As of the writing of this article, the topic of religious freedoms in the United States and other countries is hot. As Christians, we often find ourselves fighting from multiple perspectives and against multiple fronts. The preservation of religious freedoms holds importance to those of the faith and must be understood for what it truly is.
Let’s take a look at the religious liberties debate from the three standard fronts: practically, politically, and Biblically.
Practical Religious Liberties
The foundation of the United States was built on religious liberties. While some will debate whether that meant Christian liberties based upon the initial desire to escape the church rule and persecutions in Europe or if they truly meant full liberties for all, the reality of today is that religious liberties cover every true religion. By “true” religion, I’m not saying that religious liberties should only cover Christianity. I’m referring to those who have pure beliefs, right or wrong, while excluding those who have created a false religion for the sake of a political statement. In other words, I’m not a fan of extending religious liberties to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster because it was created to make a statement and not because of true belief.
It is within this foundation that we have to act practically. Any attempts to betray this foundation will invariably turn around and haunt us. If we believe in religious liberties to allow us to practice our Christian faith how we are taught, then to take away the liberties of other religions will hurt our own cause.
There are limits. The expansion of Sharia Law, for example, goes against our Constitution and is therefore fair play to prohibit. This applies to those who have religious beliefs that are perversions of the Bible; just because someone claims to be doing something evil, illegal, or unconstitutional in the name of Jesus Christ doesn’t make it defensible. If a church kills someone during the practice of an exorcism, they should be held accountable and should not be able to hide behind religious liberties.
A recent poll showed that the majority of Americans believe in defending religious liberties, but that there was a divide about whether those liberties extended to all religions or just Christians. One can look to the Constitution to determine that this is unacceptable and one can look to the Bible to demonstrate that it is acceptable. We’ll cover both of those shortly, but from a purely practical perspective it behooves Christians to defend the religious liberties of all true religions. Once we start separating out when religious liberties apply and when they do not, we walk down a path that will lead to our own liberties being taken away.
Political Religious Liberties
As we noted, the Constitution is clear about how religious liberties are to be guaranteed. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian, a Catholic, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Jew, or any of the other religions. The Constitution grants you the right to practice your religion how you see fit as long as doing so does not break the law.
This is where we see the crux of the matter. The 1st Amendment is being attacked through politics, but it’s also being attack through laws that try to limit the freedoms by representing themselves as other freedoms. We see it in play in Oregon where the owner of Sweet Cakes is being held accountable for following their faith.
From a purely political perspective, religious freedoms are under attack. It isn’t just the liberal left that is attacking. Religious liberties are being attacked from the right, though it’s not being done so directly against Christians. This is a dangerous path. Once one religion is stripped of a liberty, all other religions will follow. At that point, the Constitution and the desire for fairness will supersede the common sense of the threats from other religions as compared to the threats from Christians and Jews.
Now, more than ever, we must vote with the Bible in mind. We’ve seen what can happen with seven years of a President who doesn’t hold the Bible in the highest regard. One could say that this trend has been building for decades and that President Obama is simply the culmination. This is why we’re adamant about the need for a strong Evangelical Christian to sit in the White House.
Biblical Religious Liberties
There are those who will point to the Bible and declare it as a reason to attack those of other religions. Some would say that as a Judeo-Christian country, we should extend religious liberties only to those who follow the path that we follow. This is problematic from a practical and political perspective, but it’s also problematic from a Biblical perspective.
We could go back and forth quoting Deuteronomy 12:29-31, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, or any other number of verses that are intended to make us feel like we should have an exclusive religion that allows no room for others in our country, but that misses the point of the entire Gospel. Our goal should be to spread the Word of God to all who would listen. We’ve all heard stories about people of other faiths who were brought to worship the one true God based upon experience or outreach. These stories should be the foundation of an understanding that it’s not ours to know why certain people cross our path. Remember, for some, we as individuals may represent the first time they ever get to experience a Biblical perspective. We may be the only representation of the Bible that they get to see.
I always like to turn to the end of the Book of Matthew as a reminder that we are to spread the Word:
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.Matthew 28:19-20 (KJV)
Going forth does not necessarily mean having to go on mission trips overseas, though that is an important aspect of this. There are plenty that can be taught here and some of them want to be taught the Word of God. Religious liberties must be protected to allow this to continue, for conversions to happen, and for the Word of God to spread with limited intervention from the government.
As Americans place religious liberties at the top of their list as influences in the coming elections, we must always remember that the more freedoms we have and that we share with those of other religions, the better it will be for all of us. If we believe in the Bible, we must trust that it will overcome all other teachings.