New year, old resolution: Defend religious liberty

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If you’re like six in ten Americans, you make New Year’s resolutions at least some of the time. According to the website Statistic Brain, the top five resolutions are: losing weight, getting organized, spending less and saving more, enjoying life to the fullest, and staying fit and healthy.

Now those are fine resolutions, although they’re all pretty self-directed. But if you’re making resolutions for 2015, let me urge you to consider an old one that hardly makes anyone’s list, but is certainly at the top of mine.

Will you resolve to support religious freedom in 2015? If we don’t do it in this New Year, it just might be too late.

Just think of all that has happened to undermine religious freedom, the first freedom, in 2014. Think about all the Christian bakers and florists who were told to support what are called “same-sex marriages” or face ruinous fines and the loss of their careers.

Or think of Gordon College, a well-regarded evangelical institution that faces the possible loss of accreditation for its biblical beliefs about human sexuality. Gordon President Michael Lindsey, a friend of mine, dared to sign a letter requesting that President Obama include a religious exemption in an executive order that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or “gender identity.”

Or, think of the owners of Hobby Lobby, a Christian-run company, or the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor, being told by the Obama administration that they must provide their employees with drugs that can induce abortions.

Wheaton College in Illinois, which faces the same issue, is also fighting for its beliefs in court. Yet most of us go about our lives as if nothing is really happening, as if all is well. Well folks, it isn’t!

Now let me make it clear that I’m concerned about protecting this old, fundamental right for all Americans, not simply protecting our rights as Christians. God forbid. This is about freedom of conscience and giving everyone the opportunity to exercise a faith, or to exercise no faith at all.

I can never get Jonathan Swift’s classic satire “Gulliver’s Travels” out of my mind when I think of this. Remember the scene where a sleeping Gulliver is being tied down by the Lilliputians? Gulliver is like the American church, asleep. At any moment, if he wakes, he can crush the Lilliputians, which are the proliferating ways that our culture restricts our freedom of action and belief. But as Gulliver continues to sleep, the Lilliputians are putting one small rope across him followed by another. If Gulliver doesn’t wake up in time, eventually there’ll be too many ropes, and he will not be able to get up. Folks, that is happening.

As my friend Os Guinness said in his great book, “A Free People’s Suicide,” “America’s writing on the wall is evident to those who are watching.”

My question is whether this will be the year when the church finally realizes that although our situation may not be as dire as Bonhoeffer’s and the German church during the Third Reich, the principle is exactly the same. When the state tries to impose its values on a sleeping church, it will succeed and will eventually neutralize the voice of the church completely.

Now, I do see some hopeful signs. Remember earlier this year when the mayor of Houston subpoenaed the sermons of pastors? Many Christians, some of you, flooded her office with sermons, books, and Bibles, and she backed down. The incident was a tiny wake-up call for the church, enabling us to see that the battle for religious liberty is real, and we had better fight it.

But many more challenges are coming. Let’s make a resolution to stay awake for religious liberty in 2015. It is the most important resolution we can possibly make.

Eric Metaxas

— by Eric Metaxas

Eric Metaxas is currently the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org) that is broadcast on 400 stations with an audience of eight million. Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries