RELIGION IS OUR MOST PRECIOUS FREEDOM
Throughout history, Christians in various times and places have been persecuted, whether as targets of violence or in a milder version, in which Christians become social and cultural underdogs. It is the latter that we find today in our America, when we hear terms such as “bigot,” “misogynist,” “homophobe” and “racist” from those who disagree with us. Those who use this method attempt to pressure and intimidate Christians into accepting a social trajectory that is directly at odds with our deepest beliefs and long-settled doctrinal teaching.
Examples abound that ought to be rebuked by people of good will. Employees of a large soft drink firm who didn’t vote the preferred ticket are told by the CEO they have no place in the company, and are advised to move on. A Silicon Valley executive who made a modest contribution to an initiative in favor of traditional marriage is railroaded from his job. The NCAA cancels an event in a state that had the temerity to disagree with the sudden onslaught of newly discovered transgender “rights.” Small business owners and Christian humanitarian entities are harassed in courts of law. Our statement issued in 2014 entitled Reclaiming Humanity’s Inherent Worth noted, “Christian charities, schools and hospitals are required to choose between helping their neighbor and violating their conscience. Adoption agencies are forced to close because of their refusal to facilitate adoptions for same-sex couples.”
There are countless other instances of ideological bullying in the workplace, on campus, by civil authorities, and in public deliberation. Christian institutions, professionals and business owners are given a “choice” to serve the God they worship (and proceed to the ruination of careers or loss of livelihood), or to deny their faith by compliance with ungodliness. Recent judicial actions by the Supreme Court of the United States of America regarding nominal safety rules in abortion clinics, constructed gender identities, deviant sexual behaviors and the resulting pressure to conform on those who happen to disagree, are intolerant and dangerous. The right of free exercise of religion must be protected from punitive social and professional bullying.
The most important feature of the western political and civil tradition, enshrined in the Constitutions of the United States and its member states, is the inalienable right of the free exercise of religion. The exercise of this right goes well beyond simply having pious opinions; it necessarily includes ordering one’s life in accord with the doctrines and culture of one’s religious community. Allowing people to live their faith in this way has not only peopled American communities with responsible and charitable individuals, it has also resulted in hundreds of successful efforts to assist the downtrodden and alleviate pain. Hospitals, as we know them, were the brainchild of Christians. Soup kitchens, health clinics, food banks, homeless shelters, substance abuse programs, adoption ministries, anti-slavery campaigns, personal supports for all manner of disadvantaged people, and dozens more: These were not products of government or community organizing, but of the hearts of Christian people who were simply complying with the teachings of their Lord to “love your neighbor.”
As Christian pastors, ministers, and leaders, we each speak from within our respective Christian traditions. Together, we unanimously assert that our deepest convictions with respect to the issues of abortion, marriage and appropriate human sexuality come finally to us by way of revelation. We do not invent our doctrines, they have been revealed to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Nations, empires, bodies politic will come and go, as will spurious and ill-conceived judicial opinions; only the word of the Lord, finally, endures.
Therefore, we assert, first as Christians, secondly as leaders of Christian Churches, communities and institutions, and thirdly as citizens of the State of Indiana and the United States of America, our freedom in Jesus Christ. We pray for our civil authorities, but no civil government has our primary allegiance. We want to be good citizens, but we are finally and supremely servants of Jesus Christ alone.
Don’t want to sign online? You can also add your name to the Shepherds United Religious Freedom signors list, by printing and signing the Shepherds Religious Freedom Statement and mailing to Allen County Right to Life, 2126 Inwood Drive, Fort Wayne IN 46815, or scanning and emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see the list of signatories, click here.