Eric Cantor served seven terms in Congress, rising to the #2 position in the House of Representatives. In his reelection campaign he spent more than $2 million on advertising and $168,000 on steak dinners. His opponent, Dr. David Brat, is an economics professor at Randolph Macon College, a school of 1,300 students in Ashland, Virginia. He spent $200,000 in total on his campaign. Brat shocked the political world when he defeated Cantor in Tuesday's primary.
Brat is an evangelical Christian and Roman Catholic who earned a master's degree at Princeton Theological Seminary. His website lists among his core beliefs this statement: "Faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation." Clearly, conservative Christians can win elections in the United States.
Is religious liberty being threatened today? According to a new Pew Religion Research Institute poll, 54 percent of Americans believe it is. Those who agree include white Evangelicals (83%), Republicans (80%), and senior adults, age 65+ (61%). Among those who disagree are the religiously unaffiliated (62%), young adults (59%), and Democrats (55%). What do these findings mean?
It seems clear that Christians who worry most about religious liberty are those whose beliefs are most threatened. For instance, white evangelicals are obviously more committed to personal evangelism than the religiously unaffiliated, so evangelicals are more concerned about freedom of speech that protects their ability to share their faith.
Evangelicals, Republicans, Catholics, and senior adults typically take more conservative positions on social issues such as gay marriage, so they understandably feel threatened by litigation restricting their ability to exercise their religious convictions on these topics. It is also clear that religious liberty is part of the current partisan political debate, but that fact does not make this issue less serious or relevant.
So, is religious liberty being threatened in America? If you believe that homosexual activity is forbidden by Scripture and is therefore wrong, you are clearly on the wrong side of public opinion and can expect growing restrictions on your freedom of speech and religious convictions. If you want to express your faith publicly, you can expect opposition and discrimination in some parts of our country.
If, however, you want to be salt and light in our dark and lost world, no court in the land can defeat your witness. Early Christians had far fewer religious freedoms than we enjoy today. Subjects of Rome were made to worship the emperor; Christians were often targeted for wholesale persecution and slaughter; believers had no legal protection for their faith. Yet they "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6, KJV) and launched the largest spiritual movement in human history.
How did they do it? They demonstrated their faith by their love (John 13:35). They met felt needs in order to meet spiritual needs. They viewed the secular authorities not as enemies to be defeated but as people for whom to pray (1 Timothy 2:2). They did not mount a "culture war," but gave their lives to a movement of subversive service and grace.
"The Life-Light blazed in the darkness; the darkness couldn't put it out" (John 1:5, The Message).
Publication date: June 12, 2014