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In 2004, Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola, along with a member of the Finnish Parlament, Paivi Rasanen, wrote a booklet together defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Then, in 2019, Rasanen posted a criticism of the Finnish Lutheran Church on Twitter for their association with a Gay Pride event. Bishop Pohjola went on to post that Tweet on the website of the Luther Foundation of Finland.
For doing that, Bishop Pohjola and Rasanen were charged by the Finnish government with incitement to hatred. Prosecutors were asking that they be fined 13,000 Euros (about $14,500.00 US). The prosecutors say that Rasanen’s remarks were an “affront to the equality and dignity of homosexuals.”
For a little more context, Rasanen was a doctor by profession, and served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015. She also served during that time as the charwoman of the Christian Democrats party.
Their case went to trial this past January, and the prosecutor began by trying to convince the court that the case was not about beliefs and the Bible, but about discrimination, and called the teachings of the Bible hate speech. The trial was, of course, about personal beliefs and the teachings of the Bible. In fact, the very focus of the prosecution’s case was to interpret the law on incitement to hatred in a way that would completely outlaw biblical beliefs about marriage.
Well, at the end of March, the verdict was finally handed down and Pohjola and Rasanen were cleared of all charges. But the real take-away of this trial is not in its outcome. Rather it is in the fact that the case was ever brought in the first place. If there was ever a case of persecution because of someone holding Christian beliefs, this is it.
But that was Finland and this is America. That could never happen here, right? Well hold on just a minute. The day after the verdict in Finland was announced, a news article came out about the Somerville Public School Committee (SPS) near Boston that, in opposition to state law, federal law, and the U.S. Constitution, denied a church’s application to open a Christian school. And the reason for the denial? ... they didn’t like the Christian beliefs of the church.
First, the committee sent a list of 35 questions to the church, including questions about whether the Christian school could adequately teach students due to its religious beliefs. They later came out with a statement stating, “The school’s position on homosexuality and creationism make it difficult to see how a thorough science and health curriculum is possible. ... Overall, the school was entirely contrary to the values of SPS and the idea of educating the whole child as being inclusive.” In other words, Christian beliefs are taboo! SPS requires that only naturalistic religious beliefs can be taught.
I have every confidence that as this goes through the courts, the church will win its case. But once again, the take-away of this is, “How is it possible, in America, for Christian beliefs to be demonized by the government to the extent that it has to be sorted out by the legal system?
Here is the bottom line: Naturalistic religion has become so dominant in modern society that believers in that faith who have acquired political power are increasingly feeling emboldened to the point they feel they can simply crush opposing beliefs. And the sad part of this is, Christians, over all, are not equipped to stand up against it.
We have the truth on our side. We even still have a majority of the population who believes in freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. But on average, those on the naturalistic side have more confidence, and are more willing to speak out and fight for their beliefs, than Christians. Additionally, their goals are easier to attain. They don’t have to win hearts and minds, they only have to gain enough power to dominate their opponents – even if their position is a minority point of view.
Of course, there is a way that society ought to operate that reflects reality as it really is, and it is Christian principles and values that promote that way. But Christians know that simply creating an environment will not accomplish the ultimate purpose of God – it requires a change of heart. And to promote that change of heart, Christians need to get up to speed on how to share their faith in a way that will influence the thinking and values of those who are opposed to God. In other words, we have to lead people to know a personal relationship with God, then train them to operate effectively in the increasingly hostile environment we find ourselves in.
Truth can still prevail, but it won’t unless Christians start taking their faith a bit more seriously. And to pull that off, Christian worldview discipleship training must be in the mix.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
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