It is my sincere hope that the first thing Brit Hume said a couple of weeks ago – in expressing his compassionate desire that golfer Tiger Woods might give serious consideration to the Christian faith – will have a powerful impact on the life of that young man.
That said, it’s the second thing Brit Hume said, the following evening, that resonated most profoundly with me.
Interviewed on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program about his comments and the virulently hostile response they have drawn from so many quarters, Mr. Hume made an observation that any honest observer of the current culture – whatever his or her religious inclinations – would have to acknowledge.
“It has always been a puzzling thing to me,” he said, “and the Bible even speaks of it, that you mention the name of Jesus Christ – and I don’t mean to make a pun here – but all hell breaks loose. It is explosive. It triggers a very powerful reaction in people who do not share the faith and who do not believe it.”
That explosive reaction is at the heart of an increasingly audible antagonism that is being expressed across the country…in classrooms and courtrooms, on the floor of state legislatures and the editorial page of newspapers, on TV broadcasts and radio call-in shows.
You hear it in the voice of the California college professor who – having encouraged students in his speech class to give an informative talk on the subject of their choosing – called the young man who spoke about his Christian faith a “fascist bastard,” urged the other students to walk out, and scrawled “Ask God what your grade is” across the evaluation form.
That anger foments everywhere…against a Wisconsin high schooler who drew a cross and a Scripture reference in his drawing for art class…against some Tennessee parents who prayed for the teachers in their children’s school…against the people in a Texas senior recreational center who wanted to say a blessing before meals.
I know, because the organization I help lead has represented these people and hundreds like them in recent years, how blurred the line is becoming in our culture and our courts between those who take offense at any expression of Christian faith and those who sincerely believe they’ve been persecuted, wounded, or damaged irreparably simply because they’ve witnessed that expression.
These same people, undoubtedly, will sneer a bit at the idea of Religious Freedom Day, to be commemorated Jan. 16. What do we need with an observance like that? It’s America, for crying out loud. People are free to believe whatever they want.
Except, of course, they aren’t. Not in America. Not if they’re someone like the young wedding photographer in Albuquerque who respectfully declined an invitation to photograph a lesbian “commitment” ceremony, because of her own belief in the biblical view of marriage. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission dismissed her civil liberties, found her guilty of “sexual orientation discrimination,” and fined her and her husband nearly $7,000.
Religious freedom didn’t apply in Michigan, where an honors student was dropped from her graduate counseling program when she thoughtfully referred a potential client to a different counselor rather than inflict her Christian viewpoint on his struggles in a homosexual relationship. It didn’t matter that referring him was exactly what the very professors who booted her from the program had advised her to do, nor that she was being compelled to violate her most basic religious convictions. There simply was no place for Christian belief in that academic setting.
In America, those beliefs aren’t even safe after a person has died, else how to explain the aggressive efforts in recent years to remove roadside crosses honoring fallen police officers from Utah highways? Someone objected to having to look at those religious symbols for two seconds while flying past them at 65 miles per hour. Symbolic crosses on Mount Soledad in San Diego and on a remote rise in the Mojave Desert are being threatened because – despite decades of enormous popular support – the sight of them has offended some litigious individual.
That many find the character and claims of Christ offensive is not surprising. The Apostle Paul reminded believers in Rome that Christ and His cross would be “a stumbling stone and a rock of offense” to many people (Romans 9:33), and Jesus Himself warned His disciples that they would be hated for His sake (Matthew 10:22).
But the hallmark of American government and culture has always been a stubborn tolerance for religious belief and the free expression of ideas – spiritual or otherwise. This growing determination to drive every non-epithetical mention of God and Christ from our public forums betrays not just an erosion of that vaulted tolerance, but a sinister threat to our most basic liberties.
Undoubtedly, those who seek to silence Christians see themselves as the last guardians against lingering superstition, saving the rest of us from puritanical moralists and religious busybodies. What they will not see is that, in their efforts to kill faith, they are killing reason, too. For reason cannot stand side by side with bigotry, and any mind that, in its pride, would ostracize those who listen to the heart is pulling the shades down on Enlightenment.
“The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing,” said Blaise Pascal, one of the most noted mathematicians and theologians of his time. He understood that those who would subtract faith from life’s equation not only add to their sins but divide a nation…and multiply the hubris of its people.