We exist on a tiny island of religious and political freedom that is surrounded by a vast sea of religious and political oppression. Wherever you go in history, whatever culture or nation or society, on every continent, you find religious oppression and the political oppression that is always its wicked sister.
Almost 400 years ago a small band of religious separatists braved the North Atlantic in a ship called the Mayflower. They were fleeing what we now call the Old World, Europe, a place where governments imposed religious belief. If you disagreed with the government about religion then you were not politically free, in fact, you could be in grave personal danger.
Almost immediately the group that came to the New World was tempted to remake that Old World system. Some insisted that they use the government to enforce one religious belief and limit the freedoms of all those who disagreed.
Prominent among those who demanded full unhindered religious freedom were Baptists. Religious freedom is a part of our heritage that we should know about and hold dear.
It took a long time and much effort, but in 1833 the last state in the Union disestablished its state church and created a healthy separation between church and state. Our forefathers learned from hard lessons that political freedom only stands on the solid rock of religious freedom.
In 1993 then President Bill Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. It was written to protect this precious freedom because serious threats to that freedom are growing like weeds in our society.
At that time the president called religious freedom our “first freedom.” He was right. Without religious freedom we will not be free at all.
Sadly, we are in danger of forgetting these lessons and losing what so many people worked and fought very hard to gain. What a tragedy if all the blood and tears that were given in payment for our religious freedom are forgotten by a younger generation.
Confusion is one of the best weapons of the enemy. Religious freedom is being painted as hate and bigotry. If a baker refuses a cake to a gay couple’s wedding then that person must be financially crushed and publicly humiliated.
The gay couple can still get a cake for their wedding. In fact, the gay couple can still find food, clothing, housing, jobs and so forth. What the gay couple apparently cannot abide is the fact that someone, anyone, might disagree with their beliefs. The power of the government must be used to crush anyone who dares hold a different opinion from the gay couple.
Some appeal to Jesus, saying that he would bake the cake for the gay couple because he loves everyone. It is true that Jesus was a friend of sinners. He spent time with them and he did love them.
But Jesus did not reach out to sinners because he wanted to affirm their lifestyles. He did so in order to change them. I do not believe the gay couple wants a cake from someone who is trying to persuade them to change their lifestyle.
The point is this: those who wish to bake the cake for the gay couple in order to reach out to them with the love of Jesus should do so because of the firm convictions of their heart, not the coercion of Washington, D.C.
Do we still live in a land where we are free to follow the dictates of our consciences?
May we stand firm and not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,
Brother Richard Foster