Friday, September 12, 2014

Religious Freedom

By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil – 

Our nation’s forefathers were Christians, and they wrote often they believed the battle to attain their liberty was won due to their reliance on God and the Holy Bible. Through the years, Americans and their leaders enacted laws that reflected biblical values and principles. We remained a highly moral country for almost two centuries, largely because our people wove their Christian beliefs into all parts of their lives, including the public arena.

What happened to America from 1776 to the present? How can we explain the immorality that exists today? Where was the church in this unfortunate battle that ignored historical precedents and an established culture based on moral values, in order to introduce anti-biblical, moral defying laws? How did we slip so far away from the godly standards America once valued?

If there could be one time in history that stands out as indicating a change of direction, it would be the Supreme Court decision to remove prayer from our schools. Some argue that ruling was just a consequence of a society that had slowly morphed into one less religious and more secular. But there is little evidence to prove that is true.

However, It is rather astonishing that not a single legal brief from a Christian church or organization officially opposed that Supreme Court case; a decision that most see as the “beginning of an escalating downward trend.” That fact indicates the true cause for America’s moral decline may be due to a change of attitude within church leadership, that had begun to intentionally ignore all things political and/or controversial. That trend continued and exists today.

There may be many good reasons and excuses for that major change, but the results for both the church and society have been devastating. Church membership has drastically fallen, immoral laws and thus immorality abounds, and our nation and people no longer resemble that of our of our amazing forefathers.

Christians must fight back

So, should we just give up and admit America has declined so much that we can never restore those days and all we have lost?  Absolutely not!  The Church can survive this lapse, but it likely will require our spiritual leaders to become involved in the battle, rather than remain casual observers who rationalize they have no responsibility in what is happening to our culture. They are the one who have the platform and trust of those who want morality to regain its former place in our lives, but need instructions and information to do so.

Church leaders in 1776  led their people into a war for altruistic purposes. Today they just need to lead their people into voting booths armed with facts that enable them to make the right choices.

That is how Christians can fight to regain our lost freedoms and principles, without the traditional weapons of war. This victory can be won through the power of  prayer, words, and inspiration from God.

Our ancestors tasted the bitterness of subjection to a tyrannical King who cared little for them. Today we are experiencing an overbearing, power hungry government that is largely secular, with a largely anti-Christian agenda. Our ancestors could not live with tyranny, but sadly Christians and their church leaders today do not seem as concerned about the issues, direction, and spiritual health of our county, at least not enough to take any action that would help reverse the trend.

Church leaders claim that it is not their duty to educate their congregation about anti-Christian laws or to provide enlightening information at election time, but, if not them, who then? Most people are so busy with their lives, they do not have time to keep up with the myriad of political issues and laws. The majority are likewise completely unaware of what is happening to our society due to new laws that invite immorality. Who better to give them facts than the entity they can most trust with the truth: Their Church leaders.

The Black Robed Pastors were willing to die by the sword for freedom; Church leaders today are not asked to die, just to speak out against morality and to thwart the efforts of those enacting anti-Christian laws that are incrementally destroying America. Will they enlighten their parishioners; equip them with truths and allow their congregations to become informed “points of light” in their neighborhoods, at their jobs, and possibly even at town hall meetings?

Heed these words in a 1944 speech by Norman Thomas, an American socialist and a six-time Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America, then consider how close they are to our current condition:

The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened.

One hundred sixty eight years earlier, Samuel Adams, as a Founding Father, an architect of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States, and second cousin to later U.S. President John Adams, expressed this prophetic warning:

If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.

There is a glimmer of hope in that some Church leaders are awakening to the reality that they must begin providing facts about bad bills, laws, and procedures that negatively affect and impact Christian families. That indeed would be exceedingly helpful to families, and has the potential to change the direction of our Country.  However, they are few and far between.

Everyone needs a source whose opinion they greatly value to provide critical information about controversial issues; not just any source, but one they can trust. Christians can combine their voices, and thus have a positive impact on the culture.  We applaud the pastors who have awakened to become beacons of light to the body of Christ.  Meet the new “Black Robed Regiment” who are stepping forward to protect the church and our country. May many more follow.

Black Robed Regiment message needs to be heard today!

During the week of August 24 through the 28th, The Illinois Family Institute, David E. Smith, Executive Director, held ten special events in different areas of the state featuring Pastor Dan Fisher and his presentation titled, “Bringing Back The Black Robed Regiment.” Pastor Fisher is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, Oklahoma, and also serves in the Oklahoma state legislature. As one of the first original Pulpit Freedom Pastors, Fisher is on the boards of Bott Christian Radio Network, Reclaiming America for Christ, and Vision America.

One presentation was held in the Bensenville church of Pastor John Kirkwood, who is Associate Director of the Christian Emergency League (CEL). To learn more visit christianleague.org.  A core strategy of the CEL is to is to partner with like-minded believers in prayer and finances to advance Christ and the morals set forth in the Holy Word of God. Its goal is to partner with like-minded Christians to form a chapter in all 50 states and territories, although the core of the CEL will most likely be drawn from pastors.  Never to be dismissed by church leaders are these words of warning by German patriot and Lutheran minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer during WW II which ultimately cost him his life:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

Such powerful words. They should be put in cement for future centuries to observe, consider, and embrace. Pastor Kirkwood, Associate Director of CEL, can be contacted at (309) 863-5196 or P.O. Box 300, Bensenville, IL, 60106.

This video shows Pastor Fisher recounting the story in a Black Robed Regiment presentation through the eyes of Rev. Peter Muhlenberg, the minister who spearheaded the Black Robed Regiment movement. In his impersonation of Rev. Muhlenberg, Dan Fisher, appearing on stage initially wearing a black robe, unrobed to reveal a military uniform underneath, as did Rev. Muhlenberg, when at the conclusion of his Sunday sermon on January 21,1776 he declared:

In the language of the Holy Writ, there was a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away.  There is a time to fight, and that time is now coming!

Marching to the rear of his church, the Emanuel Lutheran Church in Woodstock, Virginia, in his full military uniform, Muhlenberg declared, “Who among you is with me?”  On that day one-by-one men from his congregation stood up and joined Muhlenberg in the fight for liberty. They embraced their families and walked down the aisle to add their names to their pastor’s, as others from the community heeded the call.

Shortly afterwards the Woodstock congregation and community watched their men ride off to war with pastor Muhlenberg riding in the lead as part of the 8th Virginia Regiment, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

It’s now or never for church leaders to take a stand to become the Black Robed Regiment of todayin order to preserve religious freedom for generations of Americans to come, remembering that freedom is a Gift from God.  It is time for pastors to speak boldly and their civic duty to do so.  Step up to the challenge today and become among the ranks of The Black Robed Regiment of the 21th century.

Part 1: Thorner & O’Neil:  Calling all Christians  

Part 2:  Thorner & O’Neil: Calling all Church Leaders 

Part 3:  Thorner & O’Neil:  Church falls short if evangelizing is sole purpose 

Part 4:  Thorner & O’Neil: Patriot preachers of the 18th century 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

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By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil – 

Patriot preachers of the 18th Century, in becoming prophets of liberty and truth, set the stage for the Revolutionary War. Hated and feared by the British, they were referred to as the “Black Robed Regiment.” Believing the Bible addressed every subject, including politics, patriot pastors boldly preached about spiritual and civil liberty. When, however, the inevitable clash came they exchanged their black robes for military uniforms, leading men onto the battle field to face the dreaded Redcoats. For in the minds of patriot preachers religious (internal) liberty and civil (external) liberty were inextricably connected.

Accordingly,18th century pastors saw no need to separate church and state. They believed it was wrong to do so, as did Thomas Jefferson and most of the other Founders, despite holding to a strict adherence of separation of church and state. What Jefferson and preachers and congregations of the day adamantly opposed was the establishment of a government-sponsored church.

Nevertheless, they wanted Christianity to be the dominate faith in America, believing that religion was critical to liberty and fair government. Furthermore:

  • The overwhelming majority of the Founders were not atheists and desists, as many on the Left believe.
  • The patriot preachers believed it a sin not to mix church and state.
  • The patriot preachers taught that only godly leaders should be entrusted with the reins of government.

Even today, seven states still have a clause in their constitutions that disqualifies atheists from holding office or testifying as a witness in any court. 

Hear what David Barton, president and founder of Wall Builders, has to say on this YouTube video of “The Black Robed Regiment.”

Black Robed pastors play an important role in Revolutionary War

How fitting that the shot heard around the world that started America’s War of Independence was fired in Rev. Jonas Clark’s churchyard in Lexington, Massachusetts on the morning of April 19, 1775.  Rev. Jonas Clark, with the help of Captain John Parker, who had been training church members and other citizens in Lexington to fight as a military unit, led the Lexington Minutemen out to face the British. Not commonly known is that when Paul Revere rode through Lexington on the night of April 18, 1775 crying, “The Regulars are coming,” he was headed to the house of Rev. Jonas Clark. John Adams, who later became this nation’s second president,  proclaimed “Oh what a glorious morning this is” when told of the stand made by Pastor Jonas Clark and his Minutemen against the British Redcoats at Lexington.

Rev. James Caldwell of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, organized and led a sophisticated group of spies who kept General Washington and his army informed of the enemy’s movement. Fighting alongside his troops, Caldwell gave his life for the cause of liberty.

By the time the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, pastors and their congregations from all over New England had rallied to the cause. Having marched to Boston, they joined with the rest of the Continental Army, dug in and prepared for a fight. Rev. Samuel McClintock of Greenland, New Hampshire, fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill (Three of McClintock’s four sons died defending liberty.). Rev. David Avery of Gageborough (Windsor), Vermont, with hands uplifted as he stood on Bunker Hill, asked “for the blessing of Heaven to crown our unworthy arms with success.”

Pastor Daniel McCalla of Charleston, Pa., offered his services at the outbreak of the war.  He was later captured as a prisoner of war.  Because of the deep hatred by the British for pastors who sided with the colonies, McCalla was imprisoned on a prison ship, as were many preachers, where he suffered misery beyond imagination for the cause of liberty.  Baptist preacher Charles Thompson was likewise sent to a prison ship where he died, after suffering horrendous conditions that many considered a fate worse than death.

Twenty-five-year-old Pastor Joab Trout on the eve of the Battle of Brandywine, Sept. 10, 1776, dying the next day fighting for freedom, offered a prayer for God to prosper the cause.

During the darkest days of that awful winter of 1777 – 1778 at Valley Forge, ministers Peter Muhlenberg, Joab Houghton, and David Avery served as chaplains for General George Washington, preaching to the discouraged and beleaguered troops to lift up their sagging morale. It was the preaching of the Black Regiment that, to a large degree, got the army through that bitter winter and helped save its ranks from being destroyed by desertion.

Liberties threatened once again in 21st century

The War of Independence is not yet over!  Not unlike the tyranny our Founders faced in 1776, this nation’s civil and religious liberties are being swept away in the 21th century one by one. As this nation edges closer and closer to the brink of disaster, the modern church and its leaders do not resemble those who fought and died to be free men. Few ministers seem aware of the problems this nation is facing, largely ignoring the highly organized enemy closing in around the Church. As for believers, they feel safe and protected within the church.

It was a different America in 1831 when Alexis de Tocqueville visited this country. Traveling widely, he took extensive notes about his observations and reflections. Returning in less than two years, Tocqueville published a report which resulted in the publication of De la démocratie en Amerique in 1835. Tocqueville had this to say about the role of religion in America:

It must never be forgotten that religion gave birth to Anglo-America society. In the United States, religion is therefore mingled with all the habits of the nation and all the feeling of patriotism, whence it derives a peculiar force.

Much has changed from that century to our own. The war fought then was with guns, swords, knives, and cannons. Today the war is fought with cleverly crafted words, political alignments, and a less than perfect media that chooses sides and the agenda the public will hear and read. The war of 2014 is far less bloody, but just as deadly, and definitely more difficult to win. In 1776 not everyone wanted war, but at least the issues were not all that complicated. It was about liberty: freedom for their families.

Today the issues of war have become far more difficult to understand. Largely problematic is how difficult it is for the public to discern truth from fiction.  Even more worrisome is that far fewer Americans care to even enter the battle of words,  attempt to discern what the truth really is, or what their role might be in the battle. With all the other cares within our lives, engaging in political words or actions today just requires too much time and becomes emotionally consuming. Americans have grown comfortable in their ignorance, avoiding the tough issues because they can. How much longer will it be before we become like the “frog in water” example: Comfortable until the water is too hot to move, and then there is no hope of survival.

What prompted such a dramatic change in the mentality of our people? There will always be dissension in the battle for ideals, but the balance can change and a side ultimately wins due to a single event that sets a new course. In the 20th century a grave mistake was made by the Supreme Court when the encouragement of religion was confused with the establishment of religion. The outcome restricted reading the Bible aloud in school, praying at school functions, and hanging the Ten Commandments in a classroom. That has since extended to removing prayer and the Ten Commandments from many other public places, where they once were considered essential. When God was removed, it left a vacuum quickly filled by the enemies of Christianity.  And what was filled by this vacuum?  What we have today, a society that borders on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Part 1: Thorner & O’Neil:  Calling all Christians    http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/09/ready-thorner-oneil-calling-all-christians-.html#more

Part 2:  Thorner & O’Neil: Calling all Church Leaders  http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/09/thorner-and-oneil-calling-all-church-leaders-.html#more

Part 3:  Thorner & O’Neil:  Church falls short if evangelizing is sole purpose  http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/09/thorner-and-oneil-church-falls-short-if-evangelizing-is-sole-purpose-part-iii.html

Part 5:  Facing a crisis much the same as the one faced this country in 1776, pastors and Christians must respond to God’s call and fully engage the culture before we lose our religious liberties and our opportunity to freely promote and practice our faith.