First sentence: A new and unprecedented right is now the central focus of legal, procedural, and cultural concern in many corridors — a supposed right not to be offended. The cultural momentum behind this purported “right” is growing fast, and the logic of this movement has taken hold in many universities, legal circles, and interest groups.
Premise/plot: The Gathering Storm is a collection of previously published essays by R. Albert Mohler. The subject is religious liberty or freedom; that is the book explores the current attacks on religious freedom in the United States.
My thoughts: I found this collection of essays to be mostly thought-provoking. I thought some essays were better--aka more engaging, more interesting--than others. But all share a common theme. Will Christians within America continue to have protected religious freedom. And what exactly does this freedom of religion include or exclude? Is it merely the freedom to gather together and worship in a building? Or is it the freedom to share the good news of the gospel with others?
Civilization thrives when individuals and groups seek to minimize unnecessary offendedness, while recognizing that some degree of real or perceived offendedness is the cost the society must pay for the right to enjoy the free exchange of ideas and the freedom to speak one’s mind. Given our mandate to share the gospel and to speak openly and publicly about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, Christians must understand a particular responsibility to protect free speech and to resist this culture of offendedness that threatens to shut down all public discourse. Of course, the right for Christians to speak publicly about Jesus Christ necessarily means that adherents of other belief systems will be equally free to present their truth claims in an equally public manner. This is simply the cost of religious liberty.
Without doubt, many Christians manage to be offensive for reasons other than the offense of the Gospel. This is to our shame and to the injury of our gospel witness. Nevertheless, there is no way for a faithful Christian to avoid offending those who are offended by Jesus Christ and his cross. The truth claims of Christianity, by their very particularity and exclusivity, are inherently offensive to those who would demand some other gospel.
We now face an inevitable conflict of liberties. In this context of acute and radical moral change, the conflict of liberties is excruciating, immense, and eminent. In this case, the conflict of liberties means that the new moral regime, with the backing of the courts and the regulatory state, will prioritize erotic liberty over religious liberty. Over the course of the last several decades, we have seen this revolution coming. Erotic liberty has been elevated as a right more fundamental than religious liberty. Erotic liberty, foreign to the founders of this nation, now marginalizes, subverts, and neutralizes religious liberty — a liberty highly prized by the builders of this nation and its constitutional order.
A liberty that did not even exist when the Constitution was written now supersedes protections that are explicit in the Constitution. This explains the trajectory of court decisions and developments in the law and, at the same time, reveals the trajectory we can expect in the future.
Religious freedom is not limited to what takes place within the confines of a church and its worship. Freedom of worship marginalizes and ghettoizes Christian speech so that its liberties only exist within the confines of the church — but it does not guarantee a right to a public voice. Freedom of worship essentially muzzles the Christian in the public square.
Human rights and human dignity are temporary abstractions if they are severed from their reality as gifts of the creator. The eclipse of Christian truth will lead inevitably to a tragic loss of human dignity. If we lose religious liberty, all other liberties will be lost, one by one.
The affirmation of human rights is claimed to be the great moral achievement of the modern age. But this affirmation was based in the belief that those rights belong to every human being by virtue of divine creation. How can those rights survive when the foundation is destroyed?
We are not only called to defend human rights but to contend for them, and to insist that these rights are non-negotiable only because our creator endowed us with these rights, and allows no negotiation.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible