The question for this episode is, “What do you think is the biggest threat to religious liberty, and how should the church respond?”
Well, I mean I think the biggest threat right now when it comes to religious liberty has to do with the sexual issues. In the founding era of the republic most of the problems that our Baptist forbears were dealing with had to do with the government setting up and funding Anglican churches. It really wasn’t about Anglicanism, it was about money. You’ve got an establishment that likes the government money, likes the government power, and they want to run out the competition. That’s what it’s really about.
Now it’s not so much about money. It’s about sex. And so you are dealing with, I’m dealing with, every single day I’ve been dealing all day long with the sorts of issues where for instance you have a Christian who says I can’t by conscience participate in this same-sex wedding by being the photographer or by renting out the hall or something like that—now, being prosecuted, having fines levied against—those sorts of things are happening increasingly. That’s also what is happening with for instance the HHS mandate saying you really don’t have any choice but to fund or empower drugs that you believe to be violating your free exercise of religion.
And then things like Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts that aren’t able to be in business anymore because they’re saying we place children only in homes with both a mom and dad. They are not saying we think everybody else ought to be illegal. They are saying that we—and they can’t get a state license to do it. And so that’s where I think right now the locus of religious liberty issues in this country is.
And I think one of the problems too is that for a long time evangelical Christianity at the lay-populous level has had a narrow vision of religious liberty because we haven’t had a lot of threats to it in a real sense. So what has happened is really two things that I think make my job a lot more difficult now is that you have had some people who haven’t thought through that what our Baptist forbears were saying is right—that religious liberty is an image-of-God issue. It’s not a who-has-the-most-votes issue. And so that means we’re the people who ought to be saying the loudest no, no, no, no, we don’t want the mayor and the city council to say that a mosque can’t be in our town. Because a mayor and a city council that can say that, is a mayor and a city council—because it’s a mosque—that has too much power. And the government doesn’t decide that. We’ve got to be the people who are saying that.
And then secondly we’ve had a lot of people who have cried wolf over situations, they’ve cried persecution when there is no persecution, which is just as dangerous as saying peace, peace, when there is no peace—if you say war, war, where there is no war. So you have these kind of fake senses of we’re aggrieved; we’re persecuted because the lady at WalMart says, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” What happens when that goes on long enough—and it’s every single year the same sort of thing happens—then you wind up with people saying yeah, that’s what they always say. So they don’t pay attention when there really are serious restrictions of free exercise and religious liberty that now are coming upon us.