Freedom from Religion

Today I happened to be reading a local newspaper, and I came across an article about seasonal displays at the capitol building in Olympia, Washington.

Apparently in 2006 a Jewish group put up a menorah display, and a Christian realtor responded by asking permission to put up a Nativity scene. When refused, he sued, and won; the Nativity scene is placed this year in the capitol building.

Not to be out-done, the local chapter of the “Freedom from Religion Foundation” put up their own placard, claiming they wanted ‘to have a place at the table’ in presenting their viewpoint.

Odd that they would pick Christmas time to make their statement — I didn’t know that this time of the year had any significance to atheists. What do they do, have an annual manger-burning ceremony, or perhaps exchange bags of garbage with their closest friends? Surely there is some famous atheist with a birthday that they could celebrate, that wouldn’t happen to be on or around the 25th of December?

Atheist display

Apparently the Nativity scene and atheist placard are side by side in the capitol building, with only a bust of our nation’s first president separating them. Sadly, the metal plaque they ordered had some sort of ‘shipping problem’, and they had to make do with a posterboard copy. Maybe they had a misspelling or something. As the scripture says in Psalm 14:1:

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

Or again in Romans 1:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.


Don’t get me wrong: I recognize that the relative freedom of speech that I enjoy depends on others being allowed to express their opinion. It makes me sad, though, and serves as a symbol in my mind of how far we’ve moved, as a nation, from being “One Nation, Under God”. I find it hard to believe that a 1950′s version of the Freedom from Religion Foundation would have acted so boldly in the face of public reverence for God — but the world has turned.

Not unusually, today’s Bible reading spoke to this, in the words of the prophet Daniel, as he contemplated his own nation’s fall from grace:

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us, including the people of Judah and Jerusalem and all Israel, scattered near and far, wherever you have driven us because of our disloyalty to you. O Lord, we and our kings, princes, and ancestors are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. We have not obeyed the Lord our God, for we have not followed the instructions he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has disobeyed your instruction and turned away, refusing to listen to your voice.

I think we are in the place we are today, because those who should have been “salt and light” in their communities, have failed to keep themselves pure, and full of savor. They haven’t passed the word of God on to their children or to their neighbors. Instead, as it says in Proverbs 28:28 (also in today’s reading): “When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding.”

I don’t think Christians can afford to go into hiding anymore. It is time we speak out, like Stephen in Acts 7, and, if necessary, accept the consequences, seeking not our own comfort or safety, but rather desiring the glory of our Lord to be revealed to a dying world!

I’ll be cowering in my house, if you need me.


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9 thoughts on “Freedom from Religion”

  1. I hear you Cowering Tim. :)

    Something that God has been showing me lately is that I (we) don’t really know what sacrifice is and we really are quite greedy. I recently read an “Our Daily Bread” article which pointed out the the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not due to homosexual behavior (although that is certainly an abomination as well ), but this is the reason given in Ezekiel:

    “This was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit” (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

    Being salt and light is so much more than speaking or living as an example, as we so often call Christianity in the U.S.; it is action toward a world in need. Serving “sinners” as we speak the truth in love. That’s tough, really impossible without trusting and obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit in God’s word and through prayer.

    Thank you for the verse from Proverbs 28, it’s perfect for the times.

  2. Tim, those verses I think are just the ones I’ve been reading this week in my Read the Bible in a Year. Are they? Do you still have the references?

    THANKS for the clear reminder and encouragment to be salt and light TODAY where we live.

    I love you kids. Aunt Kate

  3. Well, isn’t that nice?

    I want to have to have the freedom to have manger scenes and 1o commandments and such, so I think they need to have their freedom to celebrate the plaques of both solstices if they so desire. Weird, but whatever.

  4. excellent post, tim! this was on fox news last nite. and i too thot of those verse in romans when i saw it. thanks for the encouragement to stand up and be heard. but unless the Lord gives me courage, i’ll be cowering here in my house along with you!

  5. This is probably a good time for me to get on my soapbox about the ‘Separation of Church and State’.

    In college, I studied under an excellent ethics professor, Dr. Hans Tiefel. Whenever someone would trot that phrase out in one of his seminars, he would visibly wince. As Tiefel explained, the idea that the Church and the State should be separated, was intended as a protection of the Church from the State, not the other way around. Americans have misconstrued this phrase, originally coined by Jefferson, to suggest that religious beliefs (and those who hold them) have no part in public policy, yet those who framed our constitution had quite the opposite intention, from what we can tell.

    This article is a good place to start, to understand the issue.

  6. My pastor recently said the same thing as you commented above about “church and state”.

    Reading that poster is so very sad. I suppose that whomever wrote it is also a very sad person with no hope for tomorrow or eternity. It must make the Fateher weep to know that one whom He created lives in such a dark place.

  7. That’s so nice!

    I particularly loved the last paragraph of this post where you wrote “those who should have been “salt and light” in their communities, have failed to keep themselves pure, and full of savor” I completely loved this post and its got to be the best post I read this week.

  8. Did you see the follow up to this story…the fact that the sign was stolen and turned in, annonymously, to the 94.1 radio station because they had been speaking out about how they thought the sign was ridiculous. Pastor Ken Hutcherson from Antioch Bible church made his own sign about how real God is and took it to the capitol. The sign was later returned to the capitol and the athiests re-hung it with “Thou shall not steal…” posted on it. It’s turned into quite the hoopla. It’s just too bad that it simply promotes emptiness and a lack of hope. We can rejoice that we have reasons for joy this season instead of the bitterness.

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