This morning, I had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Milton, chancellor and James M. Baird Jr. Chair of Pastoral Theology at the Reformed Theological Seminary, and author of the new book Silent No More, praised by figures ranging from Michael Reagan to David Limbaugh, to discuss the threat to religious freedom under the Obama administration, among other topics.
Q: How grave is the threat to religious freedom from the Obama administration?
A: The threat to religious liberty in the United States of America is as great as it has been in our nation’s history. The First Amendment, guarding the free exercise of religion, is undergoing tremendous attack by forces that I would call Statism. Statism is an anti-Biblical, God-denying philosophy which believes that the State is the ultimate provider and arbitrator of freedom. Americans (and English speaking people going back to the Magna Carta) have always held the belief that freedom comes from our Maker not from government. Lex Rex was written in the 17th century by the great Scottish divine, Samuel Rutherford, to demonstrate that the King was subject to God’s law as much as any other man. Statism advocates that it is the “mediator” of that freedom. Statism, as the Austrian economist FA Hayak put it, is “incompatible with Christianity.” I would go further. I would say that Statism is incompatible with humanity. Statism impacts all religions and impacts those with no religion. It is a veritable Frankenstein’s monster which has been created in our “Great Society” – so-called — and which is now turning against us. It is time to confront the monster and set the people free from this intrusion and fear.
Q: The country is quickly moving in a more libertarian direction on issues like same-sex marriage. Should the issue matter to conservatives, especially after allowing the redefinition of marriage over the last five decades?
A: Conservatism will make an enormous mistake if we give up on the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage. The more libertarian positions being pressed by the media and by many in the intelligentsia are simply wrongheaded. They will not lead to success for a conservative movement. Truth will always prevail. The truth of the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage — one man and one woman united in a covenant — not only has the precedent of 5000 years of recorded civilization, but is the very foundation on which our nation and any nation rests. Diminish the sanctity of life and disregard the sanctity of marriage, and the sanctity of a God-governed sexuality among humans, and that nation will in effect turn its own artillery against itself and bombard itself with destruction.
Q: Today is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. What is the legacy of Roe v. Wade, and do you believe America will ever move away from it?
A: The legacy of the Supreme Court decision allowing for abortion in the United States of America has been one of the most devastating court decisions in history. It has allowed millions of lives to be taken from our nation, impacting our very demographics, placing us in a precarious position of not having a strong enough growth rate, but more than that, it has left its devastating, sadly predictable legacy in the lives of broken women and shattered lives. I would speak to those who say, “well, we disagree on when life begins,” to return to what Ronald Ragan advocated in his book, Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation. Reagan said that when we don’t know when life begins we always err on the sign of life. It is that simple. It is that poignant. It is that important. It is time to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to sanity and the sanctity of human life in this nation.
Q: President Obama is the least religious president in history, but he still goes to church and cites the Bible. How do traditional religious people deal with the threat of the so-called religious left?
A: Christians (and all other conservatives) should remember that genuine faith is more than going to church and quoting Scripture. Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commands. To confess and seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and then to openly advocate policies which contradict his teaching make no sense. “You shall know them by their fruit.”
In Judaism, the Old Testament prophets railed against Israel herself when she failed to follow God’s commands all the while professing him as their God. This is the message, for instance, of Amos. This is the message of Jeremiah. This is the message of Isaiah. And this most certainly is the message of the New Testament apostles and of Christ himself. I do not call the President’s confession into question. I call his practices and his administration’s practices into question as they relate to biblical truth. As a pastor, I would call on him to repent of public policies which contradict the teachings of the one he calls Lord. I think of the line of Luther that he would rather have a competent non-believer than an incompetent Christian ruling the land. Well, I would rather have a non-believer that advocates the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage, for instance, than a leader who calls himself a Christian and works against the very foundations of life and marriage. There are, of course, areas in the application of Jesus’ teaching where men of goodwill will differ. That is why we have denominations. We will differ on social policy and public policy to be sure. So I want to be careful in this. Yet there are some cardinal issues in which there is absolutely no ambiguity. It is those areas, those undeniably clear and cogent laws of God, that are the most concerning. It is those issues that we must speak to. And Christians of all denominations — Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant – as well as Jews and other faiths all believe in these cardinal values. They are codified in our sacred text and they are embedded in Western civilization. We must be silent no more.
Q: Is there a religious basis for economic liberty?
A: There most certainly is a religious basis for economic liberty. Since all true freedom comes from God, the Judeo-Christian ethic, as well as other world religions, teach what the Eighth Commandment forbids: “Thou shalt not steal.” Property rights are basic to the teachings of the Old and New Testaments. Moreover, the Bible teaches the concept of boundaries and nationhood and borders and national security to protect those economic rights. The Bible teaches hard work and prudence in handling one’s financial affairs. The Bible teaches a basic economic theory which is derived from and rests on both the freedom that comes from God as well as the very image of God in man. Socialism, Western European social democracy, and other economic theories and practices which deny liberty and advocate Statism run contrary to the basic tenets of all faiths in the Western civilization tradition.
Biblical economics do work. Anything else dehumanizes people and hurts them. That is why I wrote this book and that is why I’m calling on the Church to be silent no more.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).