In the last 15 months or so I have been asked about the most important issue to America.
What is it?
An international broadcast inquired, “Don’t you have to get the right conservative person elected for the Church to excel?” A national periodical asked, “Wouldn’t you agree that religious liberty is central to our concerns as believers?” Or this query from a national radio show: “I am sure you will agree with me that our religious rights were the most important issue of the last presidential campaign.”
No, I didn’t agree. And no, we don’t have to have the right presidential candidate in office to see the best of American values and virtues ignite. And no, religious liberty is not the most critical aspect necessary to the exercise of our faith.
My answer to all three media inquiries might be best morphed together in a single paragraph:
Some of Christianity’s best and brightest moments came–and still do,
by the way–in geographical areas with little noble government leadership
or religious freedom at all. The first few centuries of the church experienced
oppressive emperors and absorbed the worst inclinations of imperial
subordinates across the Roman Empire…and yet the faithful grew
by extraordinary numbers. China has, or soon will have, more Christians
than even we in America without much help from government leaders or their
laws. And get this: we are learning that some of the most ruthless governments
in Muslim countries have found to their dismay widespread Christian conversions
among their populace. Millions, we are told. So, yes, the Church can revive and
thrive with precious few advantages from the power brokers of culture.
Now, am I grateful for religious liberty in this nation? You bet. This morning I was out at an abortion clinic, offering hope and help from my local church, with police cars occasionally driving by and merely winking. Last evening I was at a prison, serving communion and offering salvation without a hitch. We conduct a weekly after-school Bible club at a local public elementary. And I am very grateful that the private religious Christian college of my family’s choice doesn’t have to bend to regulations forcing employment and activism beyond their “Standards of Christian Conduct.”
And yet, much of the Church has been spoiled with such freedom. Hence, no revival here. Only, it seems, regression.
Still, if we are one day beset with atheists in office and laws that match that perspective, God will still let the Church be the Church—if she wants to be.