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Pastors face jail time, fines for refusing gay weddings

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Idaho ministers Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who say they have been threatened with jail time for refusing to conduct same-sex marriages, pose for a photo before their chapel, the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel (Credit: Alliance Defending Freedom)

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in more states than ever, will pastors be forced to perform gay weddings? Supporters of “marriage equality” have assured us that will not happen. But now it has.

Donald and Evelyn Knapp are ordained Christian pastors who operate a wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. City officials say their non-discrimination ordinance requires the Knapps to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. If they decline, they face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for each day they refuse. In other words, if they refuse a same-sex wedding ceremony for a week, they could go to jail for over three years and face $7,000 in fines.

There was a day when the Church was considered central to the culture. Stores were closed on Sundays; church attendance was assumed. In the 60’s, moral relativism led many to view the Bible as a diary and Christianity as just one spiritual option, relegating the church to the cultural sidelines. Now we are seen not just as irrelevant but as dangerous. Scriptural stands on moral issues such as marriage are castigated as bigoted and harmful.

How is our culture’s dismissal of biblical truth working for us?

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen recently called our times “the great unraveling.” From ISIS beheadings to Russian aggression to European unraveling to anti-Semitic hatred to American retreat, the world is a very different place than it was even 15 years ago. Meanwhile, animosity against Christianity is epidemic: the World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that more than 45 million believers were martyred during the 20th century. Recent studies put the number at between 160,000 and 171,000 per year, more than 400 per day who die for following Jesus.

I’ve seen a rise in antagonism against Christianity in my own work. A skeptic recently responded to one of my Tweets, “Why Twitter lets you post this [expletive deleted] is beyond me.” Another replied, “Keep preying on the gullible.” It’s tempting to respond in kind. But there’s a better way.

William Barclay was one of the best-known biblical scholars of the 20th century. In A Spiritual Autobiography, he tells of his 20-year-old daughter’s death in a boating accident. An anonymous letter came to him: “Dear Dr. Barclay, I know now why God killed your daughter; it was to save her from being corrupted by your heresies.” Barclay recounts: “If I had had that writer’s address, I would have written back, not in anger—the inevitable blaze of anger was over in a flash—but in pity.” And he would have pointed to the sorrow and grace in the heart of God.

More people are coming to Christ than ever before in Christian history. Movement Day in New York City is convening today, gathering thousands of Christians from around the world for prayer, worship, and collaboration. The Spirit is empowering similar movements around the world. Shouldn’t we expect the enemy to fight back? And shouldn’t we expect lost people to act like lost people?

How did Jesus respond to those who opposed him? How does he want you to represent him today?

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