Last night my daughter, Laura, sent me an article from Facebook. The title of the article definitely caught my attention: “Houston Orders Pastors to Hand Over Sermons on Gays.” My first reaction was, “Oh boy! This is not good.”
I always check the source for a story such as this because there is just too much false information being flung into the airwaves, and in more recent years, the Blogosphere. The news source is credible (Newsmax), so I was confident the story was legit. The next morning I heard that FOX News had picked up the story and would be reporting on it through their radio and TV programing. Sure enough, it was a major story on the FOX evening news.
So, what’s the issue here? Well, the mayor of Houston, Texas has decided she wants to screen the sermons of pastors in the Houston area who say anything against homosexuality, gender identity, or if they even mention the mayor’s name: Annise Parker. You need to know that Ms. Parker is Houston’s first openly gay mayor. Not only is she going after the pastors for their sermons, but she is threatening to put them in jail if they do not comply. “The subpoenas came after pastors protested against Houston’s new nondiscrimination ordinance that the city council passed in June which, among other clauses, related to sexuality and gender identity, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa in an effort to protect transgender rights,” the article reported. On top of that, a pastors’ petition was passed around to acquire enough signatures to defeat the nondiscrimination ordinance. To get the petition on the ballot required 17,269 valid signatures. Over 50,000 signatures were gained. But the city attorney ruled more than 30,000 were invalid, thus defeating the petition.
I’m pleased to report that there is a lot of push-back over this, and not just in Houston, but from judicial and watchdog groups who are ever diligent in protecting and preserving our rights as Americans. The Constitution is still in place and remains the Law of the Land.
I would like to propose that Ms. Parker, and anyone else that is uncertain, ignorant (willful or otherwise), or simply too lazy to study the Bill of Rights, that they look closely at the 1st Amendment. James Madison, the drafter of the Bill of Rights, wrote the 1st of the original ten like this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
What we are witnessing here in Houston is an attempt on the part of elected officials to intimidate certain constituents who disagree with certain policies perpetrated upon the governed (i.e., the residents of Houston).
As many of you know who have been reading my column for the last twelve years, I am now retired from pulpit ministry. Isaura and I still attend the Ripon Free Methodist Church where I served as senior pastor for 16 years. We now have a fine pastor in Steve Evoy and his family who I believe will be, and already are, a wonderful addition to our community. Up until my last Sunday in the pulpit this past May, I had on occasion mentioned to the congregation that they should not be surprised if they discovered one day that I was in jail. Why would I say such a thing? Because the Bible, which I preach, and which I believe to be God’s infallible Word, speaks directly to the singular problem of the human race: We are sinners. Until that is addressed and taken care of, we fool ourselves into believing we are okay when, in fact, we are at odds with a holy God. And sinners will rail against God, striking out at the messengers. Now that I’m retired from full time ministry, do I believe I’m no longer a target of a misguided bureaucrat (like Ms. Parker) who might want to score some political points by threatening and intimidating preachers of the gospel? No, I do not.
Follow me here – God made a way for you and me to be made holy. But it’s not the way many people think, which usually centers around doing some sort of good works or penance in order to please God and cause him to see that we’re not as bad as all that. Two problems with this philosophy: 1) We are as bad as all that - and worse, and 2) We cannot do a single thing that will convince God to accept us.
This is where Jesus comes in. He is both the Perfect Man and the Perfect God who sacrificed himself for us by dying on the cross for our sins.
Houston, specifically its elected city officials, definitely has a problem. It’s a sin problem. My prayer is that the pastors of that city will stand strong in their preaching so that folks will see clearly their need of Jesus.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if God’s Holy Spirit chose this city to begin a much needed revival which could sweep across the fruited plain. God is not done with America!