The above headline from The Christian Post caught my attention this morning.
CP contributor Emily Wood, reported on a recent virtual event hosted by the Religious Freedom Institute featuring legal experts in the area of religious freedom. The panel discussed the shifting religious landscape in the United States and voiced their concerns “about the impact of the nation’s increasing religious disaffiliation on the First Amendment” that has evolved over the past two decades.
Among the featured speakers was U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas, appointed to the bench by former President Trump in 2019. Kacsmaryk observed that “multiple factors have contributed to the legislative shift in religious freedom over the last 20 years.”
Church memberships has dipped below the majority of the population according to a recent Gallup Poll. In addition those who identify as “nones”, not adhering to any religion, is on the rise.
In addition, Kacsmaryk observed that the sexual revolution that began in the 1960’s has resulted in a “decrease in national religiosity.”
All of these factors result in legal and legislative trends away from religious freedom. “Law flows downstream from politics and politics flows downstream from culture,” Kacsmaryk said.
Here’s Kacsmaryk’s conclusion that really caught my eye.
“When combined, the sociological, theological and theoretical factors generate a culture that is focused on expressive individualism, self-definition and therapeutic affirmation. It combines to create a politics that prioritizes expression over free exercise, prioritizes sex over religion and safe spaces over debate and dialogue.”
Finally, the Judge argued that “traditional Abrahamic religions will become harder to explain to courts and legislatures as these beliefs continue to fall outside the mainstream.”
(1) Let’s be careful not to equate American patriotism with Christianity.
While Christians may love their country, enjoy the freedom of worship, and benefit from laws that favor our religious beliefs, our faith, fidelity, and future is not dependent on America’s success or survival.
Too often we’ve been guilty of wrapping the American flag around the Bible with a cross towering above it. It’s easy to forget that Christianity was born and flourished in a culture of opposition and persecution. Both the political influence of the Jewish Sanhedrin combined with the compliance and suspicions of the Roman Empire often made life difficult for Christians.
We’ve been blessed in the United States with laws and a culture that has allowed freedom of religious expression. There are signs suggesting this may continue to diminish.
Let’s remember that the world’s best hope is not in a free America, but in the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2) Let’s not conflate our religious freedom in America with our liberty in Christ.
The Bible admonishes us to “stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free” (Gal. 5:1). The context is actually speaking about Christians being entangled in the bondage of the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law.
Jesus said, “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). Freedom in Christ releases us from the bondage, burden and blame of sin. We’re free from Satan’s shackles. From sin’s shame and guilt. And free from a guilty conscience to one washed pure by the blood of Christ (Heb. 10:22).
Furthermore, we ought not to use our liberty in Christ as a “covering for evil,” or “cloak of maliciousness.” or as a camouflage for promoting our personal political agenda (1 Pet. 2:15-16).
(3) Let us live godly in an ungodly world.
More important than the American way of life, is the Christian way of life. More valuable than our political freedom is our freedom from sin and Satan. More necessary than our social activism is our righteous influence in an unrighteous world.
To scattered and persecuted Christians who were maligned and mistreated Peter admonished them to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (I Pet. 2:11). Then he offered this challenge.
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
In these perilous times preachers and pastors need to do more Bible preaching and spiritual Shepherding rather than politicizing their pulpits.
And all Christians need to remember that the Kingdom of God differs from the kingdoms of the world in its purpose, policies and practices.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman