Friday, February 21, 2014

Understanding the "silent war" on religious liberty: A must-see video

From the outset, let me make clear that this is not a political post. I'm not trying to convince you to support any party or candidate. This post is part of an ongoing conversation about religious liberty in the West that I've tried to be part of in the broader context of global persecution. Please do not attack or promote candidates in your comments. That will not further the conversation. 

In my previous blog series on persecution, one of the posts gave a picture of what persecution in the 21st century world looks like. In that post, I shared what I have learned from others who have made a point of studying and researching this topic: Persecution in the West - Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - looks very different than persecution in other parts of the world. Persecution in the West typically doesn't look bloody, but it's no less serious. People of faith are marginalized by an increasingly (and often intentionally) secular worldview which brings some presuppositions to the table - ideas that directly conflict with Scripture, setting up a certain challenge for those who adhere to Biblical faith. A few of these challenges include:

  • Private Affair: The idea that faith is private and should not impact a person's public choices or actions. This is often called the "naked public square" approach (as opposed to an "open public square, where all ideas have an equal chance to be heard). 
  • Relativism: The idea that faith is a matter of opinion and preference is pervasive. While the idea that individuals are free to choose their beliefs is a basic tenet of free society, this type of relativism elevates the "human rights" of individuals to such an extreme that sharing one's faith is offensive - and increasingly challenged on legal grounds. 
  • Anti-Christian elites: There are some secular political elites who are intent on bringing a "neo-secular inquisition" (Professor Rocco Buttliglione's phrase, quoted in Boyd-Macmillan, p. 217) to professing Christians.
  • Anti-absolutes culture: Increasingly, the West is hostile toward religions with uncompromising ethical beliefs. There is an "anti-absolute militancy" (Boyd-MacMillan, p. 219) that presents several lies as norms. If these are challenged, marginalization and persecution occur.
It's rare to hear a speech on a national level that highlights the unique aspects of these challenges to religious liberty. While President Obama rightly spoke out recently on the persecution of Christians globally, his remarks were linked solely to the obvious, blatant persecution outside our borders. Others that do speak to the religious liberty challenges of our post-modern, post-Christian western culture often fail to present a complete picture, instead focusing on the political aspects or taking a fear-mongering approach. The reality is that the religious liberty challenges in the West are much less obvious because they are bloodless and don't yield dramatic photographs of people beaten or abused for their faith. Yet they are real enough and serious enough as they are.

These challenges are real, and they need to be pointed out. For the church to be an advocate for those experiencing severe persecution, we must have a voice. For the church to be a light in the darkness, we must leave our four walls. For the church to fulfill the great commandment and the Great Commission, we must open our hearts, hands, and mouths to share the Good News with those around the corner and around the world.

So I was happy to hear about a speech on a national level that focused on religious liberty. When I heard the speech I was amazed. Here was a political figure - some say potential presidential candidate - who was not only speaking about religious liberty, but hitting all the key points that scholars have recognized about the secular West.

Below is the speech by Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana. He begins speaking at about 15:00 mark and speaks for about 35 minutes, followed but a question and answer time. (For those unable to view, here's the transcript.) Some of the key elements of this speech, from my perspective:
  • Jindal makes clear on more than one occasion that this isn't a Christian issue. This affects everyone of any faith at all. 
  • He accurately puts diversity of belief as foundational to who we are as a country, noting: "These days we think this diversity of belief is tolerated under our law and Constitution. But that’s wrong. This diversity of belief is the foundation of our law and Constitution."
  • He gets the order right: "America does not sustain and create faith. Faith created and sustains America."
  • He observes that a war, silent or otherwise, on faith in the public arena is a war on good deeds and social action, for faith has driven countless changes in this country. 
  • He highlights three strands of current legal challenges that should concern anyone of any faith.  
  • He draws from current issues at the state level to show both potential problems and potential protections.
  • He clearly notes the important distinction between freedom of worship and freedom of religion. That single word change makes all the difference, legally. 
  • He advocates an open public square, not a naked one. 
  • He challenges Americans not to settle for a silent faith locked away inside the walls of our religious institutions.
This is an important speech.  Watch it and pray. Remember the words of Daniel 11:32: "The people who know their God will stand firm and take action." Know Him, stand firm, and take the appropriate actions He leads you to take.

Boyd-MacMillan, Ronald. Faith that Endures: The essential guide to the persecuted church. Revell, 2006. 

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