Charles Johnson urges BJC to challenge ‘uncivil religion’ at 2005 luncheon

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By Robert Marus, Associated Baptist Press
July 1, 2005
GRAPEVINE, TX – American Christendom has become infected with a disease, and free and faithful Baptists hold the cure, Texas pastor Charles Johnson told a group of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty supporters July 1.

Johnson addressed the annual meeting of the BJC’s Religious Liberty Council during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas. Johnson, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, said proponents of a creeping “uncivil religion” are trying to politicize churches and sanctify politicians – but such tactics are at odds with the principles of Christ’s kingdom.

“The goal of uncivil religion is not to recognize God in our civil life but to represent God,” Johnson said. “God has been kidnapped, co-opted for political ambitions. Houses of worship have been turned into precincts of partisanship, and the goal of uncivil religion is for government to make converts, not citizens.”

Johnson pointed to a news article from earlier in the week in which a coalition of conservative Christian activists – including former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore – announced plants to try to get 100 new displays of the Ten Commandments posted in government buildings across the country. The campaign is in response to a recent Supreme Court decision, which ruled that some such displays violate the First Amendment’s religious liberty provisions.

“We are all for the display of the Ten Commandments – far more displays and postings of God’s law than the misdirected mind of an Alabama judge can possibly conceive,” Johnson said. “We just want them put where God says to put them – on human hearts that cannot be corrupted by powers and principalities, not on the courthouse lawns.”

Johnson also criticized those who support President Bush’s so-called “faith-based initiative” of providing government funds directly to churches and other houses of worship to perform social services. He compared churches’ decision to take the money to Jesus’ temptation while he wandered in the wilderness.

“The devil offered Jesus a voucher system, and he didn’t take it. If Jesus had wanted us to build his kingdom with the government’s support, he would have taken the devil’s option,” Johnson said. “Jesus knew that you can’t take the blessings of God and the buy-out of the government at the same time.”

While the news about religious liberty may seem discouraging, Johnson said, he sensed “great power” in the room waiting to storm the gates of hell with a gospel of freedom.

“The gates of hell are shaking because of you, you powerful men and women,” he told the luncheon crowd of about 500. “God has claimed you to build his kingdom of love, and no high priests and false prophets of demagoguery can deter you from that.”

In other business, Religious Liberty Council members – any individuals who contribute to the Baptist Joint Committee – approved minor alterations to the group’s constitution and bylaws and elected officers.

RLC members re-elected Reginald McDonough of Tennessee and Sharon Felton of Texas as co-chairs. They elected Henry Green, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Annapolis, Md., as secretary.

They also elected three new representatives from the RLC to the Baptist Joint Committee board and re-elected two more. Bob Stephenson, a member of NorthHaven Baptist Church in Norman, Okla.; and Robert Beckerle, a member of First Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., were elected to three-year terms. Barbara Baugh of Texas and Reba Sloan Cobb of Kentucky were re-elected to three-year terms. Additionally, Johnny Heflin, a member of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, was elected to fill the remaining two years of a term.


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