This blog post will also serve as Episode 33 of my Podcast.
I would like to speak on a topic that I have been fairly silent on. Well, silent in this realm, in the actual real world, I have not been silent on this topic, but lately I have felt the need to speak up in this format. I hope to do so in a way that displays the love of Christ as revealed through the Spirit inspired text of our Holy Scriptures. If you don't agree with that, then most likely you will not agree with anything else I have to say. If you believe in the inspired Word of God as collected in the Holy Bible, but you don't hold to its infallibility and inerrancy, then we are still going to be working off of different platforms and you will, again, most likely disagree with what I have to say.
To illustrate, I will be working from (what I could figuratively describe as) a boat dock that, in its completed form, is almost 2,000 years old, while you will be balancing on a progressive boat that is headed somewhere. And the truth is, you may genuinely believe that the progressive boat is the place we all ought to be, and immovable docks all ought to be abandoned... and I'm fine with your assessment of the situation, as long as you and I agree that you are progressing and I am not moving.
Finally, this is a blog post, not a book. It will be abundantly obvious that this post is not perfected in its points or extensive in its explanations. If you come reading with an anti-Matt bias or an anti-boat dock bias, then we will again, most likely disagree. But if you are reading this, then it might be possible that you are open to a conversation, and conversations are things that I love.
I would like to come at this topic from an angle that you may not be used to, so I would like to give you a heads up before I really dig in. Just kidding... no heads up, I'm just digging in.
Point One: Religious Liberty is a Christian Value.
Religious Liberty is a Christian Value. It is a Christian Value because any True Christian understands that Faith (a belief system) cannot be mandated. When sinful people have made the evil error of thinking that faith could be forced or mandated, it always led to a disastrous system that did not love people, inaccurately understood people, caused damage to people, and most importantly, did not exalt our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, because it misrepresented Him.
Because Faith cannot be mandated, then large portions of Christian Morality can also not be mandated or forced onto society at-large. Much of Christian Morality is challenging, to say the least, and unbearable without our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, actually bearing the burden of righteousness for us. We can then adopt that same morality, not under the heavy burden of creating righteousness, but under the light and easy burden of Christ (Matthew 11:28-30), which feels much more like gratitude and joy than anything else. Christians (disciples of Jesus Christ) soon discover, not only from an accurate understanding of the Word, but also from personal experience, that living out this Christian Morality serves more as an outpouring of our Faith and as a demonstrator of that faith, which is, without these works, invisible (Hebrews 11:1; James 2:14-26).
The only times that people of a genuinely Bible-determined Faith will attempt to extend that scriptural morality onto others, is when it falls under protection of the weak and/or justice for those wronged. For example, personal property protection (somebody bigger than you can't just come in and take your stuff), reparations concerning theft (if somebody bigger than you took your stuff then the other members of society should make them give it back, or pay for what was lost), and justice for injury or homicide (somebody bigger than you tries to take your stuff and/or your life and either injures you or kills you, they ought to have an appropriate penalty for that crime as well). All of these things, Biblically, fall under our Civil Authorities (our governments). A good starting passage on this is Romans 13:1-7
I am obviously summarizing what could potentially take pages to sort through. I hope that you can look past the brief details, for just a moment, to see the bigger picture idea: Religious Liberty is an inherently Christian Value. It isn't that non-Christians world-views cannot adopt Religious Liberty. I'm simply saying that a person who actually understands the Bible will adopt religious liberty as they attempt to understand and play roles in the forming and maintaining of our Civil Government. Gospel-Saturated Christians will find themselves more and more living a life of faith, becoming more like Christ, encouraging others to do the same, helping each other up when they fail, and exhibiting the grace and love of Jesus Christ to all those who don't adopt this faith in the hope that they will, as well, have their eyes opened to the truth and begin following Jesus Christ. This will never look like forced faith, mandated morality, or religious intolerance: which brings me to my next point.
Point Two: Religious Liberty, separated from the Gospel, succumbs to Religious Intolerance.
Religious Liberty, if separated from the Gospel Message as displayed in the power and authority of Jesus Christ, will eventually succumb to Religious Intolerance. This, unfortunately, can be witnessed with, even a brief study of church history, but has also been demonstrated on the small scale in overly legalistic churches. The point of this blog post is not to go extensively down this trail either, but it must be said that churches have fallen prey to forgetting the good part of the good news, and have begun force-feeding people Jesus -- when Jesus, while here, would tell people that his teachings may not be for them (Matthew 19:11). When Jesus began to gather a following, would often say things that were exceptionally difficult to swallow, just (seemingly) to drive people away (John 6:60-61,66; Luke 11:45). True Christians with an actual understanding of the Gospel message will know that, but for the Grace of God, not a one of us would ever be a disciple of Jesus.
When a society has lived in a culture that has accepted and lifted up religious liberty, as taught, promoted, and enacted by those Biblical principles I briefly mentioned in the first point, but then that society rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ while trying to maintain the same morality, they will begin to adopt other means of justification (being declared righteous) outside of grace. I've already mentioned that this has happened in church history and in local churches, but what about when a society not only rejects the gospel as displayed in the power and authority of Jesus... but also rejects God entirely?
Our secular culture, that seeks to live God-Free, may have run on the fumes of religious liberty for a while, but without Jesus and His Gospel, religious liberty is beginning to fade, to be replaced by religious intolerance. This was fine for many Christians, as long as the morality of the populace still aligned with a Christian Biblical Morality, but now that the morality has "progressed" - specifically in the area of sexual standards - Christians are finding themselves (as far as the populace is concerned) in need of "salvation" and our only path of "justification" is to be affirming of the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and their disciples. They have a morality, and that morality must be believed by all and adhered to by all. To disagree with this means you are evil and must be stopped, and they will "excommunicate" you from their institutions, if you don't adopt their stance on these issues and become a believer in their identities. If this sounds familiar to you, it is because the problem was already there before the morality shifted.
Regardless, this is where we find ourselves today. We are in a society where their progressing morality has drifted away from the solid dock of scripture, and we are fools if we think that they will be as tolerant of our "immorality" as we were with theirs.
Following along with the dock and boat analogy: have you ever been standing with a foot on a dock and a foot in a boat? Are you familiar with that feeling as they start to separate and the boat begins to drift? Have you ever attempted to exercise that "inner thigh" strength, to try and keep them together? If you are familiar with any of this, then you are also familiar with that moment of decision that is looming... that moment when one of three things happens... you choose the boat, you choose the dock, or you inadvertently choose the water. This is where many of us are today. This illustration won't summarize everything, but I believe it might capture the "jist" of the situation.
If that moment of decision comes and you choose the progressive boat, you've done so because you believe it is the right choice. You don't mind the "progressive" title (unless it is coming out of certain people's mouths) because you like where this boat is headed. In fact, the dock is so oppressive and evil that you are loading your cannons as I type, prepared to demolish it.
If on the other hand, that moment of decision comes and you choose the stationary dock, you've also done so because you believe it is the right choice. Some that choose this dock are also prepared to launch the torpedos to end the free-sailing of the boat. Bible-believing Christians who understand the Gospel Message don't launch torpedos... they call out to those on the boat, they study boats, some throw out lines for those looking for a way back, and they pray for a strong wind from the Lord or a swift current to steer it back... but they never launch torpedos.
If you are doing the splits, I hate to break it to you, but you're going into the water. My hand is out to pull you back, but I'm waiting to see which direction you swim. But this is where the issue really lands, for those who are attempting to continue to work in a secular environment, like, for example, a public school.
Point Three: A Christian understanding of Religious Liberty motivates grace and love for all, it doesn't quench it.
As a Bible-believing Christian who has put all of his hopes into Jesus and the Gospel message, I am motivated... no... driven to be a person who is full of grace and love for all. I have been teaching for quite some time now, and the single most influential factor in my love for students - regardless of their upbringing, beliefs, religion, mannerisms, personality, political leaning, attitude, behavior, gender, sexual preference, ability, interests, actions toward me, or past behavior - has been the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I mention this because those on the other side can't comprehend this. They think that the only way to love someone is to be in agreement with them... holding a Christian Morality while demonstrating grace toward those who don't is unimaginable to them because they are incapable of holding a LGBTQ+ morality while demonstrating grace toward those who don't.
I know that in the coming days, weeks, months, or possibly years, I am prepared for the potential attacks that will ensue. Even writing this post and publishing it publicly might make me a target, and I'm prepared for that as well. I used to think that if I did everything right, as a Christian... if I did it just perfectly... that people would recognize the love of Christ through me. I was convinced that if people would seek to malign me, hate me, attack me, or misrepresent me, that it must be because they didn't really know me. That was foolish. The absolute hero of my faith, as well as the author and sustainer of it, once taught on this exact thing. He said, as recorded by John in his Gospel Account:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours." (John 15:18–20 ESV)
As a Christian, I am dedicated to unconditional love and unmerited grace for all. Feel free to try me.