Is religious liberty really under attack in the United States? If so, will Donald Trump, if he’s elected, really be able to protect it from further attack?
Many of my Christian friends probably wonder why I would even pose the first question, because, to them, the answer is an obvious, “Yes.” As to the second question, some of my Christian friends would also think the answer is obvious.
I’m not so sure the answer to either question is so obvious if we are really honest with ourselves about the situation and the reason behind the “attacks.” But being honest with ourselves is the first step toward restoring the religious liberty historic Christianity once knew in this country.
The word “historic” is key to answering the first question, because the answer depends on what strain of Christianity one is talking about. The American Christianity of more recent vintage that is rooted in only a spiritualized internal experience and focused mostly on getting to Heaven is not really under attack. It’s no threat to anyone. A more robust strain of the same that focuses on personal piety in one’s conduct is not under too much attack, either. Yes, such Christians are considered odd and may be ostracized in some circles. But there is still a large, whatever-floats-your-boat sentiment in America; so long as you “do your thing” in a manner that doesn’t affect others, your religious viewpoint is no threat.
However, if you are part of the historic strain of Christianity that believes there are transcendent, creational laws or norms that apply to all human behavior, including the institutions that humans create, such as civil governments, economic systems, and educational systems, then your Christianity is under attack. That Christianity is not okay with the American majority, maybe even a very good number of those who go to church on Sunday.
But it’s more than just “not okay.” It must be snuffed out.
That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. It’s hard for Christians to admit, but it’s not hard to understand. No god likes to have another god usurp their rule and authority, and the Christian God who imposes “laws” on His creation is an offense to the man-is-the-measure-of-all things religion. Man has always wanted to be his own god, and the culmination of that “religious” view’s dominating power in America was demonstrated when the Supreme Court said it could redefine marriage.
We must understand that there can be no absolute religious liberty when the question of religious liberty is framed this way: Has a creator God imposed a moral order on man, or is man autonomous? There can be toleration of religion and religious beliefs, which is what we have now, but toleration necessarily means someone or some thing decides what will be tolerated. Those in charge of deciding what religion(s) will be tolerated necessarily “establish” that religion or those religions.
That being said, let’s return to the second question, can Trump protect religious liberty? In the sense in which I’ve framed the issue, the short answer is “No.” He can perhaps slow down the attacks for a season, and he can maybe help prevent certain selected attacks, like Tennessee’s Legislature has done with professional counselors and student religious groups on public college campuses. But he can’t stop the attacks; they are inherent to the worldview underlying the controlling powers in our civil government, school systems, and culture.
Picture the whack-a-mole at the fair and that’s how I envision Trump on this matter—he might be able to whack a historic Christianity-attacking mole here and there. Of course, Hillary, like President Obama, is one of the moles and will let the moles run free.
Those who believe their Christian views are under attack must first realize the depth and breadth of the problem. It is beyond fixing by any one President. In fact, there’s no quick fix.
It’s going to take a cultural revolution as comprehensive as the revolution that displaced what we had and that’s brought us to where we are. The sooner we see that, the sooner we’ll move past looking for political saviors1, settle in and get started on the task ahead. Helping your friends understand the nature of the problem and then equipping yourself at things like our Stand for Truth Seminar (Johnson City, September 10th) is one way to get started. It’s much larger than the next Presidential election.
- I do not intend to suggest that voting or politics and the product of politics—laws and public policy—are not important and part of the solution, but it is only a part.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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