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Persecution and the Planning and Zoning Department

Have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law?

In a nutshell, Murphy’s Law states that in this world whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

So reliable is this principle some scientists have even called this tendency “The Fourth Law of Thermodynamics”.

We see it in action all the time.

Like the indisputable fact that the lane of traffic you just pulled over into will immediately begin moving slower than all the others.

Or that your cell phone will drop at the most important part of a conversation.

Way back in the 1840’s, Murphy’s Law was celebrated in this poem:

I never had a slice of bread,
Particularly large and wide,
That did not fall upon the floor,
And always on the buttered side.

Two things my experience here on Planet Murphy has taught me to never say.

“At least it can’t get any worse!” and “We know that can’t happen here.”

Yes it can.

And inevitably it will.

The second of these tried and true applications of  Murphy’s Law has been stirring up quite a bit of controversy on the web today.

Couple: County Trying To Stop Home Bible Studies

SAN DIEGO — A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold Bible studies in their home, 10News reported.

Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.

Broyles said, “The county asked, ‘Do you have a regular meeting in your home?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say amen?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say praise the Lord?’ ‘Yes.'”

The county employee notified the couple that the small Bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of County regulations, according to Broyles.

Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed “unlawful use of land” and told them to “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit” — a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Excuse me, but when a government representative comes and declares a small gathering to study the Bible “an unlawful use of land”, aren’t we getting awfully close to the definition of institutional persecution?

When I first became a Christian in the 70’s, there were a number of movies that made the rounds portraying persecution of believers in some future form of America.

Although it made for some nice drama, I always felt like these scenarios were a little far fetched.

We have the First Amendment, right?

We have certain inalienable rights endowed by our Creator, right?

Free assembly.

Freedom of worship.

Yes, I’m sure I read that someplace – like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Apparently the P and Z department of San Diego County didn’t get that memo.

Not only can persecution happen here –

It just did.

It will be fascinating to see how this case plays out in a court of law.

Chances are, this will be revealed as the poorly thought through money raising scheme of some overzealous bureaucrat, or the vendetta of the guy down the street with the Darwin fish on the back of his vintage VW van.

But similar attempts to shut down home Bible studies have already happened in Seattle and  Colorado Springs.

Consider this incident that took place in Virginia.

A local resident made a barn on his property available for a group that held worship services.

The result?

“Garland Simmons recently received a Notice of Violation from Bedford County stating that his barn cannot be used for religious services. Simmons’ 900-acre piece of property apparently isn’t zoned for such meetings,” according to an article in WorldNetDaily.

Apparently his barn can be used for “barn dances” but not for religious services according to Liberty Counsel, who on behalf of the church, sent a demand letter to county officials stating the violation of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the First Amendment.

A few questions here:

Why is it the local planning and zoning storm troopers always seem to target Christians?

Could you imagine what would happen if a municipality denied a group the right to meet to study the Koran in a home?

And where are the “I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it” pressure groups and publicity seeking attorneys in a situation like this?

Is their deafening silence in these cases an indication that they aren’t so much interested in defending rights as much as promoting and protecting a narrowly defined, politically correct agenda?

What these cases reveal is that slowly, incrementally the basic rights we take for granted in this country are eroding away.

And when the right to worship is something granted only to a carefully vetted, government approved, pressure group pleasing few, there will be a price to be paid for our love and loyalty to Jesus and His Word.

The question we have to ask ourselves is simple, practical and personal – Are we willing to pay that price?

Would we be willing to give to our churches and Christian causes if there was no tax break involved?

Would we be willing to pay unfair financial penalties to allow the Word of God to continue to be taught in our homes?

Would we be willing to be passed over for promotions, or even lose our employment positions rather than renounce our faith in Christ?

Would we be willing to endure painful rejection, even physical abuse rather than go with the flow of this world?

TS Elliott once suggested that the world would end “not with a bang, but a whimper.”

In the same way persecution may come to believers who live in this country not by a sweeping edict from Washington.

It may begin with something as innocuous as a local city council deciding they don’t want a bunch of cars parked in front of a house for a Thursday night Bible study.

When the apostles had their first taste of official persecution, they reacted in an amazing way.

..And when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:40-42)

People with that kind of faith aren’t likely to be defeated or discouraged by a planning and zoning commission.

And if our faith begins to cost us something, who knows?

We may just find ourselves becoming more serious about our faith!


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