Former President Herbert Hoover, while offering remarks at a reception for his 80th birthday in West Branch, Iowa on Aug. 10, 1954, chose to emphasize the connection between the Bible and America’s founding documents. He warned that socialism would cause government to become an idol, elevating itself above the very God that created it for our good and His glory. This will happen as it enslaves the people, making them dependent on government rather than embracing free enterprise based on personal responsibility, a characteristic Americans have generally exhibited and God has blessed. His words would be echoed a decade later by a new conservative voice, Ronald Reagan, who warned that socialism would creep into our democratic republic through a healthcare system that would control our minds, bodies and ultimately our lives, robbing us of our freedom.
Hoover was blunt that late-summer day: “To this whole gamut of Socialist infections, I say to you…God has blessed us with…heritage. The great documents of that heritage are not from Karl Marx. They are from the Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Within them alone can the safeguards of freedom survive.” Today, Hoover’s views appear to be increasingly at odds with Americans – and sadly, too many Christians.
For religious liberty to flourish, the people of God must realize we are of two kingdoms, earthly and spiritual, and are expected to be good citizens of both.
An annual survey, released in July by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center of more than 1,000 Americans, found that only 24 percent of respondents are able to identify religious freedom as a First Amendment right. It also found only 13 percent of women and six percent of men believe that religious freedom is the most important freedom mentioned in the First Amendment. The survey’s findings get more troubling.
The majority of Americans (62 percent) agree if a religiously affiliated group receives government funds, then the government should be able to require the group to provide health-care benefits to homosexual partners of employees – even if the religious group opposes homosexual marriages or partnerships. The future on this issue looks ominous: 68 percent of 18-30-year-olds and 62 percent of 31-45-year-olds support this view. This is foreboding to institutions like Hannibal-LaGrange University, Southwest Baptist University, the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and to Missouri Southern Baptists who offer support with students and money.
There is still more bad news. Some 52 percent believe that a business providing wedding services to the public should be required to serve same-sex couples, even if the business owner objects to homosexual marriage on religious grounds. An alarming 39 percent of Protestants agree. So much for freedom of conscience, much less what God says.
Not only do we, as a nation, not know what our Constitution says and how it guarantees our freedoms, we don’t seem to care and are even beginning to turn against it. The Newseum Institute’s survey found more than one-third of Americans (34 percent) believe the First Amendment goes too far in protecting rights. This does not bode well for America’s pastors who are called by God to preach the whole counsel of His Word, including the part about homosexual sin. The First Amendment stands as the final bulwark against the homosexual movement determined to secure more than marriage rights: total acceptance of their lifestyle to the point where speaking biblical truth will become “hate speech” and a “crime.” It appears America’s governing authorities can no longer be counted on for First Amendment protections on this issue – especially for people of faith.
For religious liberty to flourish, the people of God must realize we are of two kingdoms, earthly and spiritual, and are expected to be good citizens of both — with ultimate allegiance to God no matter the cost. What does that mean? Pray God will provide righteous leaders, ones that will honor Him and not themselves. Be informed. Know your God-given rights as well as those protected by civil law, like those in the U.S. Constitution. Vote God’s way according to His Word. Run for office and do not be shy about supporting God-honoring candidates.
Romans 13:1 says the only governmental authorities that exist are those established by God. We are to obey the governing authorities as long as they do not require us to violate God’s commands. It becomes an issue of faithfulness for God’s children to be actively involved in something God created for our good and His glory.
President Hoover had the misfortune of serving as president during The Great Depression, but there can be no doubt the man knew freedom when he saw it. America had best take heed Hoover’s wise words offered that day in West Branch, Iowa. The cost will be too high to do otherwise.