“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” –Blaise Pascal
As a follower of Jesus, I humbly stand by the above statement. My French ancestors immigrated to this country in the 1700s to escape persecution by an intolerant church. Many of them were killed simply because their religious beliefs did not meet the approval of the dominant faith. During the Middle Ages throughout Europe, millions of Christians were killed by other “God-followers” because their beliefs were viewed as unorthodox. It’s an alarming thing that Jesus was handed over to be killed by religious people who believed His teachings were off base. They were so sure that their beliefs were right that they killed God’s Son to prove their point.
In the Middle East today, much of the chaos we see is inspired by religious fanatics who seek to impose their beliefs upon others. As far as they’re concerned they’re doing God’s will!
For over 200 years America has been a bastion for religious freedom (although it has suffered abuse at times). Yet, what we have known and enjoyed will change when religious entities impose their particular beliefs upon society through legislation. When we as a country disavow our belief in the separation of church and state and embrace religious dogma and practices at the federal level, we will be no better than many other countries who have long histories of religious intolerance. The seeds of Taliban and ISIS-like behavior are present within today’s Evangelical church and are nurtured by a combination of religious ideologues and political opportunists who believe that America’s greatness is dependent upon the passage of laws that support their religious dogma!
Scripture predicts a time in the future when pop-religion will be used to force its agenda. It is referred to as Babylon, which symbolizes confusion, because there is a segment of Christianity that is hungry for political power, yet confused about their true mission in the world.
“Ruined, ruined, Great Babylon, ruined! A ghost town for demons is all that’s left! A garrison of carrion spirits, garrison of loathsome, carrion birds. All nations drank the wild wine of her whoring; kings of the earth went whoring with her; entrepreneurs made millions exploiting her. Get out, my people, as fast as you can, so you don’t get mixed up in her sins, so you don’t get caught in her doom. Her sins stink to high Heaven; God has remembered every evil she’s done. Give her back what she’s given, double what she’s doubled in her works, double the recipe in the cup she mixed; bring her flaunting and wild ways to torment and tears. Because she gloated, ‘I’m queen over all, and no widow, never a tear on my face,’ in one day, disasters will crush her— death, heartbreak, and famine— then she’ll be burned by fire, because God, the Strong God who judges her, has had enough” (Revelation 18:1, The Message).
An Unprecedented Time
The sun rises and sets as it has for hundreds and thousands of years, and on the surface everything seems to continue as we have known it. But as Bob Dylan eloquently sings, “the times, they are a changing.” The earth is witnessing political, financial and cultural changes that we’ve never seen before. The word “unprecedented” falls short of describing it. More accurately our age is outlandish, bizarre and off the rails!
Yet God is not surprised by any of this.
Although I could not have predicted the specifics of what today’s headlines reveal, throughout my life I have read about a time in the future, when supposedly “unprecedented” things would occur:
“The people of the United States have been a favored people; but when they restrict religious liberty, surrender Protestantism, and give countenance to popery [religious coercion and force] the measure of their guilt will be full, and ‘national apostasy’ will be registered in the books of heaven. The result of this apostasy will be national ruin” (Maranatha, the Lord is Coming, Ellen White, p. 216).
What is popery? It is the notion of a godlike spiritual leader supposedly possessing the authority to tell others what they must believe and do. They use force and coercion to make people accept their definition of correct living. Revelation 13 predicts that the United States (a lamblike beast that speaks like a dragon) will eventually embrace such an order. When the nation becomes “Christian” and passes laws to make it so, the “popery” concept will be fully engaged.
“In order for the United States to form an image of the beast, the religious power must so control the civil government that the authority of the state will also be employed by the church to accomplish her own ends…” (Maranatha, the Lord is Coming, Ellen White, p. 169).
“The ‘image to the beast’ represents that form of apostate Protestantism which will be developed when the Protestant churches shall seek the aid of the civil power for the enforcement of their dogmas…” (Maranatha, the Lord is Coming, Ellen White, p. 169).
According to these statements, the day is coming when the wall that separates church and state will be eliminated. Congress and the Senate will enact laws that violate the principles of the Constitution.
How this could happen in a country that has worked so hard to protect individual rights since its beginning? Within the last couple of years, and particularly within this election cycle, many want America to be a Christian nation. They want laws that will give preferential treatment to churches that teach mainstream Christian doctrines. And they want other religious entities (those classified as non-Christian, like Islam, Judaism, etc.) to be marginalized. They want to see the very thing become reality that the Constitution forbids.
In Scripture, Jesus’ true followers are described as people who are obedient, meek, forgiving, loving, and consumed with sharing the news of God’s eternal Kingdom. Jesus referred to them as salt and light, because their lives season and illuminate the world with joy and hope! However, there is an expression of “Christianity” that is dark and foreboding. Paul warned his associate, Timothy, of its negative power.
“In the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NLT)!
This is a description of people who profess to be “Christian” but who live like the devil. Such is the condition of our world today. In many circles the Christian label no longer means what it once did, which is one reason our age is unprecedented—outlandish, bizarre, and “off the rails.”
This is a wake-up call to embrace the principles of love, compassion and grace, which are the only principles worth living and dying for!
Rich DuBose writes from Northern California.