An Uncertain Sound

By David M. McNabb

Paul, writing to the saints at Corinth, said, "Even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" (1 Cor. 14:7,8). The question is not whether the battle is just or not, or whether or not one agrees with the tactics. What is in question is what command is being issued.

That is the problem facing Americans today. The uncertain sound of the governmental policies regarding the so-called separation of church and state has Christians and atheists alike reeling in confusion: with all sides trying to exploit the loopholes and undermine each other's efforts.

This is the situation: our money declares, "In God We Trust," but a Supreme Court nominee is harassed, or even rejected because of a proclaimed faith in God; we pledge allegiance to the flag which stands for a Republic that is "one nation under God," but prohibit prayer and Bible reading from the Republic's schools; the Ten Commandments are prominently displayed at government properties like the U.S. Supreme Court, yet forcibly removed from other government properties; it is legal for some employers, such as churches and other faith-based pre-school centers, to hire only people who share their religion, but if other businesses consider religion in the hiring process, it is deemed unlawful discrimination.

It is this uncertain sound that gives political activists in America the opportunity to effect change through the judiciary. Atheists attempt to exploit the doctrine of separation of church and state to prohibit any public religious expression.

In the 1960s, Madeline Murray O'Hair battled successfully in the courts to ban prayer and Bible-reading in public schools. Today's hero of atheism is Michael Newdow, who, having spent four years trying to ban the Pledge of Allegiance in the schools, is now challenging the motto printed on U.S. currency. "The placement of 'In God We Trust' on the coins and currency," says Newdow in his 162-page lawsuit filed against Congress, "was clearly done for religious purposes and to have religious effects."

Lori Lipman Brown, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, is working in Washington to shore up the wall between church and state, and to eliminate references to God, as is found in the U.S. oath of citizenship. "The courts are on our side," Brown said.

But American Christianity is not blameless. Pursuing legal action has been a mainstay for high-profile Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Robertson, a former presidential hopeful, and long-time political activist for the right to religious free speech recently used that right to suggest the U.S. "take out" Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Seeing as we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and that the sentence of death is already passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Rom. 5: 12), maybe Robertson's freedom - and his celebrity status - would have been better served by a call upon the Venezuelan leader to repent of his sins and receive the Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

While the atheists and the Christians continue to battle for legal dominance, other indicators serve to prove that not all religions are subject to scrutiny of church-state violations. For instance, Yoga, a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching suppression of all activity of mind, body, and will to attain nirvana (spiritual enlightenment), is taught in many public schools. And, in late September of this year, Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg presented the key to the city to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, an act which drew little or no protest from the "separation" crowd.

The official position of the United States government is to keep sounding a muffled tune. Paul said that an uncertain sound leads to confusion, and if we are getting our marching orders from any of the three branches of the U.S. government, we are sure to find our army in disarray.

David said, "In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth" (Psa. 71:1-5). His confidence was not in some king or constitution, but in the unchangeable God.

So what should we do? Should we continue to fight in the voting booths and court houses of this land? Is that what the Lord Jesus called us out of darkness to do?

God's people, throughout the pages of the Bible, experienced both great favor and great persecution from the many nations they encountered. In Egypt, they were spared certain death from the famine and received the best land at the command of Pharaoh, only to later find themselves suffering at the hands of Egyptian taskmasters. In Babylon, Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Abednego were respected members of the king's court, but their beliefs and unlawful religious activities got them thrown variously into the lions' den and the fiery furnace. As a result of God's intervention in both situations, the kings legalized the worship of Jehovah in their realm. In Persia, the Jews were sentenced to death by the decree of Ahasuerus, then, by the same king's decree, were empowered to fight for their lives, and enjoyed a time of relative prosperity with a Jewish queen and a Jewish prime minister: Esther and her uncle Mordechai.

In all of these situations, was it campaigning and litigation that led to the times of tolerance toward the believers in the True God? No. Whether legal or not, whether acceptable or not, these men and women of God practiced their faith with courage and boldness. They did not call upon the nations in which they lived to require their subjects to worship the Lord, nor to even legitimize such worship. They merely did what the Lord told them to do, and let the Lord fight their legal battles.

When prayer to any god but the king was declared unlawful, Daniel did not protest or make a public scene, but neither did he crawl under a rock. He went home and, without worrying that the windows were open, he prayed to the Lord, knowing the consequences.

When a death sentence was past against the Jews, Esther's first response was not one of violence or political action, but a call to her people to fast and pray.

Today, the soldiers of Christ wage war in the arena of politics and the law every day. When did the kingdom of our Lord come to be of this world? Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36).

Yet today, the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world. Therefore, we are not called to wrestle with flesh and blood, those are battles where some are won and some are lost. Our struggle is with spiritual principalities and powers, and with the armor of God and the Captain of the Lord's host calling out the orders, we are sure to win every time.

Unlike the trumpet of earthly kings, the trumpet of the Lord always sounds sure. If we will but heed His call, the Lord shall establish us an holy people unto Himself, as He hath sworn unto us, if we will keep the commandments of the Lord our God, and walk in His ways (Deut. 28:9).

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