For Christians, Religious Liberty Ought to Be More Than A Matter of Opinion
by J Warner Wallace
In a recent article posted on the National Public Radio (NPR) website, Tom Gjelten wrote about the “collision of two core American values — freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination,” and predicted this collision would prompt a “showdown in legislatures and courts across the country.” This is undoubtedly true, as those who seek to live and work in a manner consistent with their Christian worldview, like Washington State florist, Barronelle Stutzman, have come under increasing scrutiny in our federal judicial system. As a Christian, I’m concerned with the growing tension between our eroding religious liberties and the emerging values of our nation, and I’m afraid that we, as Christians, have exacerbated the problem.
There is a perception in our culture related to religious liberty. Many see it as nothing more than an effort on the part of believers to protect their subjective religious opinions. When these opinions become unpopular and threaten the current cultural values (including notions related to marriage or sexuality), they are inevitably sacrificed. Worse yet, if a culture can somehow make the case for its evolving moral views from science or philosophy, these cultural values will gain a sure advantage over the antiquated opinions of religious people. Who, after all, would favor an outdated, subjective opinion over the most current, objective, “fact”?
As Christians, we are partly to blame for this misperception related to religious beliefs. I’ve been speaking in churches around the country for a number of years now. I usually begin by asking a simple question: “Why are you a Christian?” The answer I get is sometimes disappointing. The most common response I receive is related to upbringing: “I was raised in the church,” or “I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember.” The second most repeated answer is usually grounded in an experience: “God demonstrated His existence to me,” or “I’ve had an experience that convinced me Christianity was true.” These kinds of answers, while they may be satisfying to those who offer them, are grounded in the personal, subjective experiences of individual believers. They are also common to every kind of believer, even though the religions and philosophies of the world often make competing and contradictory claims.
We shouldn’t, therefore, be surprised when the faith of believers is viewed as an exercise in wishful thinking or personal piety based on subjective preferences. Consider, for example…
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