NEWS FROM THE CENTER FRIDAY DIGEST - August 19, 2022 - Lutherans are on the front lines of the battle for religious liberty: Part 2
Lutherans are on the front lines of the battle for religious liberty: Part 1
Acton Institute Interview with Dr. Gregory Seltz
by Anthony Sacramone
What kind of response have you received from Lutherans in the pew to Center activities?
We’ve been very well received. There are a few people, of course, who think that we’re getting “more political,” which they think confuses people about the Church’s main work. But in reality we’re trying to “depoliticize” many of the issues of the day so the Church can bring its unique message to the people in one’s community. When the government can limit the “moral and gospel voice” of God at a time of overt trial and suffering (like with COVID), that is the issue that concerns us most.
How receptive have folks been on the Hill to Center initiatives and concerns?
There are many people who share not only our concern for government intrusion into issues where it doesn’t belong but also our view of the moral issues foundational for a civil, humane society, issues like the sanctity of all life, religious liberty/assembly, equal justice under the law, the dignity/equality of all people rooted in our being created by God and not defined by government. Of course, there is another “religious” position on the Hill that tends to fuse the commands of the Bible to deal kindly with the poor and marginalized, not with the personal actions of believers in community, but with government action. Such a fusion of the gospel with government benevolence programs is not only bad preaching; it’s also bad government, since the government’s coercive capability undermines its “benevolence.” Those who hold that “fusion” view on the Hill don’t tend to receive our voice very well.
Most religious-liberty cases have been resolved in favor of churches, yet attempts to suppress the free exercise of religion continues. Is this more a hatred for religion, for Christianity, or is it a genuine concern for church-state violations?
People often argue that America is not a “Christian” culture because the Constitution isn’t overtly Christian. That’s an odd argument because the Constitution is a limiting document, not an expansive document. To limit the government to very specific things does not argue against the religious nature of the culture; it argues against the notion of an expansive state. The moral framework of the Ten Commandments is essential to self-government, and the key idea of our polity—that of universal, human dignity—is rooted in the allegiance to the God who created us, not the government that organizes us.
That said, there is a secularizing move in our culture and in all cultures of the West that seeks to supplant the Church and the biblical worldview as essential and foundational presuppositions for freedom and liberty. James Davison Hunter’s books (The Culture Wars, To Change the World, The Death of Character) are helpful in this regard.
As one example, however, of the vitriol toward religion today, this Robert Reich quote is instructive:
The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The true battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face.
I believe that Reich, former labor secretary for Bill Clinton, is still teaching public policy at UC Berkley. It’s amazing that such vitriol exists for the Christian worldview today when the secular, benevolent state, often expressed in socialist and communist polities, were the centerpiece ideologies of the most brutal regimes in the most brutal century in human history, the 20th century.
If you could affect one key piece of legislation to secure religious liberty, what would it be?
Side-tracking the so-called Equality Act. That legislation is the greatest threat to religious liberty in the U.S. presently. The uncoupling of gender from its biological reality redefines the State’s coercive power in quasi-religious terms. The ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges and Bostock created a right to marriage that is not in the U.S. Constitution (neither for different-sex nor same-sex couples). The Church’s fundamental teachings on marriage, sex, and sexuality are now technically “unconstitutional.” The narrow perspective of the rulings is already being set aside for the greater goal of either changing the Church’s teaching or legislating its influencing voice out of the culture.
The Equality Act overturns First Amendment protections of religion, of conscience, and dismisses the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well. Making sure that the Equality Act does not become law is the key to securing religious liberty anew, then challenging the narrative that our identities are all wrapped up in race, sexual practice, and group identity rather than being in the “image of God.” We must also fight the caricature that moral, biblical limitations on the notion of sex and healthy sexual practice are “hateful” when they are in fact, directives from the loving God who created and redeemed us. That’s the work we must attend to now because legislation by itself will not ensure religious liberty if we lose the narrative battle in the culture.
This interview was first published here.
Need help showing your kids or grandkids how to model grace in pro-life discussions? Focus on the Family can help.
Get up to date on misinformation about miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy post-Roe with Denise Harle of Alliance Defending Freedom.
Gracious Father, we solemnly thank and praise You for the judgment of the court this day in reversing decisions that have given open sanction to the destruction of human life. Curb wickedness in every heart and place. For the sake of Christ, spare us those punishments that we have deserved. Restore compassion and the desire for life among all, and lead Your Church to show Your love to the vulnerable, to the despised and to those whose hearts have turned cold. Your Son has taken up our fragile flesh to free us from the bonds of sin by His death. Draw every heart to Yourself, Holy Father, that believing in Christ Jesus, we would not perish but have everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
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