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Join the revolution or pay the price

The modern equivalent of burning a pinch of incense to Caesar

Disney employees in Burbank, Calif., staged a walkout on Tuesday to protest Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill. Getty Images/Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

Join the revolution or pay the price
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It is a rather well-known fact of church history that the Roman government persecuted the early Christians. One of the forms this persecution took was the attempt to force Christians to participate in the cult of emperor worship. Christians were brought to a public place—often a bema seat—in the city and required to offer a small, token sacrifice to the emperor as divine. If they did so, then they were released. If they refused, they could be punished with sanctions up to and including death.

But that is ancient history, right? Surely, nothing like that occurs in the Western world today, does it?

I would argue that when Christians are pressured to say something that goes against their faith, something similar is taking place. This sort of thing happens when Christians are pressured into using pronouns that deny the doctrine of creation by asserting that we are not created male and female by God can choose any of a large number of sexual identities at will. Something similar is happening when Christians are pressured to declare themselves “allies” to forms of sexual perversion rejected as evil by the Word of God.

The pressure is on schools right down to the kindergarten level to promote sexual perversion and gender confusion as good and normal. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently came under heavy fire from media, woke corporations, and even the Biden White House for supporting a very modest, commonsense bill that prohibits adults from talking to students under the age of 9 about sexual matters. The CEO of Disney was reduced to groveling in front of LGBT activists for being insufficiently vocal in support of indoctrinating young children in homosexual and transgender ideology.

Many ordinary people just shake their heads in disbelief at this sort of thing. They find it hard to believe that there is so much hysteria from the left over any attempt by anybody to express disagreement with extreme left-wing demands. How do we make sense of it all?

It is time that Christians count the cost of what will be demanded of us in the name of sexual liberation and social progress.

First, we need to understand what is going on in terms of both religion and politics. The LGBT movement functions as a religion today. It is similar to the ancient cult of emperor worship in many ways.

For one thing, in the first and second centuries, the emperor worship cult was a relatively new phenomenon in the West, but it was spreading rapidly. For another, powerful and wealthy elements in society were latching onto it for political and self-promotion purposes. Cities, especially in Asia Minor, were competing to outdo each other as to how fervent they could be in pushing the new religion. Wealthy citizens built temples and commissioned statues. Cities declared themselves devoted to the new thing. It was a tool for climbing the social ladder, just as it functions as a social status marker today. Those who wanted to curry favor with imperial authorities or get noticed higher up the food chain took the lead in promoting the cult.

What better way to make oneself look like a fine, upstanding, emperor-loving citizen than to single out a few social misfits to round up and put on trial? The despised Christians were a minority with weird beliefs and a proven tendency to refuse to fit in with the dominant social program. They were perfect for show trials.

We can be forgiven for doubting the sincerity of the persecutors’ love for the emperor and the depth of their belief in his divinity. There were all sorts of financial, social, political, and sometimes even personal motives for going after the victims of the emperor worship cult.

All this may sound familiar because, although history never repeats itself exactly, the uniformity of human nature over time leads to similar themes being repeated in different ways in different ages. “Cancel culture” is nothing new; it flourished in the late Roman empire.

It is time that Christians count the cost of what will be demanded of us in the name of sexual liberation and social progress. Those who will not join the revolution—even those who by faith cannot join the revolution—will face stark choices. It is good for today’s Christians to remember the saints of old and the steadfastness of their faith. They suffered for their faith. Are we called to do less?

Craig A. Carter

Craig A. Carter is the research professor of theology at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario, and theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario.

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