Sunday, June 3, 2007

Vietnamese Christians and the Law

While I was in seminary, I read two books by John Naisbitt called Megatrends and Megatrends 2000. The books offer predictions of future changes based on trend analysis. One of the points of his book that resonate even years later was his comment on the advantage of specialized knowledge in an ever increasing world of information. Naisbitt reiterated that knowledge continues to be a source of power—increasingly so in an information age. While there are many different types of knowledge that have changed our world and affect our daily lives, the complexities of the law and its application are undoubtedly among some of the top areas that impact us on a secular level, if not also religious.

Vietnamese Americans tend to shy away from the legal arena for a number of reasons, perhaps due to a fear of confrontation and perhaps equally important, due to the potential economic costs. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, the law affects our lives one way or another. Every day, society’s laws engage and impact our lives, determining how we live with our neighbors (i.e., criminal and injury laws), do business (i.e., contract and tax laws) and even how we live out our faith (i.e., constitutional law).

We as Vietnamese Christians should utilize the law for our protection and advantage. Fear of confrontation or economic costs may in the long run cause us even more loss (without even realizing it), be it financial setbacks to a loss of religious liberty.

Consider legal costs to protect oneself like any other business cost. A successful business person often realizes that it costs money to produce or preserve money. He or she will spend money (often times called “overhead”) to produce more money, or in the case of buying insurance, to preserve money or potential loss. Though no one feels good in spending resources to make or preserve money, it is the reality of doing business and living in most societies.

Beyond the economic impact of the law, the legal system also affects our rights, freedoms and liberties. These intangible factors can be just as important or even more than the economic factors. Consider the value of spending time with loved ones, the right not to be discriminated against, the right to worship God freely or to proclaim the gospel of Christ. The practical application of the law can either allow or hinder, greatly affecting our lives.

Laws passed by congress, state government or local municipalities potentially affect millions of lives on a daily basis. The true effects of those laws are often seen when the court system renders its legal decision. In a practical sense, the gatekeeper to our economic system—affecting science, medicine, technology and business is the legal system. Whether we like it or not, we need to learn to understand and utilize the system, to not only protect ourselves and our families but to also advance God’s kingdom.

With the increase in secular humanism within the United States, Christian values appear to be attacked from all sides by way of systemic discrimination to strategic lawsuits from organizations like the ACLU meant to intimidate and silence faithful Christians from exercising their God given and constitutional rights. While such battles are far from the physical sufferings experienced by our brethren in much more oppressive countries, it nevertheless is a battle that we must wage—particularly against the powers and principalities that seek to destroy our rights and liberties. Once those rights and liberties are suppressed, it is not inconceivable to see physical persecution, as is commonly witnessed in many countries where its citizens do not enjoy equal protection of law. A German pastor living during the Nazi regime by the name of Martin Niemoller once said, “When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent for I was not a communist. When they locked up the Jews, I remained silent for I was not a Jew. When they came for the trade unionists, I remained silent for I was not a trade unionists. When they came for the Catholics, I did not speak out for I was a Protestant. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”

In the coming months, I would like to share how Christian attorneys through organizations like the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) are going face to face and battling Christian discrimination and secular humanist organizations like the ACLU all over the United States in order to preserve religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and traditional family values. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus said that the rain falls on both the righteous and unrighteous. As Vietnamese Christians, we are not immune from the impact of discrimination or the law. The laws of our society have granted us certain inalienable rights and freedom. The tricky part is knowing how to utilize those rights and having the resources to enforce those rights. In the coming months, I hope to share with you further information that could be a resource if you or anyone you know ever find yourselves being discriminated against or persecuted because of your faith in Christ.