- - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I write with a deep and growing concern about the future of religious liberty in the United States. Grateful to have had the privilege of serving our country for 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, I have come away from this experience believing we do ourselves a disservice when we assume that the government can solve all of the problems our country faces.

After leaving Congress in January 2015, I joined the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, an organization, founded by Randel Everett, to advance religious freedom as a universal right through advocacy, capacity-building and technology. Randel, a longtime advocate for religious freedom, both international and domestic, was Chuck Colson’s pastor for a number of years.

During my time in Congress I often reached out to Chuck Colson for his wise advice and counsel. Chuck was a mentor to me and I always benefited from talking with him.

A 2015 book titled, “My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues That Matter Most,” is a collection of previously unpublished material from notes and memos Chuck wrote over the years. I am struck by Chuck’s foresight on the erosion of our religious liberty. Here are a few excerpts:

“I believe we are heading for a new Dark Ages, with persecution coming to the church soon. It’s going to happen as a result of conflicts over sex. This is where modern human beings do not want to be in any way restrained. They will accept the law that governs them in just about every area of their lives except sexual passion.” (Pg. 123)

“We must reflect on how we defend religious liberty. We don’t want to defend it by claiming our opponents are bigots. Instead, we have to show why, if we allow the government to take away our freedom of conscience, we’re going to lose all other liberties. That’s the kind of approach that is going to have to be made to get a majority of the people with us.” (Pg. 139)

“I think if I had to diagnose the condition it is that we have a peacetime mentality. But we are at war; we’re at war with Satan; we’re at war with a world that is hostile and angry with us. We’re fighting for our very lives. And yet, we have a rear-guard mentality. We have a peacetime mentality. We can’t afford the luxury of quibbling with each other instead of really pulling together.” (Pg. 219)

Someone who personifies the standards for defending religious liberty that Colson recommended is Jim Denison, president of Denison Forum on Truth and Culture and a senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. Jim recently wrote a powerful article addressing clergy in America titled, “Religious Liberty: Why It Matters and What We Must Do,

In the article, Jim, a pastor for 25 years before launching the Denison Forum, challenges religious leaders to stand for the cause of religious liberty before it is too late. He frames the discussion as follows: First, is this threat real? Second, who is called to address it? Isn’t this something for politicians and attorneys to solve? Third, how can I make a difference? What can I do that will change society?

He then touches on current threats to religious liberty, including the rising bias against Christians in America, the shifting definition of truth, the definition of marriage, and the tax-exempt status of churches and other religious institutions.

Mr. Denison explores potential future threats and next offers perspective on why pastors need to engage culture. He closes with a strong call for religious leaders to make a difference and insights on how to do so.

Jim Denison’s compelling article, “Religious Liberty: Why It Matters and What We Must Do,” a must read for anyone who cares about religious liberty in America, can be accessed at 21wilberforce.org.

I urge my fellow Americans to acknowledge the serious threat to religious liberty in America, to stand firm, to speak out, to use your position of leadership to encourage those under your influence to also stand firm and not give in to fear or defeat.

Frank R. Wolf is distinguished senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and holds the Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at Baylor University.

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