Archives For Religious freedom

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They were four simple words but they somehow triggered a great offense.

“Please bow your heads,” the woman said to the audience before her prayer.

Let me set the scene for you to understand the context.

I was sitting at a table among a group of high school students in an enormous room of nearly 1000 people. I was chaperoning at a service club convention. High school service clubs from all around the Mid-Atlantic States were meeting for a luncheon to honor students who exemplified what it means to give of yourself and serve others. Some of these students raised thousands of dollars and volunteered hours of their time to help people in need in their communities and poverty-stricken areas around the world. Great kids were surrounding me. Virtuous students who seem to understand that serving others is a blessing and brings positive change to the world around them.

So imagine my surprise when these same students reacted to the woman’s motion to bow our heads in prayer before the food was served. As I closed my eyes, I began to hear the gasps and whispers of contempt.

“What? This is ridiculous.”

“How can they do this?”

The prayer was simple and very generic, and as I looked up I could see the students appalled by what just took place. They started a discussion amongst each other.

One student asked, “Is that even legal?”

Another questioned, “Is our service organization affiliated with religion?” (Gasp)

They then looked directly at the only Muslim student at the table. “How do you feel about that?” one student asked.

“It’s not a problem. It’s cool! I am fine with different faiths,” the Muslim student answered dismissing their concerns.

Four simple words, a simple prayer which triggered a great offense.

I sat there as the only adult taking in their reaction. Throughout the day, I let that scene sink in and became more and more discouraged and sad for this future generation of smart, talented, service-orientated students. Many sitting in that room had already received letters of acceptance to some of the best universities in this country. A majority of them are top of their class, and will graduate with honors. But I sat there thinking these are bright kids who know absolutely nothing about the freedoms we have in this country.

American History and Civics are not being properly taught, and our schools are failing our kids!

I must admit, I was sad that the students’ reaction shows the godlessness that comes from their generation, but that’s not entirely what troubled me. We are free to believe or disbelieve in God. We have the choice not to embrace religion, but that choice is the beauty of America and what is now so misunderstood.

Public prayer if not the enemy of freedom. It is the very definition of liberty. Many of America’s schools do not teach this definition. Our smartest students and teachers are ignorant about America’s History and our founding ideals of religious liberty.

The student’s question of whether or not a public prayer is legal should not come from the voice of an American Citizen. It’s something that you would hear in Communist China or North Korea where people are imprisoned for openly expressing their faith.

I’ll shout this from my rooftop. I’ll debate any history teacher or politician. Here are six words that will trigger the masses: You Can’t Have Freedom Without Faith!

What? Do I have to be religious? Must I believe in God for freedom?

No! Absolutely not. You are free to believe just as much as you are free to disbelieve in this country. Choosing to live godless is also freedom of expression. But our Founders knew that freedom does not work without allowing the open expression of faith. Yes, even public prayer.

The fact that we are graduating students from our public schools and universities who do not understand this founding principle in our Constitution is troubling and even dangerous. Our teachers and students are so fixated on Thomas Jefferson’s “separation of Church and State” reference that they don’t even realize how that wrong interpretation is breaking down our liberties.

What if that prayer was illegal? Then there would be no separation of church and state in this country. That would mean our government could dictate when religious expression is appropriate. Our Founders were brilliant for understanding the role of faith when it comes to freedom. They wanted a country free to express faith both in and outside the walls of our churches.

Freedom is about publicly bowing your head to pray for your food or choosing to not engage in that simple unthreatening act of religious freedom. The state or federal government cannot convict someone because they publicly prayed amongst a group of believers or non-believers. That would be persecution and tyranny.

What makes America so amazing is that we are free to live out our faith openly. The government cannot and should not get involved in how we choose to live out our religious beliefs. But America is changing, and our government is now getting into the business of regulating faith expression and our kids are buying into it. This is not America! The fact that the Supreme Court has ruled against prayer in our public schools demonstrates that the First Amendment is not protected.

Our country seems limitless in the “freedom” to express ourselves. Free to love who we want to love. Free to define our gender in the way we want. Free to publicly express our opinions through activism. But public prayer is now the new trigger for offensive speech?

The sad, ironic part of my story is that I was sitting amongst a group of students who are some of the most giving and selfless young people in this country. The fact that they have servants’ hearts is a great reflection of who they are as Americans. But they don’t understand that the very fact that they live in a free society is why they can sit there and be rewarded for their generosity. Freedom is a gift, and it’s a gift from God- whether you choose to believe in God or not. It’s why the Statue of Liberty holds her torch and has offered this freedom to millions around the world. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” as quoted at the base of Miss Liberty.

Teach your kids our country’s history. Don’t depend on your child’s teacher to teach it to them. Study the Founders. Buy books that represent the true American ideal of freedom as it was founded. Celebrate the heroes of this country that believed in and fought for the freedoms we take for granted in America. Teach your children to love America: who we are, why we were founded, our failures and successes, and how our freedoms in this country have helped to serve so many around the world. Most importantly, don’t hide away your religious expression only for the walls of your church. Live out your faith, freely!

One of my favorite authors/liberty preachers, Eric Metaxas, said it best in his book If You Can Keep It. (Which I highly recommend.) He noted, “America, that great and fragile experiment in Liberty, has become cut off from its roots. We need to see this and we need to do all we can to remedy it, and quickly.”

Maybe you think I have been too “triggered” by the offense of prayer by these students. But when discussing with my daughter this sad event that took place she said something that resonated the importance of this blog post. She reacted, “Welcome to my world, Mom.”

I don’t want my daughter to live in a country where she has to keep her faith private for fear of offense or retribution. If we have freedom to come out of the closet (so to speak) with any other self-expression, then faith should be included. In a room filled with people who love to serve others, my hope is that service would be the crux for teaching equality and the “unalienable rights” of “life, LIBERTY and happiness.”

And everyone said, “AMEN!”

 

 

 

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The 56th Grammy Award ceremonies were held on Sunday night. For those who missed it, like me, the word on the street or at least through social media was that the Grammys didn’t disappoint. Well, at least they didn’t disappoint when it came to pushing agendas or mocking those who subscribe to a different set of cultural and moral standards. There was a wedding ceremony of both gay and straight couples following the song ‘Same Love’ performed by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I am old enough to remember when pushing the cultural envelope involved a man singing and break dancing with just one glove. How times have changed!

I noticed a status on my news feed on Facebook that stood out from all the rest. Natalie Grant, a Christian music artist who was nominated for two Grammy awards, wrote the following on her page, “We left the Grammy’s early. I’ve many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I’ll say this: I’ve never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I’ve never been more sure of the path I’ve chosen”. Her statement was followed by a flood of comments that praised her as well as criticized her for a supposedly blatant response of judgment against homosexuality.

What followed the next day was another statement by Natalie Grant which I felt as a Christian truly demonstrated the most Christ-like response to not only the Grammy Awards but the cultural divide in this country over homosexuality and gay marriage. She stated,

“…I am honored to be a part of the Christian music community. I’ve had many people throughout my career ask why I never tried to go in to mainstream music and last night was a beautiful reminder that I love singing about Jesus and FOR Jesus. I’ve judged no one. I hate no one. And I believe that every person has been created in the image of God. I will never stand on a street corner and wave a sign, I won’t use my platform to engage in political arguments that will divide and not unite. I will continue to pray that my life will be my message. I do have my own personal convictions that I live by, and I will continue to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord (Philippians 2:12)…”

Natalie Grant’s remarks not only reflect the love of Christ but they demonstrate what religious freedom is really about in this country. She is a talented music artist who has decided to sing to a different beat than the mainstream music world. She’s not out for personal fame or glory. She has no desire to push an agenda on society. Natalie Grant is simply sharing her faith through music and for those who want to listen they are welcome to join in. Her walking out of the Grammy Awards, at whatever part of the event she happened to miss, was what is wonderful about America’s freedom. We don’t have to choose to be a part of that which does not represent our ideals or beliefs. We have every right to stand firm on our convictions without cultural manipulation or government submission.

How many of you have already made the symbolic “walking out” of today’s cultural display of driven agendas? Be strong and take Natalie’s words to heart. Live your life as a reflection of God’s love. Don’t shy away from your personal convictions but love those who persecute you for your beliefs. The heart of Natalie’s message is not only about salvation and the reason why Christ died on the cross for ALL of us but it’s also why this country was founded. So that we may live as we believe and be able to demonstrate that “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God who brings salvation to ALL who believe.” (Romans 1:16)

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A writer friend wrote an article and used the phrase “Daniel-Up” in regards to mixing religion with politics and it really stuck with me. Next to Esther, Daniel is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. Finding himself in a foreign land after Judah was captured, Daniel manages to hold leadership positions with in the Babylonian government. I think the best word to describe Daniel would have to be courageous. Among a land of people who rejected his faith, Daniel manages to hold steady and honor God. He was in a political position but never once did he falter in honoring God despite the political ramifications.

Sometimes I feel like Daniel. In a country that increasingly rejects my faith and pushes God out of the public square, I feel like I am a foreigner in my own land. Our government was built on a Constitution based upon Judeo-Christian principles and yet I am constantly amazed at the growing hostility towards our Founding Father’s documents. I have to admit it makes me a bit fearful at times. Then I remember Daniel and his courage and his example of how to live a life of faith in a Godless society.

What makes Daniel so unique to me is that he was in a political position in his life but managed to be Godly in every decision he made. There have been times we have seen religious people stand up in the political world but show a lack of Godliness. They have used their faith and the name of God to further a political agenda. However, Daniel never used God to change laws he simply honored God. Daniel would not back down on his principles. He didn’t impose his faith on others but when asked to compromise his faith- He refused! He took a stand (despite the consequences) and in turn God intervened and changed the minds and rulings of great Kings. This is how we are to mix religion and politics and this is why we need to “Daniel-Up”.

I truly believe we are living in a time that all Christians need to pay attention to the political world. Our faith is being threatened. The church needs to speak up but we need to do it the correct way. We need to be like Daniel. Now I think we are all called in different ways to take a stand. However, we all need to acknowledge that politics are attacking our religious foundations. As Christians, if we don’t speak up then our ambivalence will destroy our freedom to openly serve God.

So pray about where you can take a stand in faith in changing political decisions that threaten our religious freedoms. Above all simply honor God in everything despite the circumstances. Be courageous and “Daniel-Up!”

The Velvet Brick is now a contributing writer for a women’s conservative news site. Here is my latest article on an important subject that is stirring up a lot of media attention. Here is an excerpt and a link to the site.

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During CPAC among the up and coming “political rock stars” like Ben Carson, Marc Rubio and Rand Paul there was a speech that I felt wasn’t given enough attention. Eric Metaxas, known for his bestselling books like Bonhoeffer and his Prayer Breakfast speech of 2012, made a compelling speech at CPAC on religious freedom. I too overlooked it until I revisited the text of his speech and realized just what is at stake for our country if we neglect to uphold the First Amendment to our constitution. What brought me back to his speech was basically a cup of coffee. Let me explain…

To read more go to: http://politichicks.tv/column/religious-freedom-vs-a-cup-of-coffee-huh/