The New Religious Test

I hate to bring up the realm of politics on this blog, but I can’t help but make note of some interesting events which have taken place in Virginia during this campaign season.  Frankly, I can’t remember a time in the history of the Commonwealth when the different worldviews of the respective candidates were set in such stark contrast with each other.  That’s very telling, isn’t it?  This year we’ve been blessed with three candidates for statewide office who have, more or less, a very defined Christian worldview.  One of those candidates is E.W. Jackson who is running for the office of Lieutenant Governor. 

Apparently this is a sign of the times, but Jackson has caused an uproar in certain sectors of the media because he had the audacity to affirm–in church, no less–a bare-bones, orthodox position which Christians have held for the past 2,000 years.  Simply put, he stated that those who are outside Christ are practicing false religions of whatever sort.  Yet we’re led to believe that this is supposedly controversial.  Jackson was demonstrating the accurate implications of Jesus’ teaching in John 14:6, showing the exclusivity of the Gospel message.  It really says a lot about modern society that anyone–even liberals in the media–would be outraged that a Christian would dare say that there is no salvation outside of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As mentioned before, this was said in a church.  In fact, it was a sermon he delivered.  This wasn’t a political event.  Yet this is being trotted out to discredit Jackson as a potential officeholder in the Commonwealth.  The bottom line is this: what we see here amounts to nothing more than a thinly-veiled religious test imposed by those on the cultural and political Left.  What they’re saying is, “You’re not fit to govern if you happen to believe that salvation comes through Christ alone.”  Of course I’m not suggesting that the Left is using the power of the state to impose such a test, but there’s a religious test nonetheless in the form of media ridicule and the manufactured controversy thereof. 

Last night I watched the debate between Jackson and his opponent, Ralph Northam.  The differences couldn’t be more striking.  Northam is typical of what we have come to expect from politicians these days: adamantly pro-abortion, openly pro-homosexual, supports the environmentalist agenda, is no friend of home-education, and is a statist to the core.  No big surprise there.  We know what we’re getting with Northam and I’m grateful that he was honest enough to state his views openly.  And sure enough, the statement from Jackson’s sermon surfaced and became yet another opportunity for Northam to go on the attack.  The moderator posed the question to be sure, but I’m still amazed that people want to focus on this.

Of course we know that the Gospel will always be offensive to the world (1 Cor. 1:18) and that the followers of Christ will be hated because the world first hated Him (John 15:18).  There’s nothing new under the sun.  The church has seen this before and will see it again.  But what makes this incident unique is the fact that Virginia has had, in recent history, a Christianized culture.  Has that faded?  Perhaps it has, but I’m still amazed at how rapid of a decline this has been.  Northam repeatedly stated that such divisive views have “no place” in modern Virginia.  In other words, he’s saying that the Christian ethos upon which our Commonwealth was founded ought to be abandoned in favor of his universalist worldview.  How trendy.

In the debate, Northam did everything he could to paint Jackson as some type of extremist on the fringe of society.  But honestly, is that not the normative view of Bible-believing Christians in modern society?  We’re in a new era in which we can no longer take for granted a polite rejection of Christian truth claims.  And it’s going to get worse over time, as some have pointed out.  When viewed through the world’s lenses, we are indeed a fringe element that must be driven from the confines of civil society.  Christians will not bow down before the false gods of “Tolerance” and “Diversity.”  We will not pay heed to the pagan goddess of “Choice.”  Nor will we give unto Caesar that which rightly belongs to Almighty God.  That’s what makes us dangerous.

The treatment given to E.W. Jackson in this election cycle is an example of the radical implications of the Gospel.  We are to forsake everything for Christ and His kingdom, especially if that means losing an election.  Our ultimate loyalty is to that kingdom which is not of this world.  The Virginia Constitution prohibits the State from imposing any kind of religious test, yet there’s still a de facto religious test for any Christian running for office.  We need to pray for candidates like Jackson, that they will indeed remain faithful and not bend to worldly pressure.  But even if we aren’t running for public office, the world is still going to subject us to this same test to see where we truly stand.  When that test comes, let us pray that we will be found faithful too.

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