I had a surprise visit from an old friend yesterday. I don’t see him often because he lives on the other side of the country, but he was passing through my town on his way to see relatives further south of here, and found he had an hour to spare, so he texted me about getting together. It was a delight to see him.
Steve West is a former lawyer who is also a poet; who loves thoughtful, acoustic music; and was the founder of Silent Planet Records that published my latest CD as well as the music of a number of excellent singer/songwriters he has discovered along the way, many of whom you will have heard on our new Music the Matters radio station. Names, probably new to you, like Steve Black, Matt Auten, Skatman Meredith, Brooks Williams, Pierce Pettis, and others. We called it, “The best music you’ve never heard,” and it’s true. The music is beautifully written, skillfully rendered and intelligently critical to our lives and situations today. Though you would never call it Christian music, it is all music written from a Christian perspective on life.
Now Steve is retired and doing some writing for World magazine, a Christian publication with a broad worldview. Most of Steve’s writing is on the general topic of religious freedom, a topic of critical concern to many Christians today, and a topic that concerns me greatly because of how I believe it is largely misrepresented by Christians and the Christian subculture.
Much of the talk of Christian worldview in America is still colored by the culture wars of the 1980s where Christians see themselves as “victims” of a secular culture. Many make the assumption that this was once a Christian nation and it’s time to take it back. They watch carefully what happens in courts where they feel the Christian viewpoint is being discriminated against, as if the courts should be supporting biblical truth.
So for many of these people religious freedom means freedom to express our Christian convictions and values in the marketplace and our schools and other public places. Many Christians today believe that religious freedom means freedom to express their religious beliefs. This is a fine thing to seek, but it’s missing one important step. True religious freedom must be freedom for everyone’s religious beliefs, not just ours. This is the core of religious freedom — religious freedom for everyone, or, as Os Guinness puts it, freedom for “all religions and none.”
Thomas Jefferson, one of our Founding Fathers and main proponent of religious freedom, wrote: “Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths or of no faith undermine all our civil rights.”
This needs to be not just a point we tolerate. It is a point we must champion. Christians need to be seen as the champion of respect for everyone else’s religious freedom. When we respect the religious freedom of others in the public square, then we will be much more likely to be heard when we get our chance on that same platform.
It’s also often true that when Christians talk about worldview, many do so in an antagonistic way, taking cheap shots at political parties and trying to paint everyone who doesn’t agree with what have become Christian cultural issues as imbeciles. Great, let’s just get in there and sling mud like the rest of them. We need to rise above this.
This is when Christian worldview needs to not be in opposition to everyone else’s worldview. It should respectfully take into account everyone else’s worldview; otherwise how will we ever be able to open a dialogue with the world and reason people in a civil way toward faith? A Christian worldview should not be in opposition to the world; it should be a bridge to talking to others about our faith from a place of respecting their right to believe whatever they believe now. It’s not our view versus their view; it’s understanding everyone’s view so that we can create bridges pointing people to the truth, and the truth is Jesus, not an issue, but a person.
What an opportunity for Christians to take the high road. At a time like this, we will stand out because we will rise above the petty wars and the mudslinging and create a respectful dialogue. And remember, dialogue is two-way. It’s a conversation, not a bullhorn.