“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Something has changed in the atmosphere in the United States. We feel it in our politics, we sense it in our schools and neighborhoods, and even experience it in our churches. Polarization and demonization are now so commonplace in the politics and social media exchange of our day so as to be normative. It appears we are in a social cul-de-sac from which escape seems unlikely.
Decades ago, in light of another season of quickly changing social values and practices, Francis Schaeffer asked a prescient question about the decline of Western culture and civilization, “How Should We Then Live?”. That question later became a movie and a movement. I have been increasingly of the belief that our present age is not just an extension of the 1970’s in which Schaeffer wrote, but that we actually have much in common with the late 1930’s of Hitler and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Maybe these historical references mean little to you. But, I think you can agree that when a Jewish rabbi (Daniel Lapin) posts a significant warning to Christians about the dangers he believes US culture is facing due to intolerance and religious persecution against Christians here in the US (see here for the article: https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/persecution/a-rabbi-s-warning-to-u-s-christians.html ; the original article was posted in 2007!), you know something is emerging in the atmosphere. It is into this cultural swirl of events that I would like to wade with the remainder of this article.
I have a theory. I believe religious liberty, righteousness and justice are intertwined. Jesus is the giver of life, righteousness and peace and Satan is the stealer and destroyer of life and hope and peace (Romans 10:13, John 10:10). I believe the events of at least the last 50 years in the US have demonstrated that the enemy of our soul longs for us to lose the religious freedom foundation of America’s heritage and therefore create a society where the foundations of justice crumble. Righteousness is a bountiful tree of the good soil of religious liberty from which the fruit of justice can be abundantly produced. Where religious liberty is not foundational, righteousness must break through both the hard soil and toxic elements of its surrounding atmosphere.
Believers in a host of places in our world today, and throughout history and the pages of Scripture have lived in harsh conditions where religious liberty has been absent. Like you, I am drawn to the Biblical stories of bravery of Joseph, Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah. I find myself often praying and wondering if I (we) are living in times where women and men of faith are being called to live out their relationship with Christ in challenging and new ways that have not been well tried in our recent history, especially here in the US.
The psalmist has said, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.”(Ps. 89:14). We are struggling to see the Lord at work in the midst of the multiple pandemics of our present reality. But, I remain convinced that when we see the fingerprints of the enemy (stealing, killing, destroying), we are more strongly in a moment where we know the heart of the Father is to bring about life, abundant and free. I’m praying for the flourishing of religious liberty, righteousness, and justice. Now more than ever.