The situation of the religious freedom in America is certainly as bleak as it has ever been in our history. The three branches of government take it as a given that they have the authority to rule on matters that involve religious obligation and to dictate to believers which of their beliefs are valid and which are not. The general trend here is to force religion out of the public square under the assumption that anything with a religious motivation cannot be used to set policy. (That’s the Genetic fallacy by the way). Between the government and the influential shapers of public opinion, people are being led to the view that unpopular religious teaching is based on intolerance (poisoning the well fallacy) and any religious opposition to an issue is portrayed as the equivalent of the racist opposition to civil rights in the 1960s (false analogy fallacy).
The result is, we are now in a situation where religion can be restricted outside of the most narrow redefinitions. The rights of people who profess belief in the Christian moral teachings and the institutions or businesses they establish is denied on the grounds that their belief is merely a repugnant intolerance (Begging the Question fallacy). We could soon see an even more overt attack where Christian individuals and institutions affiliated with churches have no right to refuse to do something their religious beliefs condemn, and thus suffer lawsuits, fines and prosecutions. It’s the kind of behavior we hitherto associated with Communist governments and long said “It can’t happen here—our Constitution prevents it."
The world may end up unjustly oppressing the Church in ways we can’t even guess at right now (Who would have thought, eight years ago, we’d be where we are today?), and individuals need to consider the strong possibility that persecution will afflict them personally, as opposed to something that only happens to people far away. But, as bleak as things are, we must avoid the attitudes of panicking and assuming that the world will defeat the Church. We must certainly avoid the attitude of “if only the bishops had done something, this wouldn’t have happened!” (Hypothesis contrary to fact fallacy).
We Christians may end up losing this battle. But God will win this war. The thing to remember is that if the government here decides to interfere with our seeking to be true to Our Lord, this is not a defeat for God. This has happened before, when persecutions lasted hundreds of years. Reading Butler’s unabridged Lives of the Saints, shows us the persecutions of the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, Islam and Reformation England where being a member of the Church was a punishable offense—often by death. There are many records of saints who were unjustly hauled before the courts and given the choice between going along with the unjust demands of the state and suffering for putting God first.
We, individually, cannot change the state. All we can do is to bear witness to our faith in God, and show we would rather suffer evil at the hands of men than do evil in the sight of God. Tertullian once said The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. When we show our determination to follow God, and show love for those who hate us, God uses that to bring more people of good will to Him.
So while we may be angry at the injustices done to us and the slanders directed against what we believe, we must make sure that how we live in Christ bears witness. We cannot hate our persecutors. Our task is to love and to continue to teach the world of Christ—even when the world hates and persecutes us for it.
So let us continue to pray for the conversion of our nation, and pray that we may live as God calls us, regardless of what may come. Let us continue to bear witness so people may see the love of Christ in us.