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Religious freedom, democracy

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 1:03 p.m. CDT

The recent IRS scandal ought to be a wake-up call to every person who call themselves Christian. We are losing our freedom of religion and fast.

When Benjamin Franklin emerged from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, a lady asked him, “Well, Mr. Franklin, what kind of government have you given us?”

The old patriot gave his immortal reply, “Madam, we have given you a republic — if you can keep it.”

The Constitution that Franklin and the Founders produced is dependent on what Os Guinness in his book “A Free People’s Suicide” calls the Golden Triangle, which says freedom requires virtue, and virtue requires faith, and that faith requires freedom.

The founders knew this well.

“We have no government armed with powers capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion,” John Adams said. “Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Virtually all of the founders thought the same thing — whether they were Christians or not. As the nonChristian Ben Franklin said, “If men are so wicked as we see them with religion, what would they be without it?”

For the founders, the answer was crystal clear. Thus, it’s no surprise these men enshrined freedom of religion in the First Amendment.

Religious liberty, commonly known as the “first freedom,” is absolutely at the heart of our republic, and without it, we lose everything.

While the founders knew all this, we seem to have forgotten it. I’m shocked that we who claim to follow Christ are not focused on this issue more than we are currently.

We’re more focused on economic and fiscal issues, which are also important, but our problems in these areas are symptomatic of deeper issues — in our leaders and in the American people.

The current administration apparently doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care to understand, the crucial importance of religious freedom to our experiment in ordered liberty.

Maybe that’s why it has taken very definite steps to assert the primacy of so-called “sexual freedom” over religious freedom. This is not merely a matter of redefining marriage or forcing religious institutions to violate their consciences and pay for contraception, sterilizations, and the morning-after pill.

It’s a matter of a culture slowly but surely destroying itself — or, as Guinness says, “a free people’s suicide.”

But, even a bare “freedom” is not enough.

Guinness talks about two kinds of liberty. Negative freedom frees us from external constraint, such as overweening government. And that’s important.

But, Guinness says we also have to focus on positive freedom — the freedom to live out our highest ideals. It’s not just freedom from, but freedom for, that our republic desperately needs. By the way, the book by Os Guinness is called “A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future.”

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