Precinct 333

Thursday, February 03, 2005

FBI Investigating Christian Sermons -- But Will It Look For Terror Links At Mosques?

The concept of spiritual warfare is a common one in Christian theology. In the evangelical church, the concept is a regular part of preaching and teaching. It is apparently also grounds for an FBI investigation. Just ask Randy Steele, senior pastor at Southwest Christian Church in Mount Vernon, Illinois. He found out that preaching on spiritual warfare regarding abortion and homosexuality will bring the FBI to your door, demanding that you answer questions and show them copies of your sermons.

When two FBI agents arrived at the church, Steele said they traded small talk for a few minutes before the suspense got to him and he asked about the nature of their visit.

Their answer stunned him.

“One guy opened a file,” Steele said. “And he said, ‘This is pertaining to a sermon that you preached on Memorial Day.’”

On Memorial Day 2004, Steele was in the middle of preaching a sermon series he called “Life Issues” dealing with controversial cultural issues from a biblical perspective. One such sermon was about abortion and Steele chose Memorial Day to preach about it.

“I shared the number of people who have died in wars versus the number who had died through ‘legal’ abortion since 1973,” Steele said. “I stated that we are in a different type of war that is being fought under the 'presupposition of freedom.’”

Steele said that he went on to name an abortion clinic in Granite City, Ill., a city just outside St. Louis, and pointed out that they perform as many as 45 abortions per week.

Somebody in the church that day apparently misunderstood Steele’s “different type of war” comment to mean that he was actually calling his congregation to a physical war against abortion clinics, so he or she placed an anonymous phone call to the FBI.

The informant allegedly told the FBI that in addition to Steele calling for a war against abortion clinics, he also said he was willing to go to jail over such a cause.

Steele said that he had spoken about his willingness to go to jail, but that he made those remarks in a different sermon that dealt with homosexuality from the same sermon series.

“I had mentioned a pastor in Canada who had been arrested for speaking about homosexuality in his church,” Steele said. The pastor said he went on to tell his congregation that “if speaking the truth means that we go to jail, then by golly, that’s where I'm going to be and I’m going to save you a seat next to me.”

“That was the major gist of why [the FBI] felt like they could come here and look through my sermons,” Steele said.

Now I know Hope Clinic. I've picketted there, years ago when I lived in the St. Louis area. It is the biggest provider of abortions in the region. Of course it would be mentioned by name. And saying that you are willing to go to jail for preaching the Gospel -- hardly an outrageous concept. It really isn't too different from sermons preached in black churches in the 1960s, if you stop and think about it. The pastor was simply telling his congregation what the Gospel demands of them as Christians.

Steele said he was initially a little irritated that the FBI would ask to see his sermons, especially since he had to take time away from the grieving family in his congregation to answer questions, but he said he has no plans to stop preaching messages that are culturally relevant.

“As a pastor I believe that as Christians we are called to speak the truth no matter what,” Steele said. “And we have to continue to speak that truth in love to all people and to share the message of Christ because it’s the only message that's going to change the lives of people.”

Roger Lipe, senior pastor at Woodlawn Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Convention congregation, in nearby Woodlawn, Ill., agreed with Steele’s position of speaking the truth in love to a culture that isn’t always going to be tolerant of such a message.

“Just look at what’s happening in our society and what’s happening in Canada -- the laws that have been made there -- and the pressure on Americans today to enforce hate crime laws,” Lipe said. “Obviously it’s going to mean that someday when you [as a pastor] get into your own pulpit, your own church, among your own people to preach against subjects like abortion and homosexuality and other biblical things that we’ve got to preach on, then there’s probably going to be a price to pay.”

Yes, the Gospel does call upon us to pay the price for standing up for god and His Word. Many faithful Christians have paid it over the last two millenia, standing up to governments that would force them to live their life according to some philosophy or faith other than that which is rooted in Scripture. Christians have stood up against the manifest injustices and evils promoted by government, and many have paid the ultimate price. What Pastor Steele preached was no different, and meritted not one minute of FBI investigation. I only hope that the poor soul who made that call to the FBI has been given the grace to understand what Pastor Steele was saying in those sermons.

But I have an even bigger concern than the waste of resources on the harrassment of Chistian pastors who ware speaking well-within the bounds of their First Amendment rights. What about Islamist imams? Is the FBI monitoring them, questioning them and demanding to see the texts of their sermons? After all, we in the US are at war with terrorism -- a jihad declared by radical Muslims against the United States. Or will politically correct concerns about the profiling of Muslims stop such investigations, even when the imams and their congregations have a history of supporting terrrorist groups like Hamas, preaching jihad against Christians and Jews, or distributing radical Islamist literature which is supportive of the same philosophies that gave us the September 11 attacks?

In short, will loyal Americans who peacefully dissent from the politically correct liberalism of the American Left be investigated while the Islamist fifth column gets a pass?


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