Earlier this week, democratic presidential hopeful, Beto O’Rourke, affirmed his stance on the church and homosexuality. During a CNN LGBTQ+ townhall meeting, O’Rourke stated that he would strip away the tax-exempt status of any religious institution (churches, colleges, or charities etc.) that stands in opposition to same-sex marriage.
After the audience applauded, O’Rourke expounded upon his position, stating: “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, any institution, or any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. So, as President, we’re going to make that a priority. We’re going to stop those that are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
How should the church respond to this blatant attempt to censor the pulpit? I say we not only welcome it, but praise God for it. I’ll explain a bit later.
What are Human Rights?
First, let’s focus on the reason behind Beto’s claim—human rights. As Christians, we should rejoice in the fact that human rights are being fought for. After all, we alone have a justification for the intrinsic value of every human being. Genesis 1:27 plainly tells us that men and women were created in the likeness of the Triune God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”. No other creature was created in that manner. That’s precisely the reason why we don’t hold presidential rallies for horse-rights. Even though Mr. O’Rourke seems to deny the authority of the Word of God revealed through Scripture, he still cannot help but appeal to it.
The very reason human beings instinctively know that justice ought to be upheld is because we are made in the image of God, and there is no injustice in God. If the candidate is being honest about his motivation, then I applaud his eagerness to uphold justice by defending the rights of humans. However, I would argue that what O’Rourke is fighting for isn’t an intrinsic human right—it’s defending rebellion against the One who gives life. O’Rourke robs the justification for human value from God’s Word, yet disregards God’s call for all mankind to repent—even from homosexuality.
Granted, this is simply one candidate’s radical stance early in the presidential race. But I think overall, we’re seeing a shift in the culture—and that shift is good for the Gospel. Throughout history, the Gospel has always flourished and advanced whenever the church was pressured and persecuted. I think the opposite is true. When the church is pampered, laziness and contentment in the world inevitably creeps into the hearts of God’s people. I don’t think we should ignore the possibility that God may be using Beto to wake the Church up from the American Dream.
If we believe God’s Word, then we should believe the world is going to think the cross of Christ is utter foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). So, the Christian’s natural response to any government’s attempt to silence the commandments of God should be one of joy—as counterproductive as that may seem. Consider the words of James. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4) James begins this letter with encouraging words to the congregation who were seemingly undergoing persecution for their faith in Christ. Albeit, it’s difficult to compare simply having to pay property and income taxes with the severity of the persecution of the 1st century church. Nevertheless, this eager desire from the world to shut the mouths of pastors boldly urging the world to repent of homosexuality will likely not be satisfied with tax dollars.
The Church’s Response
If we do not praise God for having to pay money to the IRS for preaching His word, how will we be spiritually prepared if the government upped the ante by penalizing pastors and church members with prison? I don’t want this to be perceived as fearmongering, but it certainly isn’t too farfetched of an idea. After all, when same-sex marriage was legalized on a federal level in 2015, it was done so under the banner of we just want to be married. In just four years, that banner has changed from we just want marriage to accept us or pay taxes. Who’s to say in ten years the stance from the political stage won’t be accept us or die.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthian 16:13-14
Even in the face of wicked laws passed to silence the church, we are commanded to respond in love. Given the culture, love can become a subjective term. According to the world, love mostly means acceptance at any cost—hence O’Rourke’s position. In the Biblical worldview, love is truth (1 John 3:18). And the only way to truly love in this culture is to boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel with gentleness and respect—the latter likely being the most difficult. It’s easy to slip into a posture of pride when it comes to this sort of thing for American Christians, myself included. But we must remember that we are sojourners in a land that hates us for the sake of Christ.
As we see the grey areas of Christianity and worldliness become solidified into rigid black and white lines, we must remember that if it were not for the grace and mercy of God, we would be just as blind, and just as dead in our sins and trespasses as the world. (Ephesians 2:1-10) It’s an important perspective to keep during persecution. I believe it keeps us humble and keeps us holding fast to the power of the Gospel for salvation, rather than our own intellect.
No matter how this election turns out, God is still on His sovereign throne. The king’s heart is still very much like a river in the hand of the Lord to turn wherever He wills (Proverbs 21:1). So, lets pray for Mr. O’Rourke’s salvation, gladly pay taxes if necessary, stand firm in the love of Christ, and watch the Gospel spread like a wildfire.
This content first appeared on Patheos.com