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Christian Freedom in a Postmodern Western World

The Gospel is the basis for freedom of speech.  Islam, which means ‘submission,’ offers the world an inseparable combination of religion and government; with no separation of religion and state, with laws that enforce compliance, with punishments for any who convert to another religion, and with a tax on non-Muslims.  Western governments, on the other hand, have established governance on notions of freedom and equality that protect the individual’s choices and lifestyle and limit government.  Over against Islam’s ‘submission,’ the West has offered ‘freedom.’

Yet the West is now turning against religion or, more particularly, against Christianity.  It is no coincidence that the more the West moves away from its Christian culture, the more it chips away at its own foundations of freedom.  This is because it is moving away from a Christian understanding of ‘freedom.’  In fact, the Postmodern West’s notion of freedom is increasingly similar to Islam’s notion of submission.

The Christian understanding of freedom is grounded in several convictions:

·       The world needs to hear the message of salvation, the ‘Gospel’ (or ‘Good News’): thus there needs to be freedom of speech;
·       Individuals need to respond in faith to the message: thus, there can be no coercion;
·       Obedience to God supersedes obedience to the State: thus, there needs to be separation of religion and State and freedom to practice religion;
·       There is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’: thus, Christian society supports what is right and permits what is wrong if people choose to do wrong, as long as it does not interfere with supporting what is right, including protecting the vulnerable from the wrongs of others.

On this last point, the Postmodern and post-Christian West has jettisoned the notion of absolutes and reduced ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to mere beliefs and cultural practices.  While nobody can consistently believe and practice this (is the Ku-Klux-Klan wrong merely because you or your social group says so, or because it is absolutely wrong?), it has nevertheless used this new understanding of truth to reshape society and culture.  There is, in fact, a new ‘right’ and a new ‘wrong’ being promulgated such that a politically correct (rather than absolute) ‘truth’ is being increasingly enforced. 

The most obvious example of this is in the area of sexuality.  What started in the 1960s as a sexual revolution that removed Judeo-Christian restrictions on sex outside marriage between a man and a woman in favour of free sex, pre-marital sex, living together, no-fault divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality has increasingly become the enforcement, not just permission, of a new sexuality, with repercussions on any who disagree.  The very term ‘LGBTQ’ and other versions of it represent a protected class that is not simply permitted but supported, not simply supported but promoted, not simply promoted but protected, not simply protected but championed through suppression of all dissent.  Those who do not support it are victimized.  ‘Support’ has become a socio-political idea of promotion, protection, and suppression.  It is edging its way to Islam’s rejection of a separation of religion and State and towards a religious-political ‘submission.’

Multiple examples are easy to give, although those who simply get their news from television will likely be largely unaware of the preponderance of cases.[1]  The case of the baker who would not decorate a cake to celebrate a homosexual wedding has gone to the Supreme Court, and so this case is in the news.  Yet many other cases are in the courts in the West as an increasingly anti-Christian society seeks to attack Christian freedom, promote non- and often anti-Christian communities, and require Christians to submit.

For example, the Judicial Conduct Committee recently reprimanded a Kentucky Family Court judge, W. Mitchell Nance, for not hearing cases of adoption by homosexuals on the grounds that this would not be in the interest of children.[2]  From a Christian perspective, the judge’s position is obvious.  It supports Christian values and does not permit a wrong where it is harmful to innocent others—children.  This notion of freedom is, of course, under attack in the post-Christian West, where the promotion of the LGBTQ community is understood to require Christian submission to the new values on pain of judicial censure and punishment.

Another example is pending legislation in the United Kingdom for compulsory sex education that promotes LGBTQ values and suppresses Christian values.  The Welsh Government, for example, intends to sexualize children of all ages and enforce on them a non-Christian ‘ethic’ that encourages free-sexual play and expression and a reporting of others who do not comply, rather reminiscent of totalitarian regimes in the not too distant past:

Preventative and protective, it will also aim to support children and young people’s rights to enjoy equitable, fulfilling, safe and healthy sexual lives and relationships over their life course, including the ability to recognise and understand discrimination, abusive relationships and gender-based and sexual violence, and know how and where to seek support, advice and factual information (e.g. on sex and gender equality/equity, sexual health, LGBTQ+ issues, VAWDASV).[3]

It is rather ironic that the West’s protection of freedom from a now Postmodern worldview increasingly involves opposition to freedom of speech (under the guise of opposing ‘hate speech’), and social coercion and State submission to laws that not only permit but support and promote anti-Christian beliefs and practices, and that punish those who do not comply.

In all this, the Postmodern, post-Christian West has found far more in common with Islam’s Sharia Law than it has with Christianity.  Where this is most easily seen is in the United Kingdom and Canada (which has ever-increasing laws against free speech in order to enforce its fanciful notions about gender and equality), but under-the-radar court cases in the United States are also pressing in this direction. 

What holds the US back from the more radical moves in other Western countries is its First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech.  Europe’s hate speech laws are being used to silence and suppress Christianity, whereas the United States remains constitutionally more permissive.  Even so, legislation in other areas at the local, State, and national levels constantly chip away at and challenge a Christian notion of freedom and place Christians in jeopardy of their participation in society.  Extreme secularists, who tend to float into political, journalistic, and administration of state-sponsored institutions like schools, are hard at work to suppress Christians and their notion of freedom.

The trajectory on which the United States was on under the previous administration was the same as that of the United Kingdom, Canada, and Western Europe.  The current context offers a respite, but the future is forecast in the universities and voting trends of the young.  A religious oppression is well underway in the West.  The irony is that, just as Postmodern values set the foundation for this new concept of freedom that promotes anti-Christian values and the suppression of Christians and the Church, it will, by the latter part of this century, give way in Europe and the United Kingdom to a religion that supports its new view of freedom as support, promotion, submission, and oppression, while destroying the liberal values that it intended to advocate.  This victory will come not by argument but by demographic shifts.

What stands against all this is the same conviction that gave rise to views of freedom in the West: the call to share the Gospel with all nations.  The Good News of Jesus Christ offers true freedom.  It is not coercive but welcoming.  It is not oppressive but frees people from the oppression of sin.  It is not 'hate speech' but tells the story of God’s love for a wayward world that is so strong that He sent His only, beloved Son to die sacrificially in our place to reconcile us to Him.  It promotes His purposes in the world He created rather than our purposes against His will.  It does not enforce submission to Christian teaching because proclamation, Good News, the response of faith, and love cannot be promoted or accomplished through submission.  It does not oppress others, but it does protect the vulnerable from the sinful choices of those who reject the Gospel.



[1] See Peter LaBarbera, ‘New 400-Page Report Documents ‘Massive’ Increase in Attacks on Religious Liberty,’ LifeSite (20 September, 2017); online: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/attacks-escalate-on-religious-liberty-in-america-new-report?utm_content=buffer7a3e4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer (accessed 23 September, 2017).  The report by First Liberty Institute is entitled Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America; available after registration at https://firstliberty.org/undeniable/.
[2] See Stoyan Zaimov, ‘Judge Opposed to Gay Adoption Over Concerns for Child Welfare Found Guilty of Misconduct,’ The Christian Post (December 22, 2017); online at https://www.christianpost.com/news/judge-opposed-gay-adoption-concerns-for-child-welfare-found-guilty-misconduct-211125/.
[3] Welsh Government, ‘The Future of the Sex and Relationships Education Curriculum in Wales: Recommendations of the Sex and Relationships Education Expert Panel’ (December 2017), p. 29; online at http://gov.wales/docs/dcells/publications/171212-future-of-the-sex-and-relationships-education-curriculum-in-wales-en.pdf