When it comes to protecting religious liberty as a natural right, you might not be a lawyer, or a judge, or even a government employee, but you’re here on the Stand to Reason website because you want to learn how to make a persuasive case for the truth to the people you interact with throughout your day, and this is something you can do for religious liberty. You may not speak to thousands of people at a time, but you are indispensable. Every conversation matters. Every changed mind makes a difference. And all of those differences made by all of us together add up.
In “The Continuing Threat to Religious Liberty: What’s at Stake and What to Do about It,” Ryan T. Anderson (co-author of Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination) describes the three cultural changes that have led to the current threat to religious liberty:
A change in government:
A presumption of liberty has been replaced with a presumption of regulation. Citizens used to think that liberty was primary and government had to justify its coercive regulation. Now people assume that government regulations are the neutral starting point and citizens must justify their liberty.
A change in sexual values:
What started as a liberationist movement—asking for the freedom to live and love, be it with contraception or abortion, same-sex relations or transgender identities—now demands that other people support, facilitate, and endorse such choices: that Hobby Lobby’s insurance cover them, that Catholic hospitals perform them, and that various professionals celebrate them.
A change in how religion is practiced and our understanding of religious liberty:
As Americans become less religious, they care less about religious liberty, for people are most vigilant to protect the rights that they themselves want to exercise. At the same time, a form of secularism has challenged the role of religion in public life, arguing that religion is appropriate inside the four walls of a house of worship but not on Main Street or Wall Street. The result has been an ever more naked public square…where religion is viewed as a merely private affair with no public relevance.
Read the rest of Anderson’s article to see his recommendations as to how we can argue for religious liberty in light of each of these changes in our culture. One of those recommendations stood out to me as being particularly relevant to STR regulars:
Any effective long-term response, therefore, cannot merely be about religious liberty or limited government. Ultimately, our goal should be to convince our neighbors that what we believe about sex is true. In the meantime we need to convince them that what we believe is at least reasonable and poses no harm to others, and thus that there’s no reason for the government to penalize it…. Conservatives need to explain why we believe what we believe in terms that our neighbors can understand.
If you follow Stand to Reason, this is precisely the skill you’ve been working on, developing the knowledge, wisdom, and character needed to clearly explain all aspects of the Christian worldview in a way others can understand. Now Anderson is calling you to action. In the end, the people you talk to may not agree with you, but just hearing a reasonable explanation and defense can be enough to take some of the angry passion out of this debate and open the way for continued free speech and a more civilized public square.
Are you ready to take on the highly controversial issue of sexual morality? Can you explain why the Christian view of sex is not only reasonable but also beautiful? You can start preparing here and here.