Yesterday, I talked about the progress of religious liberty in this country due to a recent Supreme Court ruling. Today I would like to put all of this in a larger context of the religious culture war. Fortunately, David French has already done much of the hard work on this in his commentary on this subject.
Early on he explains his mission. Although the federal government should protect religious liberty and seek the common good, we Christians have a responsibility as well. He says, “while citizens should seek to influence their nation through government, their first responsibility is to exercise their liberty toward virtuous ends.” Put another way, government must do its part, and citizens (especially Christians) must do their part.
His first concern is that often our progressive government fails to protect the free exercise of religion that he says is “plainly illiberal and contrary to the constitutional order.” The government “passes sweeping and intrusive statutes and regulations and then treats the free-exercise and free-speech claims of religious individuals and institutions as a form of special pleading.” That turns the Constitution on its head.
But his second concern is focused on us. He admits that, “while religious conservatives are right to fight for their liberties, we need to understand that no government or cultural institution is more responsible for the decline of the church than the church itself.” As I have documented in previous commentaries, most surveys of the nonbelievers and believers who have left the church find Christians to be intolerant and hypocritical.
David French points us to 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 where Paul calls for those in Corinth to focus on sin within their church body. Often, he argues, that we are more intolerant of the sin we see in the world than in the sin we see in the church.
We need to be faithful in our witness before the watching world, but we also need to make sure our witness inside the church matches our words.