Four Reasons Christians Must Defend Religious Liberty

Bill-of-Rights3By April 1777, John Adams—then a delegate in the Continental Congress—felt a sense of growing despair. Facing the realization that American success in the War for Independence was anything but certain, he grew concerned that his countrymen were losing their resolve to fight in the face of consecutive military defeats and that they were growing wearisome of the sacrifices necessary to secure independence and liberty for all.

Distressed but still clinging to the hope that God would come to the aid of his fledgling nation, the future president wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, in which he made this startling declaration:

“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

Perhaps the most treasured of these freedoms is religious liberty. Called the “first freedom” because of its place as the first inalienable right protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, religious freedom is also protected by the Idaho Constitution, which forcefully affirms:

“The exercise and enjoyment of religious faith and worship shall forever be guaranteed; and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege, or capacity on account of his religious opinions.”

Despite its legally protected status under our federal and state constitutions, religious liberty is under attack today.

Here are four reasons Christians should be concerned about preserving religious freedom:

  1. Our ability to openly preach the Gospel is at stake: As historian Bill Federer astutely puts it, “Our most important job is to preach the Gospel. Our second most important job is to defend our right to preach the Gospel.”
  2. Religious freedom is biblical: The Bible tells us that we are accountable to God for our religious beliefs and the actions that flow from those beliefs. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.” The Bible makes clear that civil government should neither infringe on our duties to God (Acts 5:17-42) nor coerce someone to believe or act contrary to their conscience (Daniel 1, 3, 6).
  3. Our right to live, and raise our children, according to the dictates of our faith is in jeopardy. And not only living out our faith just at home or church, but at work and in school and in public, too.
  4. Love for neighbor: We should work to ensure religious freedom is preserved not only for ourselves, but for our neighbors as well, whatever their faith may be.

Our founding fathers warned that a government willing to infringe religious liberty will soon begin violating other dearly held rights. James Madison, the ‘Father of the Constitution’ and our fourth president, rightly cautioned:

“There is not a truth to be gathered from history more certain than or more momentous than this: that civil liberty cannot long be separated from religious liberty without danger, and ultimately without destruction to both.”

The founding generation sacrificed much to secure our freedoms, as have generations of soldiers, statesmen, and citizens since. Christians today must take seriously their duty to preserve religious liberty for their neighbors and children, and for future generations.

For their sake and ours, let us recommit ourselves to this righteous cause, protecting our freedom to share the Gospel and our right to live, work, and raise our families according to the precepts of God’s Word.


This article was written for Family Policy Alliance of Idaho.


 

Is the Idea of a Christian Nation Heretical?

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Highlighting our nation’s Christian heritage, “In God We Trust” is inscribed on the wall behind the Speaker’s chair in the U.S. Capitol Building House Chamber.

Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate a nation’s godly heritage?

The answer is yes, at least according to an editorial published today in the Washington Post.

In his opinion piece, multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens asserts that Christians engage in “heresy” when they “declare the United States a Christian nation.”

As a matter of historical fact, the United States was indeed founded as a Christian nation.

From our nation’s earliest beginnings, Americans recognized God’s authority and sought to recreate society in accordance with His design. The Pilgrims and Puritans who first disembarked on American shores understood themselves to be “New Israelites” settling a “New Israel,” and later generations of American colonists explicitly expressed in government documents their belief that their communities were in covenant with God.

Our corporate reliance on God and affirmation of His truth was also evident throughout the American War for Independence. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams affirmed that “the general principles on which the [founding] fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.”

The revered Declaration of Independence, our first act as an independent nation, contains four references to God, extolling His role as humanity’s Creator, the Author of natural law and divine revelation, the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and the sovereign and providential disposer of people, nations, and history.

Even the Supreme Court formally declared America to be a Christian nation, legally and historically speaking, in Holy Trinity Church v. U.S. (1892).

Sufjan Stevens’ argument is predicated on his implied belief that it is wrong for Christians to celebrate a nation’s faithfulness to God, His natural and revealed law, and His Gospel. “You cannot pledge allegiance to a nation state and its flag and the name of God,” he writes, “for God has no political boundary.”

It goes without saying that God has no political boundary. Jesus was not crucified as a substitutional, atoning sacrifice and resurrected from the dead to give salvation to only one nation or people – He died for all people, of all races and ethnicities (Galatians 3:28). No individual should put faith in their nationality as the basis for their salvation.

However, George Washington would have disagreed with Stevens as to whether it is heretical for Christians to celebrate their nation’s godly heritage and give thanks for all that God has done for them. In his 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, our first president wrote, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”

President Washington’s sentiment comports with biblical truth: “The nations who forget God shall be turned into Hell” (Psalm 9:17). Thankfully, our nation was built on the firm foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldview. As a Christian, I pray that we recommit ourselves to that firm foundation. After all, although the Psalmist tells us that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12), he also warns, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

Ironically, while Sufjan Stevens’ editorial accuses others of heresy, he flirts with heresy himself.

First, Stevens denies that Christians should be loyal and patriotic citizens, contradicting the Bible’s teachings (Jeremiah 29:7, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1-2) and thousands of years of Christian tradition. If the Apostle Paul claimed his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22-29), why shouldn’t Christians all the more happily claim their American citizenship?

Second, by writing that Jesus “acknowledged [government] as a necessary evil,” Stevens mischaracterizes Matthew 22:21. The Bible and Christian tradition tell us that government isn’t a necessary evil. Instead, government is part of God’s design for ordering human life in a fallen world. Lest we forget, God created the nations of the world (Acts 17:26). When acting within their legitimately delegated sphere of influence, government officials are “God’s servants” for the good of their citizens (Romans 13:4).

Our nation was founded on the revealed truth of the Judeo-Christian Almighty God. Not only should Christians rejoice, but we should also recognize and assume the additional responsibility that accompanies the blessings and favor God has shown our nation by walking in obedience and working for justice in society and the world.