Christians are frequently accused of trying to impose their values or their beliefs on others. The oft-heard accusation is that Christians are trying to “shove their religion down our throats.” In addressing this question, we must also address the implied accusation that Christians are an authoritarian group that seeks to impinge on the rights of others. Of course, there have been tyrants who were professed Christians, but true followers of Jesus Christ do not seek to infringe on anyone’s basic human rights. The same God who granted volition to the believer also granted volition to the unbeliever.
God extends His general blessings to everyone (Matthew 5:45); therefore, freedom for all is a Christian value. Man is a special creation of God (Genesis 1:27); therefore, human dignity and respect for the individual are Christian values.
Some say that it is wrong to try to “legislate morality.” We say that it is impossible not to. Every law “imposes” someone’s moral “values” on someone else. A law that prohibits murder, for example, imposes a belief that murder is wrong and upholds the Christian tenet that human life has intrinsic worth.
Almost everyone agrees that murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and greed are wrong. Most people agree that respecting one’s parents is right. This sense of right and wrong, woven into the fabric of our society, reflects six of the Bible’s Ten Commandments. Those who object to the “imposition” of Judeo-Christian values should perhaps work to repeal the laws against murder, perjury, and theft.
Christians don’t want to impose their values, but they do recognize that, in every society, someone’s values must reign supreme. The question is whose values will predominate? There is no such thing as a neutral value system. Therefore, Christians work to advance their values in the sincere belief that, in a world of competing convictions, Christian values best promote the general welfare and preserve the domestic tranquility.
Christians don’t want to impose their values, but they do see the importance of having an authority higher than ourselves. Societies which attempt to produce a moral code based solely on human rationale can be manipulated by whoever has the most votes or the most weapons. Whether it’s the case of a humanistic despot such as Joseph Stalin or a collective tyranny such as the French Revolution, the exclusion of Christian principles leads to less freedom, not more.
Christians don’t want to impose their values, but they do want to live peaceably in whatever society they dwell (Romans 12:18; 1 Timothy 2:2). Christians are obligated to do good to all (1 Corinthians 6:10) and to pray for everyone (1 Timothy 2:1). Christ taught His followers to return blessing for cursing (Matthew 5:44), a teaching which He modeled perfectly (1 Peter 2:23).
There are some who wish for a purely “secular” society where religion is relegated to its cloister and all Christian opinion is silenced. To those individuals, we offer these reminders:
1) Christians have as much right to be involved in the political process as anyone else. This means they may vote, rally, lobby, caucus, and hold office just like any other citizen—all the while promoting laws that reflect their own values. Christians do not seek to subvert the political process; they engage it, as it is the right of every citizen.
2) Christians in a pluralistic society have as much right to voice their opinions as anyone else. This means they may broadcast, write, speak, publish, and create art as they will—all the while voicing their own view of morality. Christians are sometimes accused of censorship, on the basis that they have criticized a certain book or have objected to their tax dollars funding anti-Christian speech, but they are not burning books. The reality is that freedom of expression is a Christian value.
3) Christians in a religiously free society have as much right to live out their beliefs as anyone else. This means they may preach and teach the gospel and live according to the Bible and their conscience. When a Christian says, “You must be born again” (John 3:7), he is not trying to impose his values; he is speaking the truth, which anyone is free to accept or reject.
There is no doubt that when Christians share the joy that comes from faith in Christ, some see that as an attempt to impose Christianity on others. But the truth is that as Christians, we know that we have the antidote for human misery in this life and an eternity in hell in the next. To not share that cure with others, as we are commanded by Christ to do (Matthew 28:18-20), would be like knowing the cure for cancer and refusing to share it with the rest of the world. We can’t force our beliefs on anyone; all we can do is offer them the cure and pray they will accept it. If some see that effort as “imposing” our beliefs on them, that is a matter of their perception, not a reflection of reality.