Never Forget Our First Freedom

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | Monday, March 25, 2013

Never Forget Our First Freedom


During last week’s Conservative Political Action Council’s annual conference, known as CPAC, several conservatives who had up till now supported one-man-one-woman marriage jumped ship and came out in favor of so-called same-sex “marriage.”

Scholar Charles Murray articulated the main reason given by most for the reversal: it’s inevitable. “With gay marriage,” he said, “… the train has left the station.”

Others claim that it’s a necessary concession if Republicans are ever going to win again. If granting same-sex couples the right to marry brings in the votes they say, so be it. What’s worth fighting for is economic conservatism, gun rights and other conservative issues. But marriage is not worth the fight anymore, apparently. Better to lose this issue than have to get a real job, I suppose.

And that other pesky issue that comes along with redefining marriage also went largely unmentioned: religious liberty. In fact, few mentioned the numerous threats to our first freedom. Until, that is, my friend and colleague Eric Metaxas took the stage and delivered one of the best public speeches I’ve ever heard him give (and that’s saying something).

“Many people,” he said, “… see disturbing parallels between what was happening in Germany in the thirties and America today on [the issue of religious freedom]. I’m very sorry to agree.”

Then, citing Chuck Colson, he criticized the administration for substituting “freedom of worship” for “freedom of religion.”

“Freedom of worship,” Eric noted, “says you can have your little strange rituals and say whatever you like in your little religious buildings for an hour or two on Sundays, but once you leave that building you will bow to the secular orthodoxy of the state!  And if you don’t like it, tough luck!”

This, he said, is what’s really going on in the same-sex “marriage” debate. “This has been framed,” he told the crowd, “as an issue of expanding a supposed right to marry whomever one chooses, which it is not. … It’s about religious freedom.”

“What about the religious freedom of those who dissent on that issue?” Eric asked. “This is not a live and let live issue ... if marriage is legally redefined, it will utterly cripple religious freedom in America and it’s already beginning to do that.”

Eric then argued that if religious conviction is forced out of the public square not only would bad things happen, but — and this is an important point — many good things won’t happen.

William Wilberforce’s life, he said, is a “story of what happens when a man drags religion into the public square.” Also Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and most of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement acted out of Christian convictions.

So did Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who, Eric suggested, still speaks to America today, “warning us not to let ourselves be silenced.” But instead, we need to “stand up for what is right knowing that the whole country will be blessed.”

In his book A Free People’s Suicide, Os Guinness argues that only virtue can keep freedom from degenerating into lawlessness. And what cultivates virtue? Faith. This, Guinness says, is what made the American experiment so unique. It’s why religious freedom is our first freedom. Remove the influence of religion, and the government must grow to govern people who won’t govern themselves. Religious freedom, as Eric concluded, is “the most important check the Founders put in place against unbridled statism.”

Please watch Eric’s speech and share it with others. It’s that important. If you come to BreakPoint.org, we’ll link to it and to the interview Eric and I did with Os Guinness on the very important arguments in his book.

Folks, there is no America without religious liberty. As Eric Metaxas told CPAC, “unless we take this seriously, it will be too late and we won’t be able to do anything about it.”

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: March 25, 2013

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