Freedom of religion does not mean for Christians only. If we as Christians are going to stand for a free and open society where we are free to believe and act as our conscience dictates, we must also support that freedom for believers in all other religions and believers in no religion at all. History has sadly shown that Christians can impose their beliefs on people as much as anyone can. That’s why we are not looking to create a Christian society; we are looking to create a free society.
This is what is so brilliant about the great American experiment. America, from the start, has been all about freedom for all – “one nation … with liberty and justice for all” – not just for Christians. America is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Muslim nation, or a Buddhist nation, or a Jewish nation, or a Mormon nation; it is a free nation. Our soldiers have never died for Christianity, they have died for freedom for all religions and none.
If freedom is freedom, it must be freedom for all, not just for us.
This is the central message of Os Guinness’s new book, The Global Public Square. It’s a very timely message and one Christians in the western world desperately need to embrace and live out at all levels, especially in the marketplace. And here’s why: If we stand for the rights of all religions and none, we will be standing for a society where the Gospel of Welcome will be free to go forth in its most appealing and proper manner, without coercion. The gospel is an invitation to all; it must never be imposed on anyone.
Not that we don’t practice persuasion, but that we practice persuasion in an open environment where other people with other beliefs are also free to try and persuade us. If Christians are the only ones who get the microphone, no one will be able to fairly judge the truth.
In a Jesus People video from 1972, there is a clip filmed from the steps of Sproul Hall, University of California, Berkeley, where Hal Lindsay, Bill Counts and others are speaking to the crowd about Jesus Christ. (Note: This section is 17:24 minutes into the video.) The Christians gathered the crowd, the Christians brought the sound system, but they also gave over the microphone to anyone who wanted to say anything. An atheist spoke his mind, and a Satanist spoke his mind, and the Christians spoke theirs. In the process, they were able to agree with many things the atheist, and even the a Satanist, said, but also show how Jesus would probably agree with their objections as well. They were then able to set Jesus apart from all the bad things that have been done in His name. It was a free and open debate in the public square and the gospel was able to be clarified, and anyone who objected would have to have been impressed that the Christians also gave voice go other religions and points of view. That’s what we’re talking about.
The western world needs to see Christians standing for the freedom of all faiths – even atheists (for atheism is a faith too). There needs to be a softening of the heart of all believers in Christ to preach the gospel while being welcoming to all to investigate freely and openly the claims of Christ. Thank God we live in a country where we can do this, and thanks to all who serve and preserve this precious freedom today.
Click on the picture to hear last night’s very important interview with Os Guinness. Everyone should hear this!