“Our Nation is Built on Freedom From Religion”

“Our Nation is Built on Freedom From Religion” May 16, 2018

A friend and his wife were in the final stages of adopting a child they had fostered since birth when a state caseworker asked if they supported and same-sex marriage. My friends were caught off guard. They were rightly concerned their response would determine whether the child they loved would be removed and given to someone else. It sounds akin to a growing list of court cases requiring that we silence our faith in public spaces like business, school, or policy. For all people of faith—not just Christians—this is impossible. Our beliefs are at the center of who we are, what we value, and how we live. Telling us to keep our faith to ourselves is an intolerant way of telling Christians to stay in the closet.

Many Christians are in an uncomfortable position discerning how to live in this post-Christendom and pre-Kingdom world. One error is thinking everything is political. We don’t want to make the opposite mistake of pretending nothing is political. The most competent government will not bring the Kingdom to earth. It will not change hearts. It will not save souls. But it can hold back the worst of evil, shelter the helpless, and ensure us freedom to go about Kingdom work.

Living in This World

As much as we might want to simply live and let live, we cannot agree with everyone and everything. We want to influence our neighbors to consider biblical principles—not because we are intolerant but because we love them. We have strong beliefs on issues that impact human welfare and cannot advocate things that clearly violate biblical teaching—untethered sexuality that causes great pains and problems, the taking of innocent unborn life, and more. While we cannot go back to the era of Christendom or expect non-Christians to live like followers of Jesus, we also cannot let issues of justice and mercy slide. And we cannot be silent as others write laws that hinder religious freedom. Non-Christians worry that our views are being forced on them. We are right to be just as concerned when their views are forced on us.

Two-Story Truth

An unmarried friend of mine thought it would be a good idea to rent the basement apartment in the home of a married couple. He assumed it was clear they would stay upstairs and he would stay downstairs. The only problem was that the couple often came downstairs without invitation or announcement and intrude on his life and space. Sometimes they came down to visit, other times to snoop around, and still others to “borrow” something that was his without asking. He felt seriously offended by the invasion of his personal space.

When it comes to Christianity and politics many outside the church feel like Christianity should live upstairs in the realm of faith, while politics lives downstairs in the realm of fact. Whenever religious people show up uninvited downstairs, the people who live there feel violated.

Underlying this belief is a massive assumption that biblical Christianity does not share. Building on the work of Francis Schaeffer, scholar Nancy Pearcey explains how the prevailing cultural worldview draws a thick line between values and facts. This “two-story truth” keeps “rational, verifiable” facts on the ground floor, while anything deemed “nonrational, noncognitive” has to stay upstairs.(1) Everything on the first story applies to everyone. Everything on the second story is up to you, take it or leave it.

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