It is time to check our cultural barometers.
We received a particularly somber weather report in February from U.S. Attorney General William Barr when he addressed NRB’s national convention in Nashville. He warned us of a current struggle in America so contentious that it resembles a “blood feud.” General Barr described a mostly secular “totalitarian” view of democracy in America that is aggressively pitted against those who prize individual liberty, including, he noted, the “freedom to pursue one’s own spiritual life and destiny.”
Strong words, of course. But does the evidence back up his remarks?
The corroborating proof continues to pile up. In the weeks following the Attorney General’s remarks we see both Christians and the Christian worldview continuing to be targeted, sometimes blatantly, other times subtly. All this ought to awaken us. If it doesn’t, perhaps it is only because we have forgotten our history; forgetfulness aided by an increasingly secular view of society that the media elites seem to be more than happy to celebrate and perpetuate. Contrast that with the June 28, 1813, letter to Thomas Jefferson authored by Founder John Adams. In it, Adams listed the dual unifying factors behind American independence. Those factors were, he wrote, the “general principles of Christianity” together with “the general principles of English and American liberty.”
Sadly, instead of recognizing the positive and dynamic relationship between those two principles – faith and liberty – and then encouraging respect for both, too many media outlets display something very different. The newest attack comes in a mean-spirited series of online commentaries and tweets levied against Evangelical Christians blaming them for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a hit piece in Salon.com, and an op-ed in the New York Times with this eye-popping title: “The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals.”
Perhaps the Times publishers suddenly realized that this was a step too far. The headline has since been changed by the New York Times, now substituting the “Religious Right” as the enemy in the article’s title. The faulty theory behind those particular attacks has been the assumption that Bible-believing Christians are anti-science and because science is the only hope for abating this current scourge of contagion, followers of Christ are therefore responsible, they reason, for a supposedly flawed Washington response to the coronavirus. Of course, I could fill this article with a list of celebrated scientists and medical experts both past and present whose devotion to Christ never conflicted with their scientific endeavors. Dr. Ben Carson, our Secretary of H.U.D., is just one example; his list of medical “firsts” and breakthroughs led to his being recognized with more than 60 honorary doctorates and to being listed as a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress.
Yet, the smothering power of political correctness directed against both the witness and the practice of Biblical Christianity still continues. In March, news broke that Christian judges in Texas are facing punishment if their spiritual conscience retrains them from marrying same-sex couples.
Ironically, such punishment directly conflicts with the promise of former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. In his majority opinion legalizing same-sex marriage Justice Kennedy wrote that, regarding those who oppose such marriage unions on faith grounds, “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection ….”
The question now is our response to these “totalitarian” trends mentioned by our Attorney General. To answer that, we need to look no further than Scripture, and the example of Apostle Paul. When arrested and punished in violation of his rights as a Roman citizen, Paul asserted his rights against the magistrates who were responsible, as recorded in Acts 16: 35-40. Yet, while in that illegal confinement, he also proclaimed the Gospel with resounding success (Acts 16: 25-33).
As ill winds blow, our advocating for rights of religious freedom and free speech on the one hand and proclaiming the truth of the Gospel on the other is not an “either/or” proposition. We must do them both, because the former facilitates the latter. Just as importantly, we must do them effectively, and we must do them now.
By Craig Parshall General Counsel, NRB and Founding Director, John Milton Project for Digital Free Speech.