In George Washington’s, Farewell Address to the nation he said:
Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on the minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
Recent development in the culture of the US demonstrate that the concept of religion as a source of guidance for morality is regarded by many as an unfair, even unconstitutional notion. The increase in the number of adherents to secular thinking coupled with the increase in the number of religious persons who integrate secular ideas into their religious language are rapidly reducing the regard for religion as a force for good in the culture.
For generations, citizens have used the familiar term “religious liberty” to describe the God-given right of each individual to submit to the authority of God before all other authority. Very recently, some new terminology has emerged and there is pressure to replace the whole idea of God-given liberties with a “spectrum” of liberties that have nothing to do with God. These liberties are recent semantic constructs designed to further the secular agenda of diminishing and ultimately eliminating the influence of religion in the US.
The first term is “belief liberty.” This term may not have originated with Chai Feldblum, but she has projected it into the public forum of ideas. In 2006 she helped to found the Moral Values Project (http://www.law.georgetown.edu/moralvaluesproject/ ) on whose home page you will find these words: “No one person or group has a monopoly on moral values. It is our critical job as a self-governing society to articulate and carry out our best understanding of moral values. Views from organized religion may properly be the source of such values, but so can views stemming from secular beliefs or spiritual/energy beliefs. No one source has greater or lesser validity than another in developing public policy based on moral values.” This statement is consistent her statement in an article entitled “Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion” published in the Brooklyn Law Review in 2006. In that article she said, “A belief derived from religious faith should be accorded no more weight – and no less weight – than a belief derived from a non-religious source.” These statements are consistent with the general secular principle that people figure out what is right and what is wrong based on personal evolution and the discovery of what makes them happy. Beliefs validated by a sense of what makes someone happy, in Feldblum’s view, are just as valid in the public forum as convictions based on biblical revelation. Unlike George Washington, who felt that faith in God, a faith in someone bigger than oneself, would produce convictions about morality that trump mere human self-gratification, Ms. Feldblum believes that religious convictions have for too long suffocated the morality built on personal experience and self-gratification.
Furthermore, Ms. Feldblum does not speak of “religious liberty” but rather of “belief liberty.” Since every source of belief is, in her view, of equivalent value, all beliefs are equivalent, whether or not they derive from faith in any god whatsoever. The term “belief liberty” as defined by Chai Feldblum is not a term the founders of our country or the framers of the Constitution would have used. They were defenders of religious liberty. They believed that people who trusted God and lived according to his revelation brought important guidance to the moral climate of the nation. They would never have condoned the idea that anything and everything proposed as a moral teaching is of equal value.
In Feldblum’s paper she also referred to another liberty. The Founders would have been mystified by the whole idea of “identity liberty.” Most people are. The way Feldblum uses the term, it means the identity of a person who chooses to engage in homosexual behavior. The nation has been treated recently to numerous colorful displays of issues surrounding the supposed confusion of “gender identity” for some individuals. The discovery that those individuals have a right to “identity liberty” adds to the general confusion.
Feldblum proposes that the culture treat all these sorts of “liberty” as items that fall on a spectrum. Some have more weight, some have less. In her view, where there is conflict at an intersection of “belief liberty” and “identity liberty,” “belief liberty” must give way. Because the conflict between the two is irreconcilable, in her view, religion must take second place. There must be no accommodation of what Feldblum calls “pockets of resistance” to the liberty of homosexuals to compel anyone and everyone to serve the homosexual view of life. If a homosexual couple chooses a photographer for their “wedding,” the photographer may not refuse to photograph the wedding because of religious conviction that homosexuality is a sin. It would be immoral in Feldblum’s view to respect the religious convictions of someone who puts God first in his life.
In the Roman Empire, the emperors were declared to be gods. It was an act of political correctness to burn some incense and bow to a statue of the emperor. The first Christians ran headlong into conflict with that idea by teaching, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). The whole book of Revelation is about what it means to stand firm in that conviction. In the opening chapters, Christ promises all sorts of rewards to people who refuse to worship a human being, and the rest of the book is about the ultimate, infinite battle between good and evil which found its focus in emperor worship. The battle rages today, and in the current age, it finds its focus in what the LGBT activists call “equality.” They have invented a lot of kinds of equality – gender equality, marriage equality, and so forth, finding legal standing for all this “equality” in terms like “belief liberty” and “identity liberty.”
This post provides information about the language issues associated with the battle for the human heart in today’s world. The battle has been raging since Satan lured Eve to worship herself as she contemplated the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. The battle never changes. Only the cosmetics change. Underlying every new wrinkle in the conflict is Satan’s determination to lure people to worship themselves rather than God. In daily life, as voters in a democratic republic, we need to understand the contemporary language, but in the eternal scheme of things, we simply need to know that Satan has found a new way to disguise himself. Our issue is exactly the same as the issues experienced by Christians in the Roman Empire. Our choice is exactly what their choice was: Whom do we serve? Our strategy is exactly what theirs was: we arm ourselves with the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit.
And we pray. What is your prayer for the USA? What is your prayer for homosexuals who have been sold Satan’s bill of goods? What is your prayer for judges and lawyers and political leaders who must lead and do what is right for our country? Each of us can stand firm in our convictions, but if the Enemy is to be pushed back, people with knowledge, courage and convictions must stand firm on the front lines. What is your prayer for them?