April 23, 2018
By Travis Weber, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty
The Bible is in the news again. Last week, the editors of GQ listed the Bible in their article "21 Books You Don't Have to Read," recognizing the Good Book has "some good parts," but concluding "overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned." One wonders if any GQ editors have ever read the Bible. If so, they might see they have just affirmed what it says about human nature's tendency to rush to judgment. Nevertheless, this news item provides some good funnies -- that GQ, which was birthed in 1957, offers its judgment of a book which predates it by about several thousand years, and which influenced the rise and fall of civilizations for millennia before any GQ editor ever entered the world. I wish funnies were all that came of this, but GQ's casually-expressed ignorance could lead many to ignore the Bible to their own harm and peril.
Such cultural sneering at the Bible may at first glance seem harmless, but these attitudes often have real-word consequences when they fuel anti-Christian hostility of some in the halls of governmental power. Take, for example, the anti-Christian impulses of the California state legislature.
There, politicians will soon vote on Assembly Bill 2943, which bans the "sale . . . of goods or services" that "offer to" or "engage . . . in sexual orientation change efforts," which are defined to include "efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex." Alarmingly, this would include basic Christian and biblical teaching and counseling against unrepentant homosexual conduct -- something that any Bible-believing Christian across America holds to.
Moreover, those bound by this bill include any "association" or "other group" -- "however organized," and are prohibited from selling "goods" which are defined as anything "tangible" and used "primarily for personal, family, or household purposes." This would include a prohibition on groups of people selling books or materials to other people for their own use which express the biblical and Christian position on unrepentant homosexual conduct. This could very likely include Christians selling other Christians counseling books on LGBT-related issues, and there is no reason why it can't be construed to include a church bookstore offering these books, and even the Bible itself.
Many have observed the serious problems with this language. First Amendment attorney David French has analyzed it and concluded it would ban the sale of books expressing the standard Christian view on this issue. After California State Assembly member Travis Allen stated that the bill would "prohibit the sale of the Bible," the supposed fact-checking site Snopes rated the claim "false." First, someone should fact-check whether Snopes is actually a fact-checking website. In addition to giving the wrong answer to the question, the website struggled to hide its bias in the process. Second, while the law would need to be enforced against the sale of Bibles, there's nothing in its text prohibiting this from happening, especially due to what the Bible says about homosexual conduct. The bill's purview clearly includes the sale of books and materials counseling according to a biblical view of sexuality. As the above analysis shows, just because the bill doesn't say "the Bible is hereby banned" (something Snopes wants to rely on) doesn't mean there won't be enforcement of certain provisions in this bill against the sale of the Bible or any other book which asserts that homosexual conduct is wrong.
If you're rubbing your eyes and don't quite believe this yet, just look at the treatment of Pastor Jeremy Schossau several months ago in Michigan. Pastor Schossau was subjected to death threats, vitriolic treatment online, and demands for a state investigation into his church all for offering a biblically-based counseling program for teens wanting answers regarding their sexuality. As these developments show, it's not only "controversial" Christian public figures that anti-Christian groups are after -- it's the eradication of biblical beliefs themselves. Many (though not all) of those Christians popularly viewed as "controversial" right now are only seen this way because they are the ones in the limelight, popping their heads out of the sand to simply express the biblical position on sexuality and taking fire for doing so. But the forces opposed to Christian beliefs on sexuality will eventually come for anyone who stands by biblical truth.
This is a tough pill for many American Christians to swallow. While Christians elsewhere in the world face the possibility of being killed for their beliefs on an ongoing basis, we have not historically had to exercise the muscle of standing for our beliefs in the face of such serious opposition. While this is changing, it hasn't reached most American Christians yet, and it's tough for them to accept that there are many in society opposed to the mere expression of biblical truth about human sexuality, no matter how nuanced and artfully expressed.
Many Bible believers across America today may think they can fly under the radar if they just don't say anything about sexuality. Some may hold back due to fear of what others would think of them, and their cowardice should be gently yet firmly called out for the sin it is. Others may believe in what the Bible says about these issues yet stay silent for what in their mind are strategic reasons -- they may want to lead with their framing of the gospel message, or something else.
Yet part of the gospel message is the clear proclamation and recognition of sin. Without this, the clear proclamation of Christ's provision on the cross for our sins makes no sense; only with the admission of sin can we enter into true freedom and peace in Christ. If we compromise on this true gospel message for our own strategic reasons, we are really failing to fully trust God.
Christians should absolutely continue to do everything we can to win every person to Christ. Unfortunately, many will try to stamp out part of the gospel message and truth itself. Are we prepared for this opposition when it comes, and are we proclaiming the truth while we are still able to do so?
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.