The greatest enemy of freedom can be freedom. One of the most important observations that I gleaned from one of Os Guinness’s books is that celebrating the acquisition of liberty and freedom (what we celebrate this weekend is our acquisition of freedom) is typical in the world’s history. But what is really unusual is sustaining freedom.
When freedom becomes not a freedom for good, truth, or justice but a freedom from — freedom from restraint, from consequences, from any rules or responsibilities — then freedom devolves into license, and license can actually put us in slavery to our own passions and desires. This misguided definition of freedom presents a challenge to one of the core freedoms of the American experience and one built into human beings by God as our Creator: the freedom of religion.
Recently, I spoke with former Senator and former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, about the issue of religious freedom. He has been at the forefront of advocating for religious freedom not only in the United States, but especially around the world. As Islamic radicals in Nigeria clamp down on Christians’ freedom there, and so many scenarios like this around the world, here is Ambassador Sam Brownback in his own words about religious freedom. An edited audio transcription of our interview follows:
Most of the world’s population lives in a country of significant religious persecution. It actually gets worse than that. The Chinese government now is standing up and saying it has an ideology that should legitimately compete with U.S. democracy, Western democracy, and capitalism on the world stage. China says that theirs is an equally viable system that people can adopt. They put forward an authoritarian, mercantilist type of system yet they say it’s equal to democracy and free market capitalism. There is now a competing globalized system that goes right at the heart of religious freedom. It says the State controls this space and we say no, God controls this space because it’s a human right; it’s the dignity of the individual.
I think the Ambassador is dead right here. We don’t oppose foreign governments like China because of their progress, or their economic power, or their rising military might. We oppose their system of governance because it is frankly dehumanizing. What’s happening right now to the Uyghur population is nothing short of genocide. We are responsible to defend not only religious freedom in America, but to defend it around the world — anywhere that our influence stretches. In fact, we have a responsibility to defend religious freedom in America because America is one of the few nations in world history with both the core beliefs and the capacity to expand religious freedom around the world. We believe as Christians that religious freedom is an image-of-God issue. It’s not a political one. In fact, Ambassador Brownback believes that, too:
I see religious freedom as God’s freedom to us. He gave us the right to do with our own soul whatever we choose. And He knew ahead of time that if we did do that, He would have to send His Son to clean up the mess. And He still did it. He did it knowing how much it would cost Him. So, there must be something extraordinarily precious about this particular liberty given to humanity, such that we should not allow any government to interfere with it, and everyone should be allowed to freely exercise it. It’s about a common human right and one that I believe was given to us by God. The American founders in particular saw its preciousness, and the need for it, and went so far as to protect it at the first order. We must protect this right first.
Freedom is not just a governmental endeavor; it is an image-of-God reality. One that we citizens have a responsibility to defend, retain, to advance, and support. Not only here in America but also around the world. Ambassador Brownback is doing incredible work in this field.
Listen to my full conversation with Ambassador Brownback on the Breakpoint podcast. The conversation will also be posted on Breakpoint’s Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram pages, as well as on breakpoint.org.
Incidentally, on July 13th through 15th in Washington, D.C., Ambassador Brownback will join with 70 different organizations, including the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, to host the International Religious Freedom Summit 2021 (IRF). IRF is the most comprehensive event to date on the status of religious freedom around the world. For more information visit irfsummit.com.
July 13-15, 2021
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