2016 Politics: Christian, Conservative Speakers Say Change Looms for U. S. Church


The increasing threat to religious liberty and the brokenness of politics in this election year demonstrate the need for change among Christians in America, speakers said at a gathering Aug. 27 in Nashville.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) cosponsored the event – “The 2016 Presidential Race, Religious Liberty and the Future of the Church” — a day after the conclusion of the ERLC’s National Conference on cultural engagement and Gospel faithfulness.

The church inhabits an America in which religious freedom is now a “polarizing concept,” ERLC President Russell Moore said, and the political culture is “shattered into a million pieces,” said David French, a staff writer for the conservative magazine National Review and a constitutional lawyer.

The clash between religious liberty and sexual liberty — manifested in the legal and cultural battles over such issues as same-sex marriage, gay rights and transgender rights — has prompted some former supporters of a 1993 federal law protecting religious freedom to reverse themselves. To regard that law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as a subversive idea is “a dangerous trend” for all Americans, because all protected liberties “hang together,” Moore told the audience.

“Once a liberty becomes too politically toxic to uphold or to maintain — and that means you simply toss it aside — there are other liberties that are then going to be [at risk],” he said.

In the long term, Moore said, the church must be able to explain to an increasingly secularized American culture “what it means to be religiously motivated” and to train Christians in what religious liberty really is — especially its “biblical and theological foundations.”

French described the 2016 election process — which resulted in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively — as a “colossal, miserable, disgusting failure.”

Citing such factors as public rage about circumstances, ignorance about politics and lethargy among the electorate, French also pointed to the dominance of the Fox News Channel among conservatives as a factor in the broken political culture.

Fox’s “priorities become movement priorities. Fox fame becomes real fame,” said French, who considered a third-party presidential run as a conservative alternative to Trump. “Fox’s priorities are not the priorities necessarily of the movement, much less the priorities of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He thinks Americans “are about to see some significant changes culturally and nationally as a result of this election,” French told attendees at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

Rejecting the idea Trump could win the election, French gave different scenarios in case of a Clinton victory.

If she wins within what he described as the “perceived margin” produced by #NeverTrump voters like himself, “you’re going to be looking at the great blood-letting” among conservatives, he predicted.

If Clinton’s victory is greater than the #NeverTrump edge, “There’s going to be a need for repentance, a lot of repentance” by conservatives particularly — and white evangelicals especially — toward communities of color, French said.

The country will have just gone through a campaign in which the party of Abraham Lincoln “explicitly embraced a person who has himself explicitly given aid and comfort to some of the most vile racists,” he told the audience. “You can’t ignore that.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Tom Strode