In the weeks before Christmas, many Christians read about John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke.
They see that ordinary people came asking John if it was possible for them, too, to prepare the way for the Lord. Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers came as well, asking, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
John told the crowds to share their belongings. But he did not say they could only follow Jesus if they become clerics or gave all their belongings away. That special call may be for some, but the Gospel of salvation is lived in the daily life of ordinary people, in their families, and their businesses.
Christmas is the good news that God enters our daily lives. It also means that integrity in our daily lives is not optional or secondary. Denial of Christian discipleship in your family or business leads to social and personal injustice—it is a rejection of the Christ who first came to peasants and shepherds.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration, seeking more and more control over the lives of Americans, denies that faith can be exercised in daily life. Because religious freedom is an obstacle to what these bureaucrats wish to impose through ObamaCare, the administration’s attorneys have told me three times in open court that religious exercise can only exist in private and in church—not in business and even not in Bible publishing.
Echoing this view, some Christians supporting Obama urge that religious people accept exemptions from ObamaCare’s mandates that would protect only churches and associated non-profit organizations. This would let the federal government crush the Christian laity's conscience with abandon.
Defining religion as merely private or “churchy” denies that ordinary people possess conscience in their daily lives and work. It is essentially a clericalist view, maintaining that only official religious leaders and their non-profit organizations act as the church.
The Obama administration's version of John the Baptist would have told the tax collector and soldier that they can continue exploiting vulnerable people, because the Gospel only affects the consciences of the Scribes and Sadducees.