Our friends at BreakPoint are inviting us to join an effort to preserve religious freedom. Please read on.
We see lots of talk these days about religious freedom and government intrusion. What is the proper place of government relative to religious freedom?
Some see the federal government as a sort of national parent, given to protect us, as well as to make sure we’re nice, that we play well with others. Robert Fulghum said all he really needed to know he learned in kindergarten: Share everything. Play fair. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Some people apparently believe it’s the government’s job to make sure everyone observes these behaviors.
Now, to be sure, every individual should acquire these virtues as they grow up. Competent parents nurture their children into responsible adults. It’s part of the “self-governance” Darrow speaks of in a forthcoming book.
John Adams was one of the founders of the US and served as its second president. Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” In other words, it is not the external influence or force of a constitution that brings freedom. Even a document as remarkable as the US constitution would be inadequate to direct an immoral, irreligious people. And no people will ever be moral and religious without self-discipline. Another term for self-discipline is self-governance.
I was in my 50s before I realized this. I remember my Aha moment. I was listening to Elizabeth Youmans talking about self-governance. Every time she said self-governance I translated it democracy. That’s a form of self-governance. But she was talking about something different, something I had never heard.
We are to govern ourselves, our own lives. We will either act in wisdom by governing our own lives, or we will act in folly and be lawless. To be a steward of what God has made we must begin with internal self-governance. I cannot govern outside myself until I have learned to govern myself. Internal stewardship must precede external stewardship. This is what Christian individual self-governance means.
When we govern ourselves based on God’s laws we are free.
Clearly many children are never taught self-governance. As a result, not everyone is nice. What is to be done about this breakdown of good manners?
That brings us back to the question about the proper role of government. According to some citizens, the purpose of government is to establish (or at least recognize) standards of acceptable behavior and then enforce them. I’m not thinking of lawful vs. unlawful behaviors. Of course sound legislation is the bailiwick of government. But these days we look to the government not merely to enforce reasonable laws. Today, it’s the job of the government to make everyone be nice.
There’s a word for such a government: tyranny. You can’t have a national parent and be free. And the Bible recognizes freedom as a gift from God to humans. Read the last five verses of Genesis 1. Do you see the bounding freedom inherent in the creation of humans?
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Gen 1:27-31 ESV
God gave humans the privilege to beget new humans. He gave them dominion over “every living thing that moves on the earth.” To be fully human is to be free. That’s a creation truth. It goes back to the beginning; it’s woven into the fabric of the universe. And so we have the apostle Paul declaring that “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). And his contemporary Peter calling us to “Live as people who are free” (1 Pet 2:16). Jesus told some followers, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).
So it is altogether fitting and proper that John Stonestreet would invite us to join a statement about the importance of religious freedom in the USA.
Here on BreakPoint we often talk about the ongoing struggle between religious freedom and so-called “sexual freedom.” Today, religious freedom, though clearly established in the Bill of Rights, often loses. Sexual freedom is on the march and seems to be taking no prisoners.
The latest flash point in this struggle is so-called SOGI laws, that is, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity laws. Essentially, SOGI laws create new protected classes of people based on inclination and behavior, not race, sex, or creed. As a result, anyone with religious convictions against participating or celebrating such identities is a bigot.
Today, I’ve joined with Alan Sears of the Alliance Defending Freedom and an amazing list of about 80 other Christian leaders to sign a statement clarifying where we stand on these troubling SOGI laws. The statement is very clear: SOGI laws threaten the freedoms of Americans to speak, teach, and live out their deeply held convictions in public life without fear of lawsuits or government coercion.
You can read the statement at ColsonCenter.org/freedom. In fact, you can add your name to the list of signers. And you’ll find resources on how to talk about religious freedom and SOGI laws with friends and neighbors.
Freedom was not invented by George Washington. God is the author of freedom. May He protect our freedom from all unjust encroachment. Let’s pray for that, and work for it as well.
- Gary Brumbelow