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Religious liberty under siege

"Religious liberty under siege" Continued...

Rather, Christianity teaches that one’s faith influences even those areas of life that appear superficially unrelated to worship, prayer, or theology. See, e.g., Colossians 3:17 (“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”). Indeed, Christianity teaches there is spiritual significance in every part of life, including seemingly mundane acts like eating, drinking, and working. See 1 Corinthians 10:31 (“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.”); Colossians 3:23-24 (“Whatever you do, work heartily, as to the Lord.”); Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 (noting “[f]or everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” and that “everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man”). From the earliest days of Protestant faith in America, theological leaders have proclaimed this principle. See, e.g., Cotton Mather, Two brief Discourses. One Directing A Christian in his General Calling; Another Directing him in his Personal Calling 64 (B. Green, et al. eds., 1701) (“[L]et every Christian Walk with God, when he Works at his Calling, and Act in his Occupation with an Eye to God, Act as under the Eye of God.”). These holistic demands of Christianity require consistency in familial, business, and social relations and are not limited to sacerdotal, ecclesial, or ritual matters.

This integration of a Christian’s entire life in relation to God is an outgrowth of the Christian gospel, which provides that God, completely righteous and without sin, by His infinite grace, justifies man who is by nature unrighteous and sinful. This cannot be accomplished by any work or merit by man to somehow achieve good standing with God, but instead is accomplished by and through the work of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Thus, by faith alone in Christ alone, man is counted righteous by God.

This doctrinal requirement that a Christian must pursue all aspects of his or her life in obedience to Christ compels Christians to do more than give mere intellectual assent. The Christian faith requires not only belief, but also conduct, and this requirement extends to every facet of the Christian’s life. See James 2:17 (“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”); Romans 12:1 (urging Christians, “in view of God’s mercy,” to devote their entire being to Him as “true and proper worship”); see also Korte v. Sebelius, 735 F.3d 654, 681 (7th Cir. 2013) (noting that religious belief is not confined to the home and the house of worship because “[r]eligious people do not practice their faith in that compartmentalized way.”); Presbyterian Church in America, Preface to the Book of Church Order, Part II.4 (“[T]here is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.”), available at http://www.pcanet.org/beliefs/ (last visited January 22, 2014).

Christian doctrine requires a Christian to honor his or her conscience according to the faith. 1 Timothy 1:19 (“[H]old[] faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this some have made shipwreck of their faith.”); 1 Timothy 3:9 (“[H]old the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience”). Scripture and history are replete with instances in which believers who were presented with a choice either to violate their consciences by complying with the state’s demands or to face draconian penalties chose to maintain the integrity of their faith in every aspect of life and accept the consequences. See generally John Foxe, Acts and Monuments (1563) (recounting anecdotes of early Protestant martyrs). For example, the Old Testament Scripture recounts the stories of three Hebrew men who refused to worship an image of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, despite the threat of execution for noncompliance. See Daniel 3:1-30. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast “into the burning fiery furnace” for refusing to worship the king’s image. Id. Whereas the Babylonian government conceived the requirement of bowing down to the image as merely an act of political loyalty, the three young men perceived it as a requirement to violate their faith through idolatry. Id.

Similarly, the second-century Christian martyr Polycarp was put to death for his refusal to state “Caesar is Lord.” See Justo L Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, 43-44 (1984). To the Roman government, the law was merely a political issue, but to Polycarp, it was an issue of idolatry. Likewise, the Protestant reformer Martin Luther, when asked to recant his beliefs, famously stated to Emperor Charles V, “[M]y conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 33: Career of the Reformer III (1972).


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