. Every day at 8:00 AM and again at 1:00 PM for a total of ten meetings, a different Native American group opened the meeting by reciting their tribal prayer. Now, if the Lab supports or allows the Native Americans to pray to their gods on government property, then I also claim that same privilege of praying to the Judeo-Christian God. And if there are any questions about that, you know my phone number.”
That settled the issue. I was never challenged at the lab again. Amazingly, I was asked to write weekly articles based on good integrity, ethics, and character for our division, and send them out by e-mail. Why? Simply because I lived what I believed; supported my beliefs with the Bible, fact, and recent history; did not condemn or look down on others, and loved people. Did I confront people? Yes. But was I “confrontational?” No. Non-Christians and I do not have to agree with each other, but we all work well together because we do not intimidate each other, and we respect each other.
A number of years ago while visiting my mother-in-law in a nursing facility, I was speaking with her husband, Charles, about trusting the Lord while knowing that Mom could die soon. A social-worker walking by stopped and rather sternly asked Charles, “Do you want to listen to this?!”
That took Charles off-guard and he looked at me with a blank face; so I said to the social-worker, “Charles is my step-dad, and he doesn’t have a choice.” It was her turn to be dumb-founded, and she walked away. (Charles and I love each other. He laughed, and we continued our discussion about life with Jesus Christ.)
Zig Ziglar said in an interview with Michael Ireland on March 11, 2006, “The biggest lie Satan has ever told is that ‘it is okay to talk about your faith in church or at home, but otherwise, it is a personal matter.’ The reality is, everyone else has come out of the closet, and Christians need to come out and make it clear where they are coming from. Now, the life that they live will be totally believed if they live as Christ taught us to live. However, if you do not follow the ten commandments, if you do not have the Fruit of the Spirit, if you do not go out in the Full Armor of God, if you do not go out believing that the Golden Rule is a wonderful, working rule in your relationships with all people, then all of the conversations that you will have will fall on deaf ears. What you are speaks louder than what you say.”
And to that I say a hearty “Amen!
While we, as Christians, are to respect people and obey our authorities, we should stand up for truth and righteousness. No one else will. (Note: We are to obey those in authority over us UNLESS they demand that we disobey God and Holy Scripture.) We are not to be argumentative but freedom of speech applies to all sections of our society. So let’s exercise that freedom. As Edmond Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Therefore, the only time we will lose the right to pray or speak openly is when we vote into office ungodly – or fearful – people, then cooperate with them when they attempt to deny us our inalienable/Constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of worship.
If we want to retain our freedoms, we must vote into office people who also want us to have those freedoms.
But many in the world live under a different historical and cultural setting. They do not have the freedom of speech or freedom of religion built into their culture. What are they supposed to do? How are they supposed to live?
My answer ultimately applies to everyone living in the United States of America and everywhere else. We are to live according to the principles as found in Holy Scripture – the Bible. My reasoning is simple: if I live to please and honor Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, I will have a home in heaven forever even if I am killed here on earth for my faith. This life is so short anyway – why not prepare to live forever with God in heaven?
That way, I will always have the freedom to express my faith as long as I live. No one can ever take that freedom from me.