Gary: Now, Religion in the News. This week’s item is from United Press International, with the headline, “Southern Baptists Could Face Arrest for Evangelism if French Pass Law—Southern Baptist missionaries and lay persons who share their faith in Jesus could be imprisoned for up to two years under a proposed French law that accuses religious proselytizers of ‘mental manipulation’ of the public. Southern Baptists are just one of 173 religious groups labeled ‘dangerous sects’ by members of France’s socialist party. The proposed bills aims to limit the spread of what French officials have called ‘the mental manipulation of the public by evangelical and other religious groups.’
“Morris H. Chapman, president and Chief Executive Officer of the SBC’s executive committee, said he was concerned about the proposed legislation. ‘It is particularly disheartening that the selfless act of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ could be equated to the mental manipulation of the public,’ Chapman said. ‘God does not desire to control the minds of men but to change their hearts.’
“The proposed crime, which critics say could cover many religious advertising and interest groups, is to exercise serious and repeated pressure on a person in order to create or exploit a state of dependence. The bill would allow the French government to shut down a religious group when two representatives are found guilty of at least one legal infraction. Currently, the International Mission Board has forty workers in France and has had an established missionary presence in the country since 1960. Duane Hastings, a spokesman for the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said the French proposal is not surprising. ‘It isn’t surprising, given the climate of increased repression and persecution of Christians in many countries around the world,’ Hastings said. ‘It would behoove Southern Baptists to be aware of this proposed legislation and make their concerns known to the US State Department. It is inappropriate for any government agency or faith community to attempt to intimidate or silence any other entity in a public or private expression of their faith,’ Hastings noted. A senior State Department official told The Washington Times the proposed law has raised concern in Washington. ‘In a worst case scenario, it could turn out to be nasty piece of legislation,’ the official said.”
Tom: Dave, as you know, in Europe, when they use the word…well, they call it “dangerous sect,” that’s another term for “cult.” So, they’re saying basically that Southern Baptists or any evangelical who proselytizes, who shares his faith, shares the gospel, could be imprisoned as a cult individual.
Dave: Yeah, let’s take it back, Tom, to where this began, Tom. It really began with the Reformation—before the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church was the official church, and it was a state church. It was always in partnership with the emperor, the governor, the king, or whatever. Then at the Reformation, there was supposedly a break with Roman Catholicism, but now there were two state churches. Lutheranism became a state church as well. So, when you go to Europe today, all over Europe—Denmark, Scandinavia… Or, let’s go to Switzerland. You have Cantons, they’re called. These are states. You either have Catholic states or Protestant states. And the salaries are paid—the pastors are paid—by the government. So, a “free church,”—this is where, for example, Evangelical Free Church originated. By “free church” they meant, “We’re not under the government. We’re not partners with the government. They don’t pay our salaries,” and so forth.
So, now, the Baptists come in—they’re not a government-sponsored entity. They’ve got to be either Catholic or Lutheran, so now, they’re a “sect!” But, Tom, what concerns me is they can manipulate the public with their media, with their TV, and so forth. They can manipulate the public by telling them that evolution is an established fact when in fact it is not. You can manipulate the public in many ways. Tell them that homosexuality is okay, and so forth. But when you try to tell them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then you’re manipulating!
On the other hand, Tom, there is some concern. There are cults, like the Moonies, who do try to brainwash people and control them, so I can understand on one hand the concern. On the other hand…
Tom: The bigger concern here is, if you don’t go along with what the state says, you’re a cult.
Dave: Right. Right.
Tom: And Christians are really suffering in these countries, France in particular. Children are take away from their parents because their parents are trying to teach their children the Bible, encouraging their children to attend Sunday School or an evangelical church or whatever, and…
Dave: Children are divorcing their parents in many places. In many of these countries it’s against the law to homeschool!
Tom: It’s a growing concern, not only in this country but in other countries. We’ve talked in past programs about legislation in this country as well, that just twist it a little bit, or give it a shade of this or a shade of that, could end up with Bible-believing Christians in prison.
Dave: Well, it used to be the Soviet Union that was the example of oppression and not allowing freedom of conscience, and putting Christians in prison, and so forth. Amazingly, they’re open—they’re open to the gospel, to teaching the Ten Commandments in the public schools, and so forth. In the United States you couldn’t do that.
And, of course, it is growing in influence around the world, this oppression of people’s minds in opposition to the gospel, which wants to set them free. So, it’s something that we need to be concerned about.
On the other hand, we’re not going to stop preaching the gospel. We do not stop preaching the gospel because the government says we can’t! And we know that this is the only hope for mankind, so whether they put us in prison or kill us, whatever they do, we must preach the gospel. Jesus said, “Go into all the world, proclaim the gospel,” and where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty, not oppression.