No one wants to be accused of intolerance. The raging national debate this week has been focused like a laser beam on the recent passage of “Religious Freedom” legislation in the State of Indiana. Governor and former member of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, Mike Pence, has been blistered by a number of groups. Asa Hutchinson, Governor of Arkansas, faced strong opposition from the same crowd, and signed a modified RFRA into law yesterday.
The unrelenting criticism—including nearly every absurd hypothetical possibility that can be imagined—is designed to challenge and intimidate anyone who has a differing opinion. Strong words and name calling attempt to silence and shutter all those who would dare show support for anything except the self-proclaimed agenda of “tolerance.” Former Congressman and CPCF Spokesperson, Lt. Colonel Allen West, commented, “When tolerance becomes a one-way street, it leads to cultural suicide.”
A family owned pizzeria in the small town of Walkerton, Indiana, has become the latest victim of unbelievable verbal abuse and dangerous threats, including one by a high school softball coach from a neighboring town who tweeted a comment about burning down the restaurant. Owner, Kevin O’Conner, and his daughter, Crystal, have been subject to vulgar and profane commentary. Why? Because they chose to take a stand for their religious beliefs. The question that needs to be asked here is who are the ones who are really modeling widespread intolerance?
It has been said before, too many anti-faith groups are better organized, better funded, better networked, more deeply committed, and more passionate about their cause than many conservatives. We cannot be mere spectators on the sidelines and permit this to take place. Too much is at stake. Let us resolve to stand boldly and confidently, not allowing others to continue defining our narrative, scripting our lines and taking sole command of the public debate in the marketplace. The alternative is a slow, but progressive decline down the slippery slope of apathy.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed in Indiana, is similar to legislation now on the books in nearly half the country. In 1993, then President, Bill Clinton, signed a federal version of the Act into law after 97 affirming votes in the Senate and a unanimous voice vote in the House of Representatives.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle praised its passage and considered the law an important step in the right direction. After a Supreme Court ruling in 1997, declaring that the federal RFRA could not constitutionally be applied to the states, it became evident that each state would need to enact its own legislation to ensure citizens received the same protections. In responding to his critics on the original version of the RFRA, Gov. Pence stated, the bill, “is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government overreach.” For an excellent discourse on the debate, see a review by Ryan Anderson, a William E. Simon Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
Would Jesus reach out and love those who do not necessarily align themselves with Biblical principles or values? Of course! Would He talk with those who are spiritually lost and destitute, pray for them, and wash their feet? Yes, yes and yes! Would He show compassion and be willing to lay down His life, even for those who utterly despise and reject Him? Absolutely…and this is the beautiful message of the Easter story which Christians all over the world will celebrate on Sunday. Yet, would Christ likewise wholeheartedly endorse everyone’s choices and/or behaviors in how they live out their lives? Most definitely, not! Would He modify His standards or rewrite the Ten Commandments anytime there is a shift in culture? No! Would He change His definition and structure for the sacred institution of marriage which He Himself ordained? No!
You see, there is a way and a place to love, respect and serve people and still maintain one’s core religious values, wherein a person can choose to personally live according to the dictates of his or her conscience and beliefs.
Unfortunately, in today’s society, whenever someone advocates for what he or she believes to be a matter of moral or spiritual principle, others decry such a position as being motivated by hateful discrimination. Are there exceptions within all cultural groups? Certainly, but by in large, this kind of response is being completely distorted; and it’s time to speak up and set the record straight.
Beloved author and holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom, once said, “The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” The false narrative is that people of faith, especially Christians, are discriminatory, hateful and bigoted. Make no mistake; the “enemy” is not people or those who oppose us. The real issue we must fight against, is a one-sided view of tolerance that seeks to undermine and restrict any citizen’s right to choose and integrate their faith, values and beliefs.
America needs to be aroused from its slumber before it’s too late. Numbers 10:9 says, “When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God, and be saved from your enemies.” It’s time to sound the alarm!