God on Tap Tonight: What do we mean by Religious Freedom anyway?
Hello friends! Join us for God on Tap tonight, Tuesday, May 31st 7:30pm upstairs at Forest and Main. Our topic will be a timely one: What do we mean by Religious Freedom, anyway?
There has been a lot of talk in the new over the last many months of religious freedom laws, most notably in North Carolina, but “religious freedom” laws are widespread across the country.
I wonder: what do we mean when we say religious freedom? Or, to ask it another way: what is the freedom of a Christian? (Because it seems these laws are designed to “protect” a certain kind of Christian perspective.)
That was a topic that good ol’ Martin Luther took up back in the day in a whole essay on the subject and it boiled down to this for him:
“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”
So, Christians are totally free in that they are justified by God’s grace. But in response to that grace we are called to love and serve our neighbors as Christ did for us. For Luther, our freedoms are tempered, and they are tempered by service to our neighbor.
In addition to this understanding of Christian freedom, Luther also talked about the way government and faith interact. He called it “the two kingdoms.” He said one kingdom is the spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of God, which concerns matters of the soul. The other kingdom is the kingdom of humankind, which keeps good order in the physical world and is ruled by human institutions of government, schools, etc.
Luther said that both of these kingdoms are established by God hold sway over the believer.
But what happens when these two kingdoms collide? (Luther himself struggled with this question. He actively advocated with the authorities of his day on moral and religious grounds. He also notoriously stood by as the government put down a Peasant’s Revolt, where many protesting peasants were killed.)
When is civil disobedience permissible? When Henry David Thoreau refused to pay taxes to support the Spanish-American war? The non-violent protests of the civil rights movement? Refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, or patrolling bathrooms at Target?
So, some questions for tonight:
What are the unique freedoms and responsibilities Christians have?
How do we balance our religious and political lives—where do they connect and where do they diverge?
Is the religious freedom of one person or group more important or imperative than another?