Religious Freedom

Recently this tribute to veterans came in an email from a fellow Christian. The first line is “It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.” This bugged me, not because I don’t appreciate my freedom and those who defend it, but because it’s just another example of how our thinking is determined by and our values derived from things other than Scripture.

Where was the veteran to protect the religious freedom of the first church from the Jewish and Roman governments? Where was the veteran when Daniel defied the most powerful king of the age? Where was the veteran to protect Luther from the Holy Roman Empire and Catholic Church? The Puritans and other dissenters in England?

I admire and respect veterans; I’m married to one, one who’s been to Iraq twice, and I am deeply grateful to them and to God for their blessing, but my true freedom is only and ever given me by God through Christ Jesus.

I know the point is not that veterans give me the freedom to worship God per se, but they do help keep me from being persecuted for worshiping Him. I understand the point, and deeply value it, but persecuted or not “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for [He] alone makes me dwell in safety” (Ps 4:8), and “the nations…are but men.” (Ps 9:20) Persecuted or not my life and freedom are given and preserved by Him alone. Daniel He saved from death; Stephen He didn’t. No matter which, “Christ in me is to live and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)

It may sound like I’m taking this too far. “It’s just a nice tribute to those who help keep us safe,” one might say, “don’t spoil it.” It’s not my intent to try and minimize veterans as a means by which God blesses us. It’s just that it goes too far. Amazingly enough, the Spirit of God has always managed to work in and though His worshiping people without the U.S. Army, and if the sentiment in this tribute is followed to its logical conclusion it sounds a bit like Stalin when he asked Roosevelt “And how many divisions does the Pope have?” That is, it sounds as if our freedom and security is dependent upon armies of men rather than the Spirit of God.

It’s true I’m politically conservative, but I am rather dismayed by the trend in American Christianity towards seeing the problems and solutions to our times in political terms (i.e. The Leftist are destroying us and a return to true Constitutionality will save us.) A non-Christian, Gandhi, once said “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside down, and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of good literature.” And may I add, more admired and talked about than read.

And Gandhi wasn’t talking about the US Constitution, but American Christians seem more concerned with protecting and defending the Constitution than they are living the Word of God. If we took His Word seriously and used it to establish our world-view and course of action rather than social norms, economics, how we were raised, class status, pop culture or any other value-instilling process then we’d turn the world upside down rather than rest on our laurels.

It’s sad to observe that Christians in other times less politically free, less physically safe, and less economically prosperous did more to advance the Kingdom of God than we have done with all our political freedom, physical security and economic resources.

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