In 155 AD, Roman authorities ordered a man named Polycarp to burn incense for the Roman emperor. Witnesses say the local authorities begged Polycarp to comply, some even acknowledging it was a meaningless act. But Polycarp refused. "Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my king who saved me?" Polycarp announced. The Roman proconsul had a pyre built to burn Polycarp.
Eyewitnesses say Polycarp told the proconsul there would be no need to tie him to the stake as he would not flee. Others claimed the flames would not touch Polycarp, so the proconsul ordered him stabbed through the heart. Polycarp's refusal to do what others told him was meaningless because he viewed it as an affront to his faith is a good lesson for Christians when confronted with the open and increasing bigotry against people of faith in the United States.
You will probably not have heard of Russell Berger. He is an orthodox believing Christian, pastor, and, until last week, was the chief knowledge officer of CrossFit. A local CrossFit gym (they call them boxes) did not want to have a gay pride event, and gay rights activists subsequently began harassing the owner of the gym. Berger, on his personal Twitter feed, tweeted, "As someone who personally believes celebrating 'pride' is a sin, I'd like to personally encourage #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to host an @indypride workout."
He continued, "The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing. The tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement toward dissent is an existential threat to freedom of expression. The lack of tolerance for disagreement, which has been replaced with bullying Twitter mobs promising 'consequences,' should be a concern regardless of your political stance." The LGBTQ community then proved him exactly right and demanded his termination. CrossFit bowed to the mob and terminated Berger for daring to express his personal views on his personal Twitter presence.
CrossFit bowing to the mob came only a few days after the Supreme Court sided with Masterpiece Cake Shop against anti-Christian bigots in Colorado. Gay activists targeted Jack Phillips, the owner and a renowned cake designer. The activists asked Phillips to design a wedding cake for them, and he declined. Though others told Phillips a wedding cake was a meaningless thing, Phillip stood like Polycarp and said God created marriage between a man and a woman and he would not use his God-given talents to celebrate a wedding that mocks God's design.
Phillips does not create cakes for Halloween, which he considers a pagan holiday, or for several other events. But he does make cakes for gay couples. He even offered to bake for this gay couple. He just declined to do the wedding cake. The couple sued Phillips, and commissioners on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission tried to destroy his livelihood.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing a 7-2 decision for the Supreme Court, sided with Phillips. The Court found that one commissioner described Phillip's faith as "one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use." Kennedy noted that disparaged Phillip's "religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical — something insubstantial and even insincere. The commissioner even went so far as to compare Phillips' invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust."
June is both the month where a Christian received protection from the Supreme Court to live his faith in contravention of the present age's zeitgeist and also the month the court legalized gay marriage. Christians in America are, like Russell Berger and Jack Phillips, going to be increasingly targeted by the mob for trying to live their faith publicly.
Christian pastors in America who devote a Sunday each year to preach on life in response to Roe v. Wade should spend just as much time preaching on why marriage is between one man and one woman and why Christians, like Polycarp, Berger, Phillips, and others should stand strong for their faith even when the world around them demands otherwise.