RELIGIOUS LIBERTY & THE COMMON GOOD Summer 2016 Volume 2, Issue 1
Russell Moore on religious liberty for all Kelvin Cochran on faith in adversity Sen. Ben Sasse on society and freedom of religion
2016 ERLC NATIONAL CONFERENCE
O F F E R RS L A I R EA D E SPEC AZINE
F F O 2 0E % LIGHT CODE
GH FO R L I
August 25-26 Nashville, TN
E N G AG I N G T H E CU LT U R E WITHOUT LOSING THE GOSPEL
FROM THE PRESIDEN T
DEFENDING OUR FIRST FREEDOM Russell Moore
N RECENT YEARS, WE’VE seen an unprecedented turn in American culture against basic religious freedoms, freedoms that once were at the bedrock of the American consensus. Christians are and will continue to be called upon to advocate for religious liberty and soul freedom for everyone, over and against a government and a media culture hostile to the very idea. Religious liberty matters because religious liberty is an issue of worship. The state has authority from God to defend itself against evil threats (Rom. 13:1-7), but it does not have the authority to regulate what is owed to God (Mark 12:17). A state that forces a person to act against conscience is a state that has overstepped its bounds. Moreover, in an American system of government, religious liberty is everyone’s problem because the state is accountable to the people, who are, ultimately, the governing authorities. A Christian, then, who doesn’t care about working for religious liberty is a Christian who is not only wishing to be persecuted, and to consign others to persecution, but is also a Christian who wishes to be, by his silence, a persecutor of others. This is contrary to the way of Christ (1 Pet. 2:12-17). As we defend religious freedom, however, we must keep in mind two things. First, we must remember that the
majority of opposition we see to religious liberty is due to a genuine lack of understanding of what it means to be religious. This is precisely why so many opponents of religious liberty talk as if what we really want is to discriminate and exclude. When secularized or nominally religious people don't understand religious motivation, then they are going to assume that, behind a concern for religious exercise, is some sinister agenda: usually one involving power or money. That sort of ignorance is not just naive. It leads to a breakdown of pluralism and liberal democracy. Second, we must remember that religious freedom isn’t freedom from ridicule. We should seek to keep our conduct honorable “among the Gentiles,” as the Bible tells us (1 Pet. 2:12), but we shouldn’t chafe at being strangers and aliens to them (1 Pet. 1:11). When we are ridiculed and mocked, it’s probably a sign that people are starting to actually hear what we are saying. Our gospel isn’t safe and normal. Our gospel is a strange message of turned cheeks and bloody crosses and empty tombs, of coming judgment and of poured-out mercy. We should seek for laws that protect all citizens to practice their beliefs, but we shouldn’t try to use laws to numb the effects our message. Religious liberty isn’t a privilege. It’s the “first freedom,” the most fundamental of all inherent human rights. Let’s continue to strive for the conscience rights of all Americans, and let’s put our hope in the gospel that is the power of God for salvation to all who believe.
WHEN WE ARE RIDICULED AND MOCKED, IT’S PROBABLY A SIGN THAT PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO ACTUALLY HEAR WHAT WE ARE SAYING.
Andrew Walker explains why religious liberty is vital for human flourishing in a healthy society.
Travis Wussow says the lack of religious freedom is the fundamental problem around the globe. 4
Christiana Holcomb offers five common sense religious liberty protections for churches.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse on Christian witness and the cause of freedom.
Historian Thomas Kidd profiles the Baptists who shaped early concepts of religious liberty.
Russell Moore implores Christians to advocate religious liberty for all faiths.
Daniel Darling suggests three reasons pastors should preach on religious liberty.
We curated the best websites and books to help you understand religious liberty.
What is the immediate future of religious liberty? We asked three leading experts.
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE
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POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Should Christian organizations accept federal funds? Richard Land and Jed Hoffman debate. STANDING BY FAITH IN A FIERY TRIAL: Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran on the lessons he learned from his unfair firing. THE ERLC THROUGHOUT THE YEARS: Remembering Carl Henry, awarded the ERLC's Religious Freedom Award, twenty years ago.
FROM THE EDITOR BOOK REVIEWS BOOK EXCERPT
Editor-in-Chief RUSSELL MOORE Light Magazine is a publication of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
On the cover, designer Jacob Blaze asks if America has turned her back on the First Freedom.
Editor DANIEL DARLING Managing Editor LINDSAY SWARTZ
505 2nd St, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002 901 Commerce St, Ste 550, Nashville, TN 37203 Jacovides Tower, 81-83, Grivas Digenis Ave CY-1090 Nicosia, Cyprus
Graphic Designer JACOB BLAZE
MARIE DELPH JOSH WESTER
Creative Director JASON THACKER
Gospel for Life SERIES
Edited by Russell Moore & Andrew T. Walker The Gospel for Life is a series of short, accessible books on a range of urgent topics facing the church, intended for church members everywhere.
Available in Summer 2016
FROM THE EDITOR
WHAT IS RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND WHY DOES IT MATTER? “
RELIGIOUS MATTERS ARE TO be separated from the jurisdiction of the state, not because they are beneath the interests of the state but, quite to the contrary, because they are too high and holy and thus are beyond the competence of the state.” - Isaac Backus Those words by a colonial Baptist pastor frame this unique experiment in government. For most of church history, the state and the church were aligned, mostly in ways unhealthy for both church and state. The Founders, influenced by Baptist, free church pastors like Isaac Backus, John Leland (whose name graces our office in Washington, D.C.) and Roger Williams, created a system of government that allowed space for religious liberty. This space is facing perhaps its greatest challenge today, from a sexual revolution hell-bent on steamrolling conscience to saber-rattling from some wanting to restrict certain houses of worship and restrict immigration based on religion. These ongoing conversations in the public square motivated us to choose, as our cover image, the iconic Lady Liberty. The photograph we chose peers over the shoulder of the Statue of Liberty, as if to imply that religious liberty is the lens through which our cultural conversations should be viewed. It also asks a subtle question: Are we turning our back on a core American doctrine? We hope this issue informs and helps you ask important questions. Andrew Walker answers why religious liberty is essential for human flourishing. Russell Moore reminds us that religious liberty is not a right reserved simply for Christians (as our Baptist forebearers often emphasized).
Thomas Kidd offers a brief survey of Baptist history and religious liberty. We’ve also included some helpful tools for you to talk about religious liberty in your church. I offer a short workshop for preaching on this issue. Christiana Holcomb, of the Alliance Defending Freedom, gives some important guidelines for church polity. Kelvin Cochran shares his own personal testimony about what it looks like to stand up for your faith in the workplace. And Travis Wussow reminds us that the freedoms we enjoy in America are not enjoyed by most of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. Lastly, we are delighted to feature an important conversation on religious liberty with one of the most articulate young statesman in the United States Senate: Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. There are reasons for us to be alarmed at religious liberty threats here at home and reasons to pray for lack of freedoms for the church overseas. This is why we steward our citizenship well and work for religious liberty. We pray, like Paul and Timothy, for good government that protects the right of conscience (1 Tim. 2:2). But ultimately, we put our trust, not in princes or legislatures or parties, but in the King who holds governments in the palm of his hand.
WE STEWARD OUR CITIZENSHIP WELL AND WORK FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.
-daniel darling ERLC. com
BOOK REVIEWS The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
by LARRY TAUNTON
by KEVIN DEYOUNG
What Taunton accomplishes here is marvelous, equally for what it is not as much as it what it is. It is not the melodrama of an unbeliever humbled to submission by either his reading or his inner demons. Neither is Taunton’s work a shrine to the value of apologetics. Rather, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens is that most difficult, and most valuable, of memoirs: A record of virtue and of vice, of faith and faithlessness. Taunton has provided us with sincere and moving evidence of what Augustine knew long ago, that the heart is restless until it rests in Christ. It is impossible to read The Faith of Christopher Hitchens and not grieve that such a mind and such a heart did not (to all available evidence) finally rest in its Maker. Perhaps that is Taunton’s greatest achievement: He makes us want, zealously, for Christopher Hitchens to believe. -SJ
It’s more than a little convicting that this book on being too busy is one that sat on my to-read pile as one that I just hadn’t gotten around to yet, most likely for reasons of feeling too busy. And yet this short volume from Kevin DeYoung was equal parts encouraging, convicting and helpful. The publishing market is flooded these days with all sorts of books promising systems and life hacks to help make you more productive, but this is not one of those books. Instead, DeYoung takes a step back and asks why we are busy in the first place, what that says about our lives and how it lines up with our mission as Christians. Often, busyness is evidence of a hidden pride or misplaced priorities, and what is needed is a fresh gospel reminder of our creatureliness and what God has (and importantly, has not) called us to. It’s good and useful to think through how we may be more productive with our time, but DeYoung reminds us that faithfulness is the goal of the Christian life, not efficiency. -dp
Knowing God by J.I. PACKER “Over the past twenty years, J.I. Packer’s classic has revealed to over a million Christians around the world the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God.” I thank God that Dr. Packer’s book stands among the few books that have sold over a million copies. I first read Knowing God as a new Christian, and its effects have influenced the ways I approach God’s Word and prayer even today. As Dr. Packer says, “We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it.” Knowing God is rich in content and depth and yet accessible to the new Christian. It’s a book every Christian ought to read. -tn 8
STRONG AND WEAK
“Properly combined, authority and vulnerability lead to flourishing,” Crouch writes. “But when eiChris Horst ther is absent—or even worse, when both are missing—we find AMES P. SULLIVAN UNdistortions of human beings, organizaLEASHED a soul-shaking roar. tions and institutions. We find suffering, His patented bellow was the reason withdrawing and exploiting.” “Sully”—the lovable protagonist in At the center of Strong and Weak is a Pixar’s Monsters, Inc.—was the best in profound 2X2 chart Crouch uses to help the scaring business. But as he produced us “grasp the nature of the paradox.” The his textbook yell, he saw for the first time paradox is that authority and vulnerability the result of his authority: fear. exist best together. This both/and perspecScaring sleeping children, as his supetive anchors Crouch’s arguments in Strong riors told Sully, created the energy needed and Weak. Strength and vulnerability aren’t to power Monstropolis. Sully knew his opposites. They’re complementary. Jesus job was to create reactions from unsusperfectly modeled this. pecting kids, but his unlikely friendship In Jesus, we see full vulnerability. He with Boo, a toddler girl trapped in Mon- was born in a stable, associated with the stropolis, forced him to really see his own marginalized and died a criminal’s death. work. And he didn’t like what he saw. It isn’t an emotionally manipulative As Boo shuddered in fear at Sully’s vulnerability—a tears-on-command, overroar, Sully knew everything had to sharing sort of faux transparency. No, Jesus change. His authority increased Boo’s risked all of himself on our behalf and vulnerability. Sully’s leadership created modeled a life of complete vulnerability. pain for children. Sully saw the conseIn Jesus, we also see his full authority. quences of how he was using his gifts. He made the dead come to life, gave the And it wasn’t pretty. blind sight and emerged from the tomb In Strong and Weak, author Andy victorious. His power created the greatest Crouch does, again, what he’s keen to do: movement in the history of the world. write about an unsensational, seemJesus led with historic authority. ingly undramatic topic that, in actuality, Jesus wasn’t either vulnerable or touches on every aspect of our human authoritative. He was fully both. And, experience. Strong and Weak is about the truths of this simple paradox show authority and vulnerability (not exactly up in every area of our lives and culture. ideas topping Google searches), yet it In Scripture, we see it in Saul of Tarsus shows up just about everywhere, includ- exploiting Christians with his authority. ing children’s movies. We see it in Pilate withdrawing from In the title, readers get an indication of his authority in the indictment of Jesus. the paradox Crouch exegetes in the book. We see it in Jesus suffering unto death, In a word, Crouch defines strength as emptying himself of all authority on our authority and weakness as vulnerability. behalf. We can see it in our families and His definitions of these dimensions of organizations. It shows up in politics and power anchor the book. sports. And, it shows up in our films.
In the powerful turning point in Monsters, Inc., Sully watches an instant replay of his scare tactics on a wall of freeze frames. He witnesses how his work and industry exploit children. He recognizes that his distorted use of authority needs to change. Sully starts with himself. He commits to no longer scaring children. Laughter, he finds, creates more energy than tears. Sully then reforms his industry, changing the very essence of how his fellow monsters power their world. In our families, neighborhoods, organizations and churches, we hold power. The question facing us is how we will steward it. In Strong and Weak, Crouch provides a helpful framework for navigating that question. Will we shirk our authority by withdrawing from the challenge? Will we abuse our authority by exploiting those around us? Will we ignore those without authority, thereby increasing their vulnerability and suffering? Our culture is replete with examples of self-promoting, exploitative, manipulatively vulnerable, isolated leaders and institutions. The challenge for Christians is to embody Christ’s journey in how we lead, with real vulnerability and full authority held in tension with one another. In doing so, we will embody the death (vulnerability) and victory (authority) of our Savior. In doing so, we will lead confidently in our strength and weakness. “The empty tomb or the cross?” Crouch asks paradoxically. As it turns out, Jesus shows us that leaders do not have to make that choice. In Strong and Weak, we see both are true in the life of Jesus. Both should be true in our lives as well. CHRIS HORST is the vice president of development at HOPE International, author of Mission Drift and founder of dadcraft. ERLC. com
THE SOURCE AND SCOPE OF THE CHURCH’S LIBERTY Jennifer A. Marshall
NY CHURCH LEADER WHO speaks up on public issues like religious liberty will sooner or later have to deal with the challenge posed by the ubiquitous catchphrase “separation of church and state.” The phrase is frequently misunderstood in public policy debates (because some use it to argue that religious voices and viewpoints have no place in politics). It’s also particularly unhelpful as a starting point for churches considering their public witness. That’s because “church-and-state” framing—whatever one interprets their “separation” to mean—refers merely to a legal relationship between two social institutions within our constitutional order. While that’s an important concern, it’s a completely inadequate framework for churches seeking to steward their role in public life. Yet, because the church-state framework is so deeply ingrained in our thinking as American Christians, we may not even detect if it has displaced the biblical framework that ought to guide our approach to public life. That biblical framework transcends contemporary “church-state” categories. Long before today’s conceptions of those institutional categories existed, God established his purposes in creation and in the plan of redemption, including his plan for the church. This reality, not human laws, provides the source and scope of the church’s liberty. Why does this matter? If we let popular ideas about the separation of church and state drive our thinking, then we 10
are likely to adopt conventional concepts about the roles of the church and the state. We will be susceptible to the tides of a particular era, rather than subject to what God’s Word teaches. Today, for example, increasingly expansive government disregards many aspects of human dignity and presumes authority to redefine even the creation ordinance of marriage. From this vantage point, an encroaching state suggests a receding church. From a biblical worldview, by contrast, government is responsible for a rather narrow range of a much broader human endeavor to order our lives together here on earth. Other social institutions like the family have a significant role to play as well. The church, as it serves the Creator and Lord who ordered and sustains the universe, has particular insights about ordering our lives together toward the good of all. The purview of the church gets even larger when considering the gospel’s social implications. The gospel announces the inauguration of a kingdom that will surpass all earthly power, and the church is a manifestation of the earthly presence of God’s kingdom in this time before its fulfillment. The church’s social presence and posture toward government should testify to this now-and-not-yet reality and to its Godgiven liberty in public life. From a biblical perspective, the God-ordained roles of the church and the government are distinct and complementary.
Clearly the church must draw lines with regard to how far Church leaders should consider the exercise of its liberty to extend its application of biblical teaching to the current in the public square case by case, committing themselves civil context. The boundaries defining the church’s approprito prayer and using three criteria as a framework to discern ate engagement on any given topic of public life ought to be when to speak out on specific issues of public life as the drawn by the church—not the government. The church should church: 1) the clarity of the Bible’s normative standard on discern how to use its liberty for public witness according to the issue, 2) the severity of the situational challenge to this theological criteria that take into account God’s normative truth, and 3) their responsibility to equip believers and to Word, the gravity of the particular situation, and how taking a reach non-believers with a clear testimony to the lordship public stance will affect the church’s testimony to the gospel. of Christ over all creation. The church as the church should In thinking about such questions, some have been speak specifically to public questions of direct, clear, and particularly concerned not to allow the mission Christ central biblical significance in which the church’s witness has given his church to be disrupted by political concerns. to the gospel will be implicated. Diminishing the greatness of the gospel by constantly entangling churches in social concerns is a legitimate risk to be avoided. But for the church to remain silent on great This is an excerpt from the forthcoming Gospel for Life series on Religious Liberty, moral and social questions of the day that are central to which launches in June 2016. The excerpt’s author is JENNIFER A. MARSHALL, vice president for the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at The the gospel is to make God’s lordship small. Heritage Foundation and senior research fellow at the Institute of Theology and Churches can speak to matters of civil concern on which Public Life at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. biblical teaching is clear in a way that doesn’t compromise the READ MORE church’s charge to preach the gospel. To the contrary, some situations may require clear and public proclamations of biblical truth so the force of the gospel’s Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker, editors (Nashville: B&H, 2016) witness is not compromised.
THE GOSPEL FOR LIFE SERIES: THE GOSPEL & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
SHOULD CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS ACCEPT FEDERAL FUNDING?
JED HOFFMAN: RECEIVING FEDERAL FUNDS AS
A MEANS TO INCREASE GOSPEL WITNESS
EDERAL FUNDING IS NOT appropriate for every faith-based organization. But, for those organizations that can stay aligned with their Christian identity while executing federally funded programs, accepting that funding can have compelling benefits—not only to humanitarian work, but also to the witness of Jesus Christ. In my experience, skepticism about Christians taking government funding often flows from inaccurate assumptions about the requirements and restrictions that come with it. In fact, Christian organizations like World Vision can accept federal funding and stay true to their mission. When registered as private voluntary organizations with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Christian organizations are eligible to receive funds from any U.S. agency that funds development and relief work. USAID actively strives to better partner with faith-based organizations. The elephant in the room is what’s called “inherently religious” activities, which the U.S. government will not fund. Christian and other religious organizations cannot use federal funds to pay for witness activities. This is as it should be in a country that protects religious freedom. But this does not mean we hide our Christian identity from USAID or cease to proclaim the good news through word (with private funds) and deed (with all funds). Here are three reasons why federal funding can be a critical resource to faith-based organizations, and why we should encourage appropriate Christian organizations to accept it:
1. TO MEET SPIRITUAL AND PHYSICAL NEEDS The U.S. government recognizes that faith leaders are among the most influential members in any community. Often, 12
faith-based organizations are in the best position to work with these faith leaders because we’ve already established trusting relationships with them. One method World Vision uses is a workshop called Channels of Hope to equip faith leaders with appropriate information to help them influence their congregations toward healthier approaches to serious issues such as HIV and AIDS, maternal health, gender-based violence and more.
where maternal and infant mortality rates are some of the highest in the world. Through World Vision’s federally funded work, the lives of many mothers and babies were protected.
Christian organizations can be the best stewards of tax dollars as they employ scriptural values in their administration. About 63 percent of World Vision’s federally funded programs 2. TO ADDRESS GAPS are integrated with privately Federal funding allows funded programs allowing us Christian organizations to to save overhead costs and work in difficult-to-reach leverage funds for a greater places that can be hostile and total impact. But perhaps fragile. Honestly, it’s difficult the greatest result of acceptto convince individuals and ing federal funds is that the churches to fund programs rigorous standards set by the in these places. Perhaps that’s U.S. agency donors positively because these places tend influence the quality and to be minority Christian, effectiveness of our programs require long-term commitfrom all funding streams. ment and often pose substanWhen Christian organizatial challenges. In these cases, tions accept federal funding, the U.S. government can be they represent Christ, not only an important ally because it to the people they serve, but prioritizes these places and, also to government agencies. as a result, supplies a constant, Following the regulations that reliable flow of funding. come with federal funding One of these marginal doesn’t inhibit our witness. In places is western Afghanistan, fact, it often increases it.
RICHARD LAND: REJECTING FEDERAL FUNDING
100 TO AVOID GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE
HIS QUESTION OF WHETHER to accept federal funding has long bedeviled Christian organizations of every type. Wouldn’t government grants and funds enhance the resources available to help churches and other faith-based ministries meet more needs? After all, the members and supporters of these ministries are taxpayers. Shouldn’t they be able to recoup some of those resources for the Savior’s service? From the government’s perspective, faith-based ministries often have far better results than the purely secular government programs. As President George W. Bush said at the National Prayer Breakfast at the onset of his first term in 2001,
My administration will put the federal government squarely on the side of America’s armies of compassion. Our plan will not favor religious institutions over non-religious institutions. As president, I’m interested in what is constitutional, and I’m interested in what works. He had seen first-hand, as Governor of Texas, how Chuck Colson’s faith-based program in Texas prisons had resulted in remarkably low recidivism rates. And, with appropriate constitutional safeguards, government subsidized faith-based programs can probably pass constitutional muster. Appropriate constitutional safeguards, however, mean government oversight, restrictions and, ultimately, control. If the government gives funding to religious groups, then it must oversee how the money is used—and how, and when, churches and other ministries can share their spiritual message. It is ultimately a question of control. One of the oldest adages of public policy is “with government shekels, sooner or later come government shackles!” Is allowing government to circumscribe your ministry worth the funds you get in return? My answer is no. Government funds might pass constitutional muster, with appropriate safeguards, but it does not pass biblical and Christian muster. Jesus, confronted by the Pharisees, told them to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Jesus made it clear that our ultimate loyalty is to God, not government. Also, it does not pass Baptist muster. The unique Baptist gift
to the Reformation heritage is soul freedom and religious liberty. As the Baptist Faith & Message declares in the article XVII on Religious Liberty, “The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work.” It is the joy, privilege, duty and responsibility of Christians, churches and faith-based ministries to provide the financial support for the Lord’s work, never compromising the gospel message for the government’s silver. Once again, as the Baptist Faith & Message puts it, The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion.
A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power. That means, among other things, no government circumscription or interferences over Christian ministry. As the First Amendment to our Constitution puts it, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
JED HOFFMAN is the vice president of Resource Development & Management at World Vision. RICHARD LAND is the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. ERLC. com
STAN DING BY FAITH IN A FIERY TRIAL
Kelvin J. Cochran
HE THREAT TO FREE speech and freedom of religion in our beloved United States of America is increasing. My story is but one of a growing list where a government entity and special interest groups have imposed adverse consequences on another American for publicly proclaiming a position based upon biblical truths that are not consistent with popular culture, or shifting notions of pluralism and political correctness. Americans, especially Christians, are having to choose between living out their faith and keeping their jobs. As such, there is a significant need for the Body of Christ to rise to unprecedented levels of unity and solidarity regarding religious liberty. It seems that divisions by religious and secular standards have diluted the power and influence of our collective voice as believers.
THE END OF A CAREER Being born in poverty and raised by a single mom with five siblings in a government project on welfare and food stamps caused me to dream many dreams as a child. I dreamed of having a wife and children. I dreamed I would not be poor. 14
I also dreamed that one day I would grow up to be a firefighter. Grown-ups told me that all my dreams would come true in America if I had faith in God, got a good education, respected authority and treated other people like I wanted to be treated. And all of my dreams have been greatly exceeded. However, living out that same faith ended my childhooddream-come-true career. As a firefighter, I have lived a very public life. However, my life in public service became highly publicized during the week of Thanksgiving 2014 due to my 30-day suspension without pay and subsequent termination from employment after 34 years of faithful service in the fire and emergency services. Seven of those years, I served as Fire Chief of the City of Atlanta—a city that I love, under the leadership of Mayor Kasim Reed, whom I honor and respect in the Lord.
THE LORD’S PURPOSE IN OUR SUFFERING This adverse action came as a result of a book I wrote on my own time for a Christian men’s bible study called, Who Told Illustration by Cassie Clark
You That You Were Naked? As I reflected back over my life during the weeks which followed my termination, I came to discover that God had been preparing me for this fiery trial all of my life (1 Pet. 4:12-14). I came to realize that the Christian walk of faith is a series of level plains, mountain climbs and valleys—and that suffering is an inherent and necessary component of fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. Throughout our lives we experience one form of suffering or another: afflictions, trials, tribulations, tests, trouble, persecutions and chastisements. Most of my sufferings were self-inflicted sufferings. During times in my life that I knew I was not doing what God wanted me to do, he lovingly used suffering to chasten me and to bring me back in alignment with his plan for my life and future. He had a glorious plan for my future that he established before the foundation of the earth and would not let me mess it up! Over the years, suffering has a way of stripping and pruning bad habits and bad relationships that will keep us from fulfilling God’s plan for our lives. I have had my share of self-inflicted suffering and have experienced first-hand the blessed promise that where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. This time, the suffering is different from those experienced in my wilderness years. This is not a self-inflicted suffering, but a God-allowed suffering. As Christians, we can rejoice that whether the suffering is self-inflicted or God-allowed, all sufferings are under the sovereign supervision of God. And God has reminded me that I am in good company. Job, Joseph, Esther, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel and Jesus are all testimonies of how the story ends for God’s children who stand and endure Godallowed sufferings.
5 LESSONS IN THE MIDST OF PERSECUTION There are five lessons God has impressed upon me during this fiery trial that I believe will encourage other Christians who may face persecution. 1. God has prepared his children for sufferings. 2. There are worldly consequences for standing for Christ and biblical truth. 3. There are also kingdom consequences for standing for Christ and for biblical truths; and the kingdom consequences are always greater than the worldly consequences. 4. Sufferings are always for the glory of God. 5. There are always greater blessings for those who have the faith and courage to stand.
SUFFERING IS AN INHERENT AND NECESSARY COMPONENT OF FULFILLING GOD’S PURPOSE FOR OUR LIVES. Psalm 31:19 says, “O how great is your goodness to those who publicly declare that you will rescue them, for you have stored up great blessings for those who trust and reverence you.” Public persecution is the opportunity to show the world that the God we serve is the true and living God. When a believer stands for Christ and biblical truth, the stand is not based upon exalting his or her own reputation. It is based upon exalting God’s reputation. God shows himself strong in unprecedented ways to display the majesty of his reputation on behalf of those who stand—those whose hearts are fully his (1 Chron. 16:9). It is not our reputation on the line when we stand. It is his reputation on the line, and he knows how to defend his reputation. One of the greatest blessings of this fiery trial is that God has extended his mighty hand on my behalf through Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)—a Christian law firm of godly attorneys and legal professionals demonstrating God’s majesty in the practice of law. The preparation and promises of God and his provision through ADF has resulted in confidence and courage while standing and going through this most trying circumstance. It has resulted in a spirit and a resolve of praise and worship; rejoicing and being exceedingly glad because of the assurance that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). I’m not going to be discouraged by the worldly consequences of my standing. I’m going to rejoice in anticipation of the kingdom glories that God has promised. My resolve as a Christian is this: If I had to do it all over again, my decision to stand would not change. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back! KELVIN J. COCHRAN is an author, public speaker, former Administrator of the United States Fire Administration, and former Fire Chief of the Atlanta Fire Department. ERLC. com
The ERLC Throughout the Years
THE ERLC THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
In 1996, the ERLC (then the Christian Life Commission) presented the Religious Freedom Award to theologian Carl F. H. Henry. Henry was the first editor-in-chief of Christianity Today , and helped found institutions such as The National Association of Evangelicals, The Institute on Religion and Democracy and Fuller Theological Seminary. Here is Russell Moore on the influence of Carl Henry:
HEN MOST PEOPLE THINK of Carl Henry, they tend to think of his magnum opus, the six volume God, Revelation, and Authority. Some remember his work as an intellectual godfather, along with Billy Graham, of evangelicalism. But, in my view, Henry’s most important contribution was a tiny paperback called The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. That little book isn’t just a Christian classic; it’s a roadmap for the evangelical church decades later. The Uneasy Conscience spoke to two fronts: detached fundamentalism and social gospel liberalism. The liberals, Henry insisted, had replaced the gospel with a political program. Instead of seeing the primary mission of the church in terms of God’s reconciling work in Christ to forgive sins, the liberals were busy grinding out policy papers on nuclear policy. Liberals saw the kingdom as primarily a conduit for social righteousness through politics.
At the other extreme, Henry warned that conservatives overreacted to the social gospel. They spoke of the kingdom of God, but acted as though it were wholly future, embracing an otherworldly vision of salvation that was mostly about getting souls to heaven at death. The church’s mission was confined to “spiritual” matters, like evangelism. By severing social concerns from the gospel, Henry said the conservatives had conceded these issues to liberal
Carl Henry from the front cover of the April-June 1989 issue of Light Magazine 16
Protestants and, ultimately, to their more radical successors. Henry argued that neither side understood the “already” and “not yet” tension of the kingdom of God, a tension that was about more than how we view the last things. It is also about how we see salvation and the church. Without a holistic vision of the kingdom of God, evangelicals will continue to split up the gospel in ways that can make Jesus unrecognizable to the culture around us. Henry’s Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism is perhaps the most important evangelical book of the 20th century. The kingdom Jesus inaugurated spoke to the whole person, to spiritual lostness, to physical sickness, to material poverty, to the need for community. We need this reminder every generation, perhaps especially now. The evangelical conscience is, after all, still uneasy after all these years.
3 REASONS TO PREACH ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY Daniel Darling
ELIGIOUS LIBERT Y HAS BEEN all over the news. Most Christians are (rightly) concerned about the increasing encroachment on Christian faith and practice. But pastors are sometimes uneasy about discussing religious liberty with their congregation and friends. For some, it seems antithetical to a gospel that calls us to lay down our rights for Christ’s sake. And yet, fighting for religious liberty today, in a gracious but firm manner, helps the gospel advance tomorrow. So while pastors should be careful never to inject partisanship into the pulpit and should always focus on the biblical text, there is a place for helping God’s people think through this crucial, controversial issue. Here are three reasons pastors should feel comfortable engaging the topic:
JESUS TALKED ABOUT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.
Jesus’ time on earth came in an entirely different context than present-day America. His audience did not have the ability to shape the government as citizens of a representative democracy like us. Still, his ministry was not without references to the kingdoms of man and the Kingdom of God. In fact, you might say that Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom was, at least in part, a repudiation of the Roman powers and their worship of Caesar. Jesus’ followers swore allegiance not to the man in Rome, but to the God-man whose reign was inaugurated at Jesus’ first advent. What’s more, Jesus explicitly delineated the separation of powers. When queried about
the Roman tribute, Jesus held up a coin with Caesar’s image and said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” In other words, Caesar has certain rights over citizens, such as collecting taxes and enforcing laws, but there are certain rights that are not Caesar’s to have. God’s people were not created in the image of the Roman ruler, but in the image of their Creator. Caesar is not lord of the conscience, despite what he says. Only God is. Jesus similarly asserted his power over the rulers when he rebuked the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate. Pilate, puzzled by Jesus’s silence at his own trial, asked him, “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” to which Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me ERLC. com
at all unless it had been given you from above” ( John 19:10-11). Pastors today need to especially combat the idea that Jesus was a shrinking violet who never challenged the earthly powers. Even at his trial, Jesus appealed to his rights under Roman law ( John 18:23).
PAUL SPOKE UP WHEN HIS OWN RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED.
than Paul, are given an opportunity to actually shape the laws of the land. We can vote, we can speak out freely, and we can use the courts. In many ways we are not just citizens, we are Caesar and hold the law in our hands. Of course, Christians must not be tempted by power or seduced by the charms of political parties or movements. But rather than shrinking back, we should leverage our influence with wisdom and grace in the public square, knowing that religious liberty doesn’t just contribute to our own human flourishing and gospel advance; it gives freedom to other faiths and ensures a public square where arguments can be heard and individual choices of conscience can be made.
Like Jesus, Paul wasn’t afforded the privilege of living in a representative democracy like America. Still, he wasn’t shy about asserting his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 21:3-5). Paul leveraged his citizenship to gain a hearing before Caesar. He was willing to suffer and die for the sake of the gospel and was humble in his posture toward SCRIPTURE ENCOURAGES authorities, but Paul was not afraid to CHRISTIANS TO PRAY FOR speak up and use legal recourse. RELIGIOUS LIBERTY. Christians in America not only Paul urged his young protégé, Timothy, should be unafraid to winsomely but to pray for religious liberty in 1 Timothy firmly assert their legal rights, we, more 2:2: “Pray for kings and all those who
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY GIVES FREEDOM TO OTHER FAITHS AND ENSURES A PUBLIC SQUARE WHERE ARGUMENTS CAN BE HEARD AND INDIVIDUAL CHOICES OF CONSCIENCE CAN BE MADE.
DANIEL DARLING is the vice president for communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the author of several books. 18
are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” If you are a student of Bible history, you’ll know that this prayer did not come during a time of religious freedom, but of increasing persecution of the church. Christians were mostly ostracized, marginalized and targeted for execution. And yet Paul told them to pray for the government to allow space for faithful Christian witness. It’s a well-worn maxim that the church grows best when under persecution, inspired by Tertullian’s famous statement: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” God has used persecution to advance the gospel, but nowhere in Scripture are Christians to pray for persecution. Here, Paul ties religious liberty to gospel advance. God’s people should pray earnestly and work diligently for religious liberty because this freedom allows space for the church to do its best work. Freedom and prosperity can lead to a stagnant and sinful church (Rev. 1), but it can also be the catalyst for a worldwide missions movement. Christians should be content to live, work and even suffer in whatever environment we are called, but we should not hesitate to steward our influence to shape a more favorable environment. Pastors should not be sheepish or shy about talking about religious liberty, but should instead be bold in shaping the witness of those entrusted to their spiritual care.
This article originally appeared at LifeWay Leadership.
R O U N D TA B L E
A Pastor, an Attorney, and a Policy Expert Talk Religious Freedom ROUNDTABLE CONTRIBUTORS B A RT BARBER
Pastor, First Baptist Church Farmersville
hy ought Christians affirm religious freedom?
BB: God has commanded us in his Word to live in such a way as to afford religious liberty to all people. (See also The Baptist Faith & Message, Section 17 on Religious Liberty.) We recognize, too, a difference in the way we persuade Christians and non-Christians to affirm religious liberty. When we speak to non-Christians, we often make our appeal on the basis of political theory or philosophy, grounding religious liberty in natural law, limited government, historic lessons from
JORDAN LO R E N C E
Senior Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
S TA N L E Y C ARLSON-T HIES
Senior Director, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance
religious persecution in Europe basis for that observation (Matt. and “soul competency.” 13:24-30). The supplantation of Christendom for Christianity, Why does it matter that we following Constantine, is the protect religious freedom for prime observation from history. people of all faiths and not When we affirm religious freemerely Christians? dom of all people, we actually are defending our own faith BB: My ultimate goal is not to from our own temptations, make sure Christians are not which have posed the greatest persecuted. In the New Testa- threat all along. We should not ment, suffering for one’s faith have the blood of persecution is counted as a blessing to be on our own hands. embraced joyfully. Yet, I want to help reduce the suffering of my JL: We have to think about brothers and sisters if I can. On this in terms of Constitutional the other hand, we are comrights and government power, manded not to persecute other not in terms of theology people for their faith. The Para- (orthodoxy v. error). As a ble of the Wheat and the Tares Christian, I believe Jesus is the consummate exegetical Christ is the only Savior of
man’s sin, and people have to believe on him to be saved. Therefore, I don’t agree with religions that, say, worship idols. But government is a different thing. You do not want the government deciding religious orthodoxy. You want the government to protect the ability of all people to speak and debate in the marketplace of ideas. Therefore, I would fully protect that right of an idol worshiper to profess wrong doctrines because that then preserves my right to explain what the Bible says about salvation through Christ. If the government can silence the idol worshiper because he is theologically wrong, then one ERLC. com
day the position of the government will change, and they will punish and silence my Christian beliefs. On that day, there will be no protection because we lost protection when we went after the idol worshipers. SC: Religious freedom for all has integrity (remember the Golden Rule) and is a forward-looking principle: however our society changes and in whichever ways our governments regulate in the future, we owe to each other maximal freedom to live by conviction in our personal lives, religious nonprofits and companies. Religious freedom just for me is defensive and static: “don’t make that change in public policy (about gambling or the rights of sexual minorities) because it goes against the way our religion thinks everyone should live” is an understandable view, but change won’t stop because of it. What is a helpful illustration of religious freedom? JL: A major legal case is Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York. Ministering in one of NYC’s poorest neighborhoods, the Bronx Household of Faith grew and needed a larger and affordable venue for Sunday worship. The school board’s policy permitted most community groups to use school facilities but prohibited use for religious services. The ultimate success of this case was a combination of both a litigation effort and a culture change. The case endured for 20 years and, for the last 13 years, a court injunction allowed churches and other religious groups to meet in public schools. The reality of those New Yorkers being able to see their neighbors going to church or synagogue or whatever in the empty public school on the weekend, that nothing bad happened and that a lot of good things happened (serving the poor, helping drug addicts, repairing marriages) changed the culture. This was a win-win for the community: The schools got money for their empty use and the neighborhoods benefited from motivated believers who were there to love and serve their neighbors.
"ON THAT DAY, THERE WILL BE NO PROTECTION BECAUSE WE LOST PROTECTION WHEN WE WENT AFTER THE IDOL WORSHIPERS." - J O R D A N LO R E N C E
SC: One of the most admirable examples of religious freedom is how, from colonial times, America has respected the pacifist convictions of Quakers. Just think: asking to be excused from bearing arms in defense of your neighbors and the nation is a very weighty request. And yet, because the request was rooted in deep-seated religious convictions, we have honored it. That exemplifies the religious freedom the United States models for the world: government is not ultimate and must not assert total control. Each person’s quest for truth, God and integrity should be respected. Our whole society is enriched when we make the hard decision to respect the religious freedom of people with whom we disagree. What challenges do you see for religious liberty? BB: In a way, there’s only one challenge: fear. And yet fear manifests itself in so many ways. The American Left fears that religious opposition to the sexual revolution will prove resilient, so they are willing to eviscerate the American tradition of conscientious objector protection in order to force uniformity on the questions of abortion-on-demand, same-sex marriage and whatever comes after that. The American Right is terrified of Islamic terrorism, so they are willing to repudiate universal religious liberty in order to register, track, deport and refuse entry to Muslims as a firewall against terrorist acts in the American homeland.
JL: As a greater percentage of Americans identify themselves as non-believers, they might also presume that religious liberty isn’t important, that it doesn’t have any benefit for “regular people.” That is a dangerous thing because the right of conscience is something everybody possesses, and that the government might violate. Even the situation with the federal government seeking a court order to have Apple decrypt the terrorist’s iPhone was a conscience argument. Apple was essentially saying, “In good conscience, we as a corporation cannot aid the government’s criminal investigation in that way.” That case isn’t viewed as based in a religious right of conscience, but if you define worldview broadly, that’s exactly what it was. SC: Every country, and certainly ours, faces this paradox: society becomes more diverse in religion, life-philosophies and moral values, while governments always push for uniformity. As increasing uniformity (laws and regulations) meets increasing diversity (citizens, companies, religions and faith-based organizations), that’s a recipe for great social unease and unrest. The answer is expanded respect for religious freedom—a stronger acceptance of pluralism instead of uniformity in the laws. Christians can lead the way in confidence because we know Jesus’ way advances by prayer, the Spirit, example, sacrificial service and witness.
"THE BEST EARTHLY HOPE FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IS THAT ZEALOTS ON THE LEFT WILL OVERREACH, WHICH IS A PRETTY CERTAIN HOPE." - B A RT B A R B E R
What encourages you about the future of religious freedom? BB: Beyond the borders of the U.S., in some of the darkest places for religious liberty, we see some glimmers of hope. The recent Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities, signed by a wide array of Muslim leaders, is a hopeful sign. It is too early to tell, but it is possible that, in the disaster wrought by groups like ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, many Muslims have seen Islamic totalitarianism up-close and decided they don’t actually want to live in the sort of society established by those bloodthirsty groups. Domestically, at the moment, it is the sexual revolution that fuels animosity from the Left toward religion. But the sexual revolution cannot deliver what it has promised. When the wind goes out of those sails, everything changes. The cases in the courts and the media will eventually be better, both in terms of legal precedent and public sympathy. The best earthly
hope for religious liberty is that zealots on the Left will overreach, which is a pretty certain hope. JL: I continue to meet attorneys of the next generation who see the importance of religious liberty. They have graduated from top law schools, have sterling credentials, and they are working at important law firms. They are litigating cases, writing briefs to the Supreme Court, etc., to advocate for religious liberty. I also see people rising up now who are very articulate spokespeople for religious liberty and why it’s relevant. SC: As Philip Jenkins alerted us The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity, Christianity is growing, not shrinking, globally. And Rodney Stark points out in his new book, The Triumph of Faith, that the “world is more religious than ever” albeit in more diverse ways. As religious diversity increases, governments will continually face the divine calling to do justice on behalf of all of these citizens.
What resources have informed your understanding of religious freedom (why/how)? BB: Dead Anabaptists and Baptists. An argument for religious liberty is particularly powerful when it is made by someone who has actually suffered religious persecution or even martyrdom. Roger Williams has always captivated my interest. I think his experiences as a victim of religious persecution, a governor of a colony and a religious teacher forced him to think carefully about religious liberty from nearly all sides of human experience. As a result, he developed both thought and language that long outlived him, including The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, which is a must-read on the subject. The phrase “wall of separation between church and state” is but a rewording of Williams’s hedge of separation between the “garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.” JL: First, the whole tone of the New Testament is to persuade people of truth, not to coerce them or compel them. That sets a model for what religious liberty is. Second, while we affirm a kind of “separation between church and state,” that doesn’t mean obliteration of all religion from the public marketplace. One of the best Supreme Court decisions on this is Widmar v Vincent (1981). It explains that there is a big difference between government promoting religion and private individuals promoting religion, and that the government is simply to facilitate free expression. Third, in James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance [against Religious Assessments]” he explains how God made the mind of man free, and that when it comes to religious beliefs, every man must be left to his own conviction and conscience to exercise it. You cannot have the government coercing people to believe a certain way and to force people to say things. SC: Kevin Hasson’s The Right to be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America is a readable and illuminating account of our nation’s commitment to religious freedom and how to extend it. Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea makes clear how deficits in religious freedom links to suffering. For specialists, John Witte’s God’s Joust, God’s Justice helps us think deeply about “law and religion in the western tradition.” Lastly, William Galston, Liberal Pluralism, shows that authentic liberalism respects religious freedom.
Peace, Love, and Religious Liberty?
Peace, Love and Religious Liberty? Andrew T. Walker
In September 2015, Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited Liberty University to speak about his candidacy. Liberty, of course, is a symbol for conservative Christianity. Sanders, meanwhile, is an avowed progressive whose views mimic European socialism. He’s pro-gay rights, pro-gay marriage and fervently pro-abortion. To conservative Christians, Sanders is positioned as far left as is possible on the ideological spectrum. So the presence of Sanders at Liberty is an odd sight. But something unique happened at this visit. All reports indicate that Sanders was received with warmth, respect and kindness by the university. The media narrative of Sanders’ visit would have one believe that the senator was offering himself as a sacrificial lamb to hordes of intolerant, conservative Christians who would relish
humiliating him. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Sanders delivered a speech with no interruptions or mass protest. There was no jeering. No one held up signs denouncing Sanders. As far as I am aware, Sanders had no need for security or police protection. Moreover, Liberty students received no trigger warnings prior to Sanders’ speech. Nor did the school provide campus “safe spaces” where students could seek calm and affirmation after being traumatized by leftist ideas. Why is it that Christian colleges are allowing debate while liberal colleges stifle dissent? One would think that civil, open discussion would be the norm at college campuses across America, since
colleges champion “diversity” perhaps more than any other value. But as we all know, secular college campuses aren’t bastions of tolerance or diversity. In fact, a new regime of intolerance is spreading. The answer to why Christian institutions can allow for strongly divergent viewpoints to be discussed by guest speakers, though complex, speaks to the very nature of what types of beliefs we have; and how we hold them often dictates how we respond to different beliefs. The answer also speaks clearly to why religious liberty and the common good are intricately bound up with one another. Whether happening at the level of government, education or any other institution tempted with ideological
IF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IS DENIED, THE “COMMON GOOD” EASILY BECOMES THE PROVINCE OF WHATEVER WORLDVIEW HAS A MAJORITY STAKE IN DEFINING WHAT IS GOOD. ERLC. com
Peace, Love, and Religious Liberty?
IF JESUS ISN’T LORD, THEN SOMETHING ELSE WILL BE, AND THE QUESTION IS WHETHER THE IDEOLOGY IN QUESTION FINDS IT BENEFICIAL TO ALLOW FOR DIVERSITY, WHICH IS NO SURE GUARANTEE AS HISTORY REVEALS.
extremes, any commitment to a worldview that sees itself as absolute—that is, as a lowercase “g” god—can become an enemy of conscience and an enemy of freedom. It is only when citizens understand that the demands of God are absolute—and not political ideologies nor their fellow citizens’ demands—that genuine liberty is possible. Religious liberty isn’t just about the freedom to believe in transcendent truths (though it is certainly about that). Religious liberty is also a fundamental principle that ties together the principles that underwrite free societies and allows differences of opinion the space to compete. Societies that allow for free speech, free association and free assembly are the types of societies that understand that citizens have beliefs and obligations that precede the demands and obligations of the state. This is why religious liberty is so central to building societies that aren’t only free, but understand that with freedom comes the corresponding duty of respect, kindness and a commitment to 24
diversity. Debate and the free exchange of ideas can only occur in contexts that cultivate respect and a commitment to nonviolence. In short, a commitment to religious liberty is a commitment to the principles that make our life together as a diverse people, possible. Religious liberty is therefore a fundamental principle that contributes to the common good. This gets at a major irony for Christians when discussing religious liberty and our advocacy for the common good. While Christianity makes exclusive and absolute claims, Christianity doesn’t believe that these claims can be accepted by way of coercion or forced acceptance. But why does liberalism, the worldview of peace, love and inclusion become ultimately illiberal and intolerant, often to the point of intimidation or violence? One answer might be that liberalism is an ideology, and Christianity is not. Christians live with the perspective of the ultimate. Most non-Christians, however, live with only the penultimate in view. For them, the here-and-now of contemporary life is driven by an
absolutized ideology—whether Market Capitalism, Socialism, Darwinism or any other ideology taken to the extreme—that competes for absolute devotion. The Christian, however, has his or her views moderated by the eternal, which can allow for a different viewpoint knowing that God is the ultimate judge of all viewpoints. Christians are committed to the common good. But we aren’t committed to the common good out of generic principles. No, as Christians, we have to view our deepest commitments about our advocacy for religious liberty and our love for our fellow neighbor from one essential angle: Because Jesus is Lord, there can be true freedom of conscience and religious liberty. The Scriptures give people the right to be wrong. But the Scriptures don’t allow these wrongs to go unaccounted for. God holds people ultimately accountable—not us, or governments. As John Piper noted, “Jesus Christ, the source and ground of all truth, will himself one day bring an end to all tolerance,
and he alone will be exalted as the one and only Lord and Savior and Judge of the universe. Therefore, since Jesus Christ alone, the Creator and Lord of history, has the right to wield the tolerance-ending sword, we dare not.”1 Other worldviews don’t regard this principle as inalienable. “Error has no rights” is often a refrain issuing from any non-Christian worldview taken to its logical conclusion. If religious liberty isn’t grounded in transcendence, then it becomes a tool of convenience that can easily be denied when those in power decide to do away with any dissent. If Jesus isn’t Lord, then something else will be, and the question is whether the ideology in question finds it beneficial to allow for diversity, which is no sure guarantee as history reveals. Idolatrous ideologies have no principled reason to respect religious freedom or conscience as something inviolable.2 If religious liberty is denied, the “common good” easily becomes the province of whatever worldview has a majority stake in 1 John Piper, “Jesus Christ: The End and Ground of Tolerance,” Desiring God, May 12, 2002, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/jesuschrist-the-end-and-ground-of-tolerance. 2 I’m indebted to professor Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College and Seminary for clarifying my thinking in the preceding two paragraphs.
defining what is good. This is why it is necessary for Christians to advocate for religious liberty in the public square. We don’t advocate for religious liberty just for Christians as a majoritarian political doctrine, but in the conviction that true freedom means allowing our neighbors the right to freely exercise their beliefs with dignity—even when we think they are wrong and heaven is at stake! It is precisely because of an ultimate Judge that we cannot be the judge of anyone else (Heb. 9:27).
IDEOLOGIES THAT REJECT GOD’S JUDGMENT AT THEIR CENTER END UP BECOMING OPPOSED TO ANY BELIEF THAT COMPETES WITH THEIR IDEOLOGICAL STRONGHOLD.
The stories are too numerous to list, but at many college campuses, when a Christian intellectual comes to speak, the results are far different from what happened at Liberty. Extra security is often necessary, but even that doesn’t prevent students standing up to angrily denounce the speaker as patriarchal, sexist or bigoted. These experiences have become routine and to some extent, expected, especially when ideologicallybarricaded and coddled students are challenged. And that’s because ideologies that reject God’s judgment at their center end up becoming opposed to any belief that competes with their ideological stronghold. Liberty University, however, demonstrated the fruits that follow from an atmosphere where religious liberty is modeled and where respect, kindness and a willingness to engage with those who hold opposing views actually flourishes. ANDREW T. WALKER is the director of policy studies at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. ERLC. com
Baptists & Religious Liberty
TIIST STSS & & BBAAPPT RELLIIG GIIOU OUSS RE ERT RTYY LLIIBBE Thomas Kidd Kidd Thomas
N 1802, THOMAS JEFFERSON wrote, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” These words almost sound hostile to many conservative Christians today. Over the past 70 years, some judges have interpreted the “wall of separation” to mean that we should remove faith from American public life. It may be perplexing, then, to realize that Jefferson was writing the wall of separation letter to evangelical Baptists in Connecticut. These Baptists totally agreed with the deistic Jefferson on church-state relations. They rejoiced in Jefferson’s election as president in 1800, telling him that “America’s God has raised you up” to lead the nation. Were these Baptists deluded? Why would they support Jefferson and his “wall of separation”? The reason is that Jefferson and his Baptist allies had a different (and better) concept of church-state separation than many left- or rightwing Americans do today. Although leaders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison derived religious freedom from Enlightenment principles of toleration, rank-and-file Baptists learned the value of religious liberty the hard way. They suffered persecution under the state-sponsored, “established” churches of the colonies. Many other Protestants viewed believer’s baptism, the distinctive practice of the Baptists, as abhorrent, no matter how much the Baptists argued that believer’s baptism was the true biblical mode. (Catholics and most Protestants at the time practiced infant baptism.) Thus, Baptists endured harassment, fines, prohibition against meetings, and even jail time, right up to the eve of the American Revolution. Massachusetts, a Puritan colony, set the pace in hostility toward the Baptists. The colony outlawed Baptists altogether in 1645, calling them “the troublers of churches in all places.” In Ashfield, Mass., town authorities in 1770 seized the land of Baptists who refused to pay religious taxes to support the local Congregationalist church. Talk about taxation without representation! The Ashfield Baptists actually appealed to King George III for relief, and the king annulled the confiscation of their land. Is it any wonder, then, that many Baptists in America were not too keen about supporting the American Revolution?
Jefferson and his Baptist allies had a different (and better) concept of churchstate separation than many left- or right-wing Americans do today.
It was hard to support a rebellion led by Patriots who had refused to grant Baptists liberty of conscience. Ashfield’s Baptist minister proclaimed that Massachusetts Patriot leaders wanted “liberty from oppression that they might have liberty to oppress!” Isaac Backus, the great Massachusetts Baptist leader, approached cousins John and Samuel Adams at the Continental Congress in 1774, appealing for relief from oppression. But Samuel scoffed at Backus, insinuating that the Baptists were just “enthusiasts who made a merit of suffering persecution.” John Adams told Backus that he might sooner expect a change in the solar system, than an end to the Massachusetts established church. The Baptists also endured terrible persecution in Virginia, with dozens of Baptist ministers put in jail during the decade before the Revolution. But in Jefferson and Madison, the Baptists found Patriot leaders who sympathized with their cause. Baptists suggested that if the persecution continued, Virginia’s leaders should not expect them to support the rebellion against George III. Jefferson and Madison loathed religious intolerance, anyway. They wanted to end the harassment of dissenters, and to stop Virginia’s financial support for the Church of England. With massive Baptist support, Madison secured the passage of Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom ERLC. com
Baptists & Religious Liberty
in 1786. That law enshrined the principle that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever. . . nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.”
that he was not hostile to public displays of religion, Jefferson even hosted a religious service in Congress the Sunday after he sent the “wall of separation” letter. New England Baptist minister John Leland gave the sermon at the service. Secularists today would be dismayed to realize how willing Jefferson was to permit public religious expression, in spite of his personal skepticism about Christianity. But the Founding era’s Baptists might warn conservative Christians today, too, about the perils of cozy relationships between the government and churches. Historically, close ties between the state and a particular religion have led to persecution of dissenters. The early Baptists might also wince at the way some Republicans today speak as if electing “godly” politicians will result in spiritual revival. Early America’s Baptists did not expect politicians to do heavy Jefferson’s Bill was a critical precedent for the religion clauses lifting for the church. They just wanted the government to of the First Amendment to the Constitution. In light of the protect religious liberty, so the church could be the church. persecution of Baptists, it is easier to understand the First That is why the Baptists were comfortable working even with Amendment’s prohibition of laws “respecting an establishment deists such as Thomas Jefferson. They were not looking for of religion.” To the Founders, this clause simply meant that a national pastor. They did not want government hostility there would be no national established church. Baptists backed toward churches, but they were also not angling for governthe First Amendment’s adoption, since they associated estabment favors. Civil authorities, they believed, should simply lished churches with the denial of religious liberty. protect “free exercise of religion” for all. They preferred to The First Amendment did not originally prohibit state-level depend upon the power of God, rather than government, establishments of religion. (That interpretation of the amendto accomplish the purposes of the Kingdom. ment did not come until the mid 20th century.) So the New England states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, kept giving direct support to the Congregationalist Church well into the 1800s. That explains Jefferson’s correspondence with Connecticut’s Danbury Baptist Association in the wall of separation letter. Like the Baptists, Jefferson wished that Connecticut would drop its establishment. But Jefferson took comfort that, at least at the national level, the distinction between denomination and government was clear. Did this mean that Jefferson wanted a secular public THOMAS S. KIDD is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University, sphere? No, it did not. None of the Founders could have and the author (with Barry Hankins) of Baptists in America: A History fathomed today’s advocates for rigid secularism. To show (Oxford University Press, 2015).
Secularists today would be dismayed to realize how willing Jefferson was to permit public religious expression, in spite of his personal skepticism about Christianity.
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5 Ways Churches Can Protect Gospel-Centered Ministry
5 WAYS CHURCHES CAN PROTECT GOSPEL-CENTERED MINISTRY Christiana Holcomb, Legal Counsel for
Alliance Defending Freedom
ASTOR, YOUR CHURCH’S FREEDOM to maintain gospel-centered ministry may well depend on the steps it takes now to protect that freedom. The church faces an array of new cultural and legal challenges. Our culture not only accepts, but celebrates, sexual behaviors and identities that are contrary to God’s good design. Cities, states and federal agencies are creating special legal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. And, of course, last summer five Supreme Court justices crafted a new constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Pastors and churches are already feeling the effects of the sexual revolution. Pastors are asked to perform same-sex weddings and counsel same-sex couples about marriage enrichment. Same-sex couples now demand that churches open their doors to same-sex wedding celebrations. All too often, churches that graciously decline these requests are threatened with lawsuits and public slander. Churches are currently defending against lawsuits for holding their ministers and music directors to a biblical sexual ethic. And confused biological men are arriving to church in women’s clothing and requesting access to women’s restrooms. These challenges are grave, but they are not hopeless. Although some scholars and judges wrongly insist that the First Amendment only protects the freedom to believe—not the freedom to act on those beliefs—the First Amendment still protects a church’s freedom to operate according to its faith. A long, unbroken line of Supreme Court precedent affirms a church’s right to govern its internal affairs, determine its doctrine and choose its leaders without government interference. Churches need to ensure that they are in the best position to take advantage of these legal protections
should the need arise. Maintaining a gospel-centered witness in today’s culture requires not only standing firm on the truths of Scripture, but also taking affirmative steps to protect the church’s freedom to continue peacefully living out its faith. Our principles do not change, but our policies must. Here are five ways churches can protect their freedom to maintain fidelity to the faith.
ADOPT A STATEMENT OF FAITH ABOUT MARRIAGE.
Every church that affirms God’s design for marriage and sexuality should include that belief in a statement of faith or other policy document. This statement not only proclaims the church’s beliefs to the congregation and broader culture, but also serves as key evidence of those beliefs should they be challenged in court. A statement on marriage is ideally suited to the church’s statement of faith. A statement as simple as, “We believe that God designed marriage to be exclusively the covenant union of one man and one woman, and that intimate sexual activity is to occur exclusively within that union,” can be seamlessly inserted into an already existing statement of faith. It is not necessary to list the various sexual sins; the goal is simply to proclaim what marriage is and identify the proper boundaries of sexual expression. Churches that are uncomfortable with amending a historic confession of faith can adopt a separate marriage policy instead. Pastors commonly ask whether their denomination’s statement on marriage will suffice. At a minimum, churches should adopt the denominational statement by reference in church bylaws or other policy document. But preferably, churches should restate the denomination’s position statement in full, or draft a belief statement of their own.
ESTABLISH RELIGIOUS EMPLOYMENT CRITERIA.
CREATE A FACILITY USE POLICY.
A church’s intent to make faith-based employment decisions should be clear from its employment application and employee policies. Start by requiring all employees and prospective applicants to sign a statement affirming that they have read the church’s statement of faith and doctrine, hold to those beliefs and are willing to abide by them. You should also ensure that each employee has a written job description. Each description should not only describe the physical and administrative duties of the job, but should also specify the position’s spiritual responsibilities and clearly explain how it furthers the church’s mission. These details are especially important for “minister-like” positions—positions that involve conveying church doctrine or administering its ordinances. Highlighting spiritual responsibilities helps to reinforce that shared faith is an essential qualification for church employment and critical to advancing the church’s mission. Bonus tip: Volunteers should be held to the same standards as employees to maintain institutional integrity and consistency. Such standards are particularly important for volunteers that hold leadership positions like a deacon, Sunday School teacher or community group leader. If a church owns a facility that it permits anyone to use outside of normal church operations or events, the church should establish a written facility use ERLC. com
5 Ways Churches Can Protect Gospel-Centered Ministry
policy. Churches do not (yet) need to restrict use of their church buildings to members only. Despite some attempts to characterize them as public, church facilities are private property that may be used at the church’s discretion. Instead, churches should implement a detailed facility use policy. The most important aspect of this policy is commonly the most overlooked: highlighting the religious nature of church property. Note that the facilities have been entrusted to the church by God to be used for his glory. As such, the church cannot have any material cooperation with activities or events that violate its
may officiate and under what circumstances and list criteria for any weddings that take place on church property. The wedding policy can operate as a separate policy, or in conjunction with the facility use policy. It serves to add another layer of covering for a pastor faced with a wedding request he cannot fulfill, or a church that receives a wedding request it cannot accommodate.
members who affirm they are committed to and part of a church body, even if there is no voting or say in church practices. Alliance Defending Freedom has developed a resource to help churches accomplish these five steps and more. Visit www.ADFlegal.org/church to download our free Protecting Your Ministry resource. This legal guide is designed to help churches strengthen their governing documents and interADOPT A CHURCH nal policies so that they can maintain MEMBERSHIP POLICY. fidelity to the faith. Included within A formal church membership policy the resource are sample statements and identifies those who have assented to policies that each church can take and church doctrine and willingly submitted adapt to suit its own needs. Pastors often ask whether there are other resources that they can share with the people in their pews to equip them for these new religious liberty challenges. Alliance Defending Freedom recently published two new legal guides to meet this need. Faith in the Workplace, available at www.ADFlegal.org/employerguide, is a free resource to help Christian business religious convictions. Specifically note to the church’s authority. This identifiowners and CEOs protect the exercise in the policy that the church will only cation helps determine qualifications for of their faith in their business. It answers permit activities and events that do not church leadership or employment, prefcommon questions about workplace conflict with the church’s religious beliefs, erence in facility use, access to baptism policies and accommodating employees’ as determined by the pastor or his desig- or baby blessings and so on. Churches beliefs. Create Freely is a free resource for nated representative. This allows churches with formal membership policies also creative service professionals—including to welcome even secular groups that do have greater legal protection when it photographers, cake artists, and floral not agree with church doctrine, as long as becomes necessary to exercise church designers—to help these Christian artists those groups will not use the facility in a discipline. On occasion, former church protect their freedom to use their talents way that contradicts the church’s beliefs. attendees have sued for alleged harm to consistently with their faith. Visit www. Create a detailed application and their reputation or privacy from church CreateFreely.org to learn more. approval process, and ensure that the discipline, and the case often turns on Alliance Defending Freedom exists to pastor or his official designee deterwhether the attendee consented to the ensure that you—pastors and parishiomines whether to approve or deny church’s authority. ners—can continue faithfully carrying these applications. Train all staff on So, churches are encouraged to adopt a out your mission. And should you or the proper application of this policy. written membership policy that explains your church face threat of litigation for the procedure for becoming a church living according to your faith, Alliance ESTABLISH A WEDDING POLICY. member, procedures for member disDefending Freedom attorneys stand Churches are encouraged to adopt a cipline and procedures for rescinding ready to defend you, free of charge. written wedding policy, grounded in church membership. This does not mean the statement of faith. This policy should that a church must adopt a form of church CHRISTIANA HOLCOMB ESQ., serves as legal reiterate the church’s beliefs about margovernment to which it does not subcounsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where she riage, specify what marriages its pastor(s) scribe. Churches can still have designated is a member of the Center for Christian Ministries.
CHURCHES NEED TO ENSURE THAT THEY ARE IN THE BEST POSITION TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THESE LEGAL PROTECTIONS SHOULD THE NEED ARISE.
B E Y O N D A M E R I C A ADVOCATING FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AROUND THE WORLD T r a v i s
W u s s o w
Y ANY MEASURE, 2015 WAS THE WORST YEAR TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN LIVING MEMORY. AS THE OBAMA ADMIN-
ISTRATION AND U.S. CONGRESS RECOGNIZED IN EARLY 2016, THE SO-CALLED ISLAMIC STATE HAS BEEN PERPETRATING A GENOCIDE AGAINST YEZIDIS, CHRISTIANS AND SHIA MUSLIMS. AS SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY SAID, THE ISLAMIC STATE “KILLS CHRISTIANS BECAUSE THEY ARE CHRISTIANS; YEZIDIS BECAUSE THEY ARE YEZIDIS; SHIA BECAUSE THEY ARE SHIA.”
But the Islamic State is not the only threat to religious liberty in the world today. Sectarian violence is running rampant across the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia. In some ways, the lack of religious liberty in the world today is the fundamental problem we face across the globe.
MOVING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION? When we examine certain signposts, it’s clear we are moving in the wrong direction. In 1948, with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the international community rallied behind a strong definition of religious liberty that would put any religious minority at ease:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Since that time, international commitments and statements on religious liberty have been softening. The 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief was much weaker on the question of whether a person has the right to change his religion. In 2008, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for “Combating the defamation of religions,” a challenging concept to square with freedom of expression. Global consensus on the question of whether a person has the right to change his religion is critical to securing soul freedom everywhere. This is particularly true in the 21 countries in the world today where leaving Islam for another religion is criminalized. The sectarian strife in the Middle East and North Africa is rooted in part in local politics, regional rivalries and competition over natural resources. In some ways, sectarianism is simply a vehicle used to advance other agendas. But to deny that there is a religious element to the conflicts raging in the
Middle East and North Africa today is to ignore the obvious. This same complicated dynamic is at work today in Europe. In November 2015, Paris experienced a brutal, cowardly attack on civilian targets by jihadists with a background in bank robbery and petty theft, not Islamic law and doctrine. By March 2016, the same pattern repeated itself in Brussels through another set of barbarous attacks. It is true that economic despair— unemployment, low income, lack of public services—played a key role in the Paris and Brussels attacks. But to deny that these attacks are motivated in part by religion prevents us from combatting the aspect of the problem for which religious freedom is part of the solution. Christians must advocate for a world where religions that make mutually exclusive truth claims can live side by side in peace.
SIGNS OF HOPE In 1990, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation issued the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which addressed religious liberty with the following: “Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism.” This statement, to put it mildly, leaves much to be desired. But in recent years, there have been signs of hope. In response to the rise of the Islamic State, hundreds of Muslim scholars and leaders joined an “Open Letter to al-Baghdadi,”
which argued that the Islamic State is un-Islamic. And in early 2016, another group of Muslim politicians, religious leaders and scholars issued the Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities. The Marrakesh Declaration affirmed the rights of religious minorities under a concept of citizenship and moved the discussion toward equal rights based on a concept of equal citizenship. Of course, there is a long way to go.
CHRISTIANS MUST ADVOCATE FOR A WORLD WHERE RELIGIONS THAT MAKE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE TRUTH CLAIMS CAN LIVE SIDE BY SIDE IN PEACE. MOVING FORWARD As advocates for religious liberty around the world today, what should we do, and where should we focus our attention? First, we need to pray. We need to ask that God would protect our brothers and sisters around the world, giving them wisdom on how to interact within their societies and providing courage to stand firm in the face of unimaginable But one of the striking things about the difficulties. We need to ask that God Marrakesh Declaration and the Open would raise up Muslim leaders that are Letter is the fact that each document is well-positioned to advocate for broad seeking to come to terms with religious rights for religious minorities living in liberty and human rights within the con- majority-Muslim countries. text of Islam itself. As Shaykh Abdullah Second, we need to recognize the Bin Bayyeh said in his opening remarks religious character of many of the conof the Marrakesh Declaration conference, flicts around the world today. Solving â€œWe believe it is possible to heal this these conflicts means standing with and illness from the pharmacy of the sacred supporting religious leaders that seek to law of Islam.â€? Whether this is possible or counter violent extremism and advocate not remains to be seen, but what matters for religious liberty. is that Muslim scholars have set their Last, we need to recognize that attention to this agenda. there are other points of persuasion
toward religious liberty. For instance, as Brian Grim and the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation have forcefully argued, there is a strong linkage between religious liberty and economic development. These arguments may provide support for those within the Muslim community as they come to draw upon their own Islamic tradition to articulate a strong vision for religious liberty and pluralism in majority-Muslim societies. Let us remain hopeful as we advocate for international religious liberty, knowing that there is a day coming when every tear will be wiped from every eye and every wrong will be righted. This day has not come yet, but it is surely coming.
TRAVIS WUSSOW is the director of international justice and religious freedom at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Religious Liberty for All
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY FOR ALL Russell Moore
ANGING ON THE WALL in my office is a framed set of letters written by a man named Jeremiah Moore. A relative told me that we are related, but whether we are or not by blood, I certainly think of him as a spiritual forebearer. This man was a pastor and church planter in colonial Virginia, and a tireless advocate for religious freedom. In these letters, he’s engaging a public official, pressing him on his commitment to religious freedom, making sure this candidate understands the importance of it to Moore’s fellow Baptists. He made it clear that he believed that this candidate for office deserved a vote only if he pledged to articulate a strong defense of religious freedom, and pledged to use the power of his office to promote and strengthen religious freedom. The candidate answered back, strongly affirming his commitment to religious freedom. This man would go on to be elected to the office he was seeking, the presidency of the United States. This candidate, Thomas Jefferson, would go on to become one of our nation’s great champions for religious freedom. I love looking at these letters because it reminds me that Christians in every generation of this country have prized religious liberty—the way we as Baptists must continue to go about our work today. Remember, not a faithful pastor among us would permit Thomas Jefferson to teach a Sunday School class in our churches. This was a man who was heretical in his beliefs. But our Baptist ancestors were diligent to work alongside those whom they considered outside the Christian faith in order to secure freedom of conscience for the entire nation. These believers understood something that often gets lost in our modern debates: Religious liberty cannot be a partisan or parochial issue precisely because it is our “first freedom,” the foundation of all civil liberties. Religious freedom matters for all Americans, and that is why Christians should be the first and strongest advocates for soul freedom, not just for other Christians but for all Americans.
One reason Baptists have historically fought for religious freedom for all, not just some, is that our understanding of humanity and society is anchored in the doctrine of the image of God. We believe that every human being is made in the image of a creative, Triune God, and that this image-bearing quality applies not only to Christians but to everyone. Being created in the image of a God means that human beings have inherent dignity. This dignity expresses itself powerfully in the capacity that we all have to form beliefs and live our lives according to those beliefs. This makes religious freedom a basic, and non-negotiable, human right—a right we get from God, not from Uncle Sam. The Revolutionary-era Baptist preacher John Leland repeatedly included Muslims (“the Turks,” as he called them) in his list of those included in the sorts of religious freedoms he was demanding from the politicians of his time, politicians like Jefferson and James Madison. This was despite the fact that there were virtually no Muslims to speak of in the colonies or in the new republic. Leland included them specifically and intentionally anyway. He wanted to make it clear that his concept of religious freedom was not dependent on a group’s political power. He chose the most despised religious minority of the time, with no political collateral in his context, to make the point that religious freedom is a natural right. The governing authorities have a responsibility, given by God, to protect the population from violence, and to punish the evildoers who perpetrate such violence (Rom. 13:1-7). But this authority is a limited authority. The government cannot exalt itself as a lord over the conscience or a god over the soul. This is why even “Christian” theocratic projects have inevitably failed throughout history. In dictating to the conscience, the civil authorities seek to fill the role—and assume the power—of God himself. This is why Baptists have held to the separation of church and state. It’s not hard to understand why that term might cause some nervousness for Bible-believing evangelicals.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY CANNOT BE A PARTISAN OR PAROCHIAL ISSUE PRECISELY BECAUSE IT IS OUR “FIRST FREEDOM,” THE FOUNDATION OF ALL CIVIL LIBERTIES.
Image: Howard Chandler Christy - "Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States"
Religious Liberty for All
Over the last several decades, secularizing forces have claimed to be acting in the interest of separating church and state when what they were often trying to do was create what Richard John Neuhaus called a “naked public square,” a society in which religious belief is an alternative to full citizenship. As Neuhaus rightly pointed out, achieving such an environment is impossible because human beings, made in the divine image, are naturally religious. People like Thomas Jefferson and John Leland did not believe that the separation of church and state was intended to create a “naked” public square. Instead, they believed that the “wall” between religion and the magistrate existed to clearly define where the rights of government ended and the human rights of citizens began. Jefferson and Leland disagreed strongly in terms of what they believed about God, but they were able to work together for religious freedom because they agreed about one thing: the government wasn’t God. If we miss why religious liberty matters, we will fundamentally misunderstand how to advocate for it. For a long time, many evangelical Christians have had a narrow vision of religious liberty, due largely to the fact that we have faced so few real challenges to it. This has often caused Christians to see religious liberty as a who-has-the-most-votes issue rather than what it really is: an image-of-God issue. Thus, many critics of Christianity have alleged, not without reason, that “religious liberty” for evangelicals is simply code for Christian privilege. Combine this with the sad spectacle of some evangelicals perpetually claiming to be “persecuted” because the signs at the department store say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of, “Merry Christmas.” The result is an evangelical advocacy of religious liberty that isn’t taken seriously by the broader culture. When we advocate for religious liberty, we are acknowledging that there are important issues that are not resolved by the state or by free markets. A state that can pave over the conscience without a compelling interest in doing so, is a state that is unfettered to do virtually anything. We are citizens of the state, yes, but the state isn’t ultimate. A government that arbitrarily silences religious convictions or exercise is a government that severs us one from another by silencing proper pluralism and trades pursuit of the truth for bureaucratic enforcement. That is morally wrong and counter-productive, whether attempted by theocrats or neocrats. As an evangelical Christian, I could not disagree more strongly with Islam. I believe that salvation comes only through
ULTIMATELY, RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE MATTER FOR ME BECAUSE I BELIEVE ALL MY NEIGHBORS—CHRISTIAN OR NOT, RELIGIOUS OR NOT—ARE CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. union with Jesus Christ, received through faith. As part of the church’s mission, we believe we should seek to persuade our Muslim neighbors of the goodness and truth of the gospel. The gospel is big enough to fight for itself and needs no government assistance. The gospel fights not with the invincible sword of Caesar but with the invisible sword of the Spirit. A government that can shut down mosques simply because they are mosques can shut down Bible studies because they are Bible studies. A government that can close the borders to all Muslims simply on the basis of their religious belief can do the same thing for evangelical Christians. A government that issues ID badges for Muslims simply because they are Muslims can, in the fullness of time, demand the same for Christians because we are Christians. Jesus commanded his followers to render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. Yet the conscience does not bear the image of Caesar, and cannot be swept into the federal treasury by government fiat. Ultimately, religious liberty and freedom of conscience matter for me because I believe all my neighbors—Christian or not, religious or not—are created in the image of God. Let’s stand up for the religious liberty of all Americans. Let’s defend the inalienable rights and human dignity of those whom we seek to evangelize. And let’s work with others across religious and racial lines to advocate for our first freedom, and the right of everyone made in God’s image to be citizens with conscience.
RUSSELL MOORE is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
S E N ATO R SAS S E on the I M P O RTA N C E O F RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN SOCIETY Steven Harris interviews Senator Ben Sasse B E N S A S S E I S T H E J U N I O R U. S . S E N A T O R F RO M N E B R A S K A
STEVEN HARRIS: The topic of religious freedom is one that is increasingly becoming a part of the cultural conversation. Unfortunately, it seems that when many people hear the phrase religious freedom they think just the opposite: They think constraint. They think lack of liberty. What does it actually mean to live in a religiously free society?
is ultimately about a framework for more liberty that enables us to be sure that our natural rights are protected. It is also important to recognize in the First Amendment that freedom of religion is aligned next to freedom of speech and freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. So, we have free exercise rights—which is more than a right to be tolerated to believe weird SEN: What a great question. Well, we stuff alone in isolation. I remember the the people in America—both historically first lady once saying that it’s not just and in the present—believe that our limited to Sunday morning; it animates rights come to us via nature. We don’t you Monday through Saturday as well. wait for the government to give us any We are free to worship, assemble and rights; we claim the rights that God has live out a life of gratitude to God by given us by nature. Government is simply trying to love our neighbor. a tool to secure those rights. Government It’s also important to remember that
government is not just the name for those things we choose to do together; that’s the meaning of community. It isn’t government’s job to try to succeed in creating virtue in all of our children; it’s government’s job to protect us against things like violence so that parents, families and local communities can grow children and virtuous citizens. Government doesn’t nurture, love or comfort, but the most meaningful and most important things in life are done by nurture, love and comfort; they are done relationally and regularly, and flow from all of the local communities in which we are a part of—and, for many of us, religious communities are central. ERLC. com
Senator Sasse on the Importance of Religious Freedom in Society
SH: I’m struck by your reference to religious communities because, in thinking about distinctly Christian communities, I think we usually focus on articulating a vision for the affirmation of religious freedom only amongst those who believe. But for, let’s say, the unbeliever—the person of a different faith, or of no faith—how can we commend the notion of religious freedom as something to be desired? Is this simply a Christian concern? SEN: No, not in the least. It is a fundamentally American concern that we believe in community in America, and I think we have to have at the heart of it the distinction between freedom from and freedom to. We are free from violence—and, again, it is government’s job to secure that—so that we can be free to form local communities. For many of us, religious communities are at the core of our identity of existence and investment of time and treasure. But even for folks who are not religious, they should recognize
that the texture of diversity and the meaningfulness of local community requires all of us, whatever community we are from, to want to come together and in the public square secure the rights of other people that we might differ from or differ with, to have their right to freely assemble. So in America, we have this wonderfully crazy idea that you form community by volunteerism, by persuasion. That’s the way that you get people not just to join your church or your synagogue, but it is the way that you persuade someone to marry you, or to buy your new product, or to participate in Habitat for Humanity or some other not-for-profit venture with you. It is the core American idea that I think Alexis de Tocqueville saw so well as a non-American coming and trying to explain America to Europeans in the 19th century (we would all do well to have Alexis de Tocqueville explain America to us again in the 21st century) that what America is about is that it is anti-statist. America is opposed to the idea that communities are formed by force and compulsion. The public square is secured by the government’s responsibility to use its force to protect us from violence so that each community can assemble and thrive. And I want to defend the rights of people—even people that I differ with on important points of, say, theology. I want to defend their right to freely assemble, and I want non-Christians and non-believers and adherents to other non-Christian traditions to join with me in trying to also reaffirm the fundamental values of our public square, which is that freedom from violence.
SH: That is so helpful, Senator. There is much going on concerning religious freedom at the state level, for example. In your analysis of those challenges— thinking about the rhetoric and the conversations—is there anything that you find particularly concerning? Do you see a pathway forward or are we at an impasse? SEN: Well, let me speak briefly to the latter part first. You asked, do I see a way forward? And the answer is, absolutely. We need to recover and rearticulate and teach [the American idea] again to the next generation. The path to recovering vibrant American civil society is making sure we have a constitutional recovery that provides a shared consensus to undergird it. So often people go straight to the political fight while the more important things in life are the cultural arguments and conversations that are well upstream from politics. And so I am very optimistic about where things can go, but we have to recover and reaffirm the American constitutional system. You asked about the particular flash points of this fight. I would point to what is happening on the college campuses right now. This outcry for safe spaces and to be protected from ever having to encounter an idea that you maybe didn’t already hold is a real tragedy. It is a sign of a perpetual adolescence in which we are overly protective of kids coming of age when they should be, as they become adults, grappling with real and meaningful ideas often that they differ with. Forty percent of Americans under the age of 35 say that they think the First Amendment is dangerous because someone might use their freedom of speech to
"WE DON’T WAIT FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO GIVE US ANY RIGHTS; WE CLAIM THE RIGHTS THAT GOD HAS GIVEN US BY NATURE. GOVERNMENT IS SIMPLY A TOOL TO SECURE THOSE RIGHTS." say something that would hurt someone else’s feelings—that’s an existential crisis for the nation. That’s a tragedy because the First Amendment is the beating heart of our shared project in this nation. We haven’t been teaching the next generation what it means, and it turns out many of them, therefore, are lost. This is what President Reagan predicted decades ago, that in any free republic if you don’t teach the next generation the meaning of self-discipline, self-control and self-governance, you will ultimately lose your freedom. And some of what we risk right now is an evaporation of that shared sense of why America was so special. I want a public square where people who are created in the image of God with dignity can affirm everyone else’s right of free assembly and free speech and freedom of religion and freedom of the press. And then engage robustly—lovingly, but robustly—and vigorously in the market place of ideas to try to persuade other people.
do about it all? What is my role?” What advice would you give them in terms of commending religious freedom in their respective spheres of influence? Where should they start?
SEN: Yeah, that’s wonderful. Teach your kids. Volunteer in your church. Join the Rotary Club. Coach Little League. Exercise all of the rights that the First Amendment protects. Limited government is the way to make sure that you and your family are free to go live full, meaningful lives that lead to a prosperous, vital and virtuous society. The meaning of America is not in Washington, D.C. The meaning of America is all of the communities and the little platoons that we come from. Government can’t solve all of the meaningful things in life. But private citizens and local communities can love and care for one another, and nurture one another, and protect one another and remind us of the things in which our ultimate hope ought be vested. SH: I want to give attention to the Ultimately, the Department of Health evangelical reader who is trying to think and Human Services is a distant bureauthrough these things. Many people are cracy in Washington, D.C., and it can’t asking themselves, “Okay, so what can I control your convictions regarding what
healthcare is effective or moral for you and your family. The Department of Education can’t take ultimate responsibility for what you teach your kids about the good, the true, the beautiful and the meaning of family. Are your readers mostly Southern Baptists? I’m PCA, Presbyterian Church of America. My wife was Southern Baptist; I was married in Shade Mountain Baptist in Birmingham. But I’m going to quote Martin Luther for a minute. When the shoe maker converted to the Christian faith—when he came to understand Galatians and Romans and how Jesus had lived a virtuous life on our behalf and had fulfilled the law and imputed his righteousness to us and then sacrificially atoned for us on the cross— he came to understand all of the glories of the God who is and who speaks, and he asked, “What should I do now? I’ve become a Christian. I’m ready to quit my job. I want to go and do something important. I’m now a Christian. I want to say thank you to God. What should I do?” And Luther said, “Make great shoes! . . . to the glory of God and for the benefit of your neighbor.” And that is the calling for all of us and for your readers. It is to live in the place where God has blessed us but with a new meaning and a new purpose—a way to try to say thank you to him for what he has done for us in Christ, by loving our neighbor where we are. SH: Senator, this has been fantastic. I know our readers are going to be blessed by your insights. Thank you for your time. STEVEN HARRIS is the director of advocacy at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. ERLC. com
RESOURCES BOOKS The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity Os Guinness
Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right Tim Shah and Matt Franck
Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel Russell Moore
The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom Steven D. Smith
The Gospel for Life Series: The Gospel & Religious Liberty Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker, editors
The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (Baptists) Richard Groves
Intervarsity Press, 2013
Harvard University Press, 2014
The Witherspoon Institute, 2012
Canon & Culture is a project of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. C&Câ€™s purpose is to help build and strengthen the churchâ€™s social, ethical, and moral witness by providing thoughtful content from leading thinkers that inspires a rising generation of evangelicals to think Christianly about the public square and the common good. canonandculture.com
Protecting Your Ministry Alliance Defending Freedom and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have partnered together to create this manual, meant to help you prepare for the legal intrusions some of your fellow believers and Christian leaders around the country have already faced, and for other threats on the near horizon. erlc.com/protect
Mercer University Press, 2002
Canon & Culture
Alliance Defending Freedom www.adflegal.org
Becket Fund www.becketfund.org
More resources available at ERLC.com
There are many ways to be a champion for life. One of them is providing a woman in a crisis pregnancy a “window” into the world of the child she is carrying. This is the intent of the Psalm 139 Project—to aid pregnancy resource centers in securing ultrasound machines. Donate online at Psalm139Project.org.
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Volume 2, Issue 1