Evangelical & Coercion

One of the most frequent debates we have in America is the one between Safety and Liberty. Actually, I believe this to be a false dilemma as if one must choose between one or the other. I will concede from the onset it is never an easy situation to navigate. However, I still maintain with some somber analysis and contemplation, you can possess both, albeit fraught with missteps and foibles all along the way.

We have one exploding issue before us today concerning the question of vaccination. President Biden has set a December 8th date requiring certain employers in America to require their workers to get vaccinated. I personally believe in vaccination, along with many professing Evangelicals simply because of the Christian mandate to care for their neighbor but voluntarily choosing to do something for the common good is radically in opposition to mandating others to do something by coercion no matter how subtle or well-intended.

One of the necessary requirements, if one is to employ critical thinking, is to display consistency in one’s reasoning ability. No matter how well-intended the original settlers to America may have been, when they used coercion on the Native Americans, they were acting in a manner wholly antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

No matter how sincere the adherents of the Inquisition or the Crusades may have been when they resorted to violence to force people to make confessions of Christ against their will, they were not bringing honor to the name of Jesus Christ. All they brought was disrepute of the name of Christ.

I would ask the reader to please pause for a moment to think of the eternal significance of people who were compelled to confess Christ. Based on this confession, did some come to believe they were saved? I shudder to think of the different scenarios that arose from this spiritual malfeasance.

The Word of God, the only objective source of truth to guide Evangelical thinking, models freedom of choices for the human being created in the image of God.

From Joshua proclaiming
Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

To the Prophet Elijah exclaiming
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follows him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

It should be explicitly clear that God expects people to possess the final say to make their decisions wholly independent of external coercion. I believe this freedom to be necessary even regarding profound and weighty matters. One of the distinct differences between Christianity and Islam is when the Crusaders sought to convert people to Christianity by force. The Crusaders were not properly representing their founder, Jesus Christ. At the same time, when followers of Muhammad promote submission by force, they are acting consistently with their chief leader’s actions.

The ability to come to different philosophical positions is one of the most cherished hallmarks of American Democracy. If we genuinely cherish and seek to safeguard liberty, that will require us to tolerate the divergent views of others even when we passionately disagree with them.

Sadly, this ideological worldview is usually missing in the public discourse that occurs both in secular dialogue (which should not be at all surprising) and in Evangelical conversation (which should be concerning and extremely alarming).

It should never surprise the thinking Evangelicals when we witness unbelievers acting in fashions inconsistent with God’s revealed truth. But it must always be frightening when we see professing “People of the Book” displaying this insidious worldview.

I disagree with former National Football Player Colin Kapernick but fully support his right to express his views, no matter how much I disagree with his thinking. I will always stand for the pledge of allegiance, but freedom means true patriots are always willing to die to allow Mr. Kapernick the freedom to come to his own convictions, and I do not have to vilify him for his beliefs.

Similariy, I disagree with much of what National Basketball Player Kyrie Irving postulates, but I fully support his right not to cave to the demands of the general public to inject a foreign substance into his body that he does not feel comfortable with.

I spent over twenty-eight years of my adult life serving in the U.S. military, ready to place my life on the life at a moment’s notice for the percepts which make the U.S.A. the beacon of light which many people risk their personal safety to come and live.

The fact one affords the Kapernicks and Irvings of the world their personal liberty to dissent makes the American concept of 😂Liberty all the more vexing and problematic. Still, we must not allow this vexation to override the idea of individual Liberty to live in a manner people believe best for them.

No sane thinking person ever posited that living in a democracy would ever be easy to navigate. Democracy, like ministry, is messy. Yet, if we genuinely cherish free speech, we will protect the speech of all the citizens of this great nation.

So, concerning the question of whether to vaccinate or not vaccinate, we must allow our neighbors, our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, each Evangelical, to come to their own convictions. We are free to employ the art of persuasion, but we never represent the name of Christ honorable by attempting to compel people by force to adopt our way of thinking.

Similarly, we do not represent the name of Jesus Christ with distinction and honor when we attempt to vilify those who come to a different view on vaccination. President Biden publicly expressed his frustration that many Americans did not share his acceptance of America’s need to vaccinate to a rate that made “herd immunity” achievable.

While I agree with President Biden in theory, I do not embrace his willingness to use the power of his office to advocate the mandate of vaccination. Practicing ministry and practicing it well and with fidelity will always be difficult, not because it is hard (and it is). It won’t be easy because it necessarily involves dealing with people.

I believe as a society, we can be safe and facilitate the ability to promote liberty. Neither will ever be absolute. That will always be a bridge too far, as long as we have unredeemed humanity living and breathing on Planet Earth.

Only the personal rule of Jesus Christ upon the throne of David offers the atmosphere of an idyllic state where Public Safety and Indivusl Liberty will be perfectly administered. Jesus Christ, and Him alone, possesses all the requisite skills to govern in this unfettered manner.

I know it will not appease some, but we must humble ourselves and realize things will never be as we would hope in this sin-stained world.

I would hope that ALL would choose to surrender their concern for the greater concern, but I am realistic and know that was NEVER possible after the Fall of Adam and Even in the garden.

So while the Bible enjoins the followers of Jesus Christ to think about the interest of others above their own good, even followers of Jesus Christ fall woefully short in their execution. So, why should erudite followers of Jesus Christ register surprise when the secular world exhibits their self-interest above the interest of their neighbor.

Yet, compelling someone must never be the “go-to” action of the professing Evangelical.

It was wrong when the early settlers in America did it to the Native Americans.

It was wrong when the Crusaders did it to their vanquished foes.

It is wrong when President Biden seeks to do it today, again, no matter how well-intended he believes he may be.

As always, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.

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