Monday, August 30, 2010

Colson on Christian Citizenship

In our list of 10 points in a Plan to Save America, today’s focus is #1.

1) Acknowledge the centrality of faith in America

a. We call for the right to publicly acknowledge God and the protection of our religious freedom.

In a Citizen Link interview with Catherine Snow, Chuck Colson responds to questions in regard to “Religious Freedom and Christian Citizenship”

Colson replies to a number of questions including: Why should a parent care about public policy, how about separation of church and state, and how about this not so subtle shift from freedom of religion to freedom of worship?

Learn the truth in the statement, ‘fads start from the top down, while movements start from the bottom up’. Understand that movements change society, and movements require public involvement.

Read Colson’s response to how the change to ‘freedom of worship’, depending on the interpretation could actually diminish our religious liberties, and draw us closer to the level of religious freedom available in China, Saudi Arabia, and the Soviet Union.

Please read the interview in its entirety.

FRIDAY FIVE: Chuck Colson on Religious Freedom and Christian Citizenship
Posted by Catherine Snow

Chuck Colson was radically transformed in 1973, from being the “hatchet man” for President Richard Nixon and incarcerated on Watergate-related charges to a humble Christian servant, seeking to bring reform and Christian outreach to those in prison. A noted author and speaker, Colson now focuses on cultural issues, the reclamation of morals and equipping the next generation with a biblical worldview.

1. One of the key issues that you speak to involves the freedom of religion –domestically and internationally. You have done so much to bring attention to Christian persecution around the globe. How would you rate Christian persecution today?

All human beings are created in the image of God. Everybody has human rights. When they are suppressed it goes to the very heart of what we believe about society. That’s why Christians have always been the greatest fighters for human rights. There is a constant battle between the authoritarianism of the state and the individual liberty of the citizen. This is true all over the world.

Persecution is a term that means that an entity is trying to drive you out of society. Religious persecution is openly done in China, the Sudan, and in North Korea.

In the West, however, we are now seeing a subtle persecution. It’s an attempt on the part of the state to begin to diminish our religious freedoms, because as we exercise those freedoms, we’re making a Christian impact on society.

We live in a very secular age. We have lost the term “Christian West” and we’ve got to get it back. It’s what makes the West unique. So, that’s the battle going on in our country right now.

If you were to rate religious freedom in the United Kingdom it’s probably about a three or four out of a possible 10. In Canada, it’s three or four. Here in America, we’ve always been 10, until the beginning of those cases in the ’50s and ’60s, which began to eliminate prayer in schools and the right of Christian groups to gather and make their witness.

It’s been steadily eroding since then. We’re at about a five today.

We have to fight for religious freedom –not because we want to protect Christians, but because we want to protect the human rights of all people made in the image of God. That’s all humanity.

2. The Obama administration has shifted from using the phrase “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship.” Would you please explain the distinction?

I saw that President Obama was using this term ‘freedom of worship’ instead of ‘freedom of religion.’ That’s not an unintentional slip. That’s a deliberate policy change.

Worship is one thing that means a private act; my communication with God, but not public actions. When you say freedom of religion, it means I am free to act as a citizen and express my religiously informed views. I’m free to try to organize groups to press for public policy questions.

And, Hillary Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown last fall, where she talked about the basic human rights to assemble and to form your own government, to worship and to love others as you choose.

So loving a person, even if it’s a same-sex relationship, is the equivalent of worship. This is very, very frightening!

Remember, the first right granted in the Bill of Rights by our Founders was the freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Now it’s being equated with homosexual rights? I thought that was a slip of the tongue until I read the policy statements of the Department of State, which said now these two terms are interchangeable.

Freedom of worship today exists in China. It exists in the Soviet Union. It exists actually in Saudi Arabia.

If you want to go into your house, and you want to go into your embassy, and you want to have mass or you want to have service or you want to read from the Bible, you can do that. The American embassy in Riyadh has services for Protestants and Catholics every weekend.

In China, the state church has complete freedom of worship, protected by the state. But, if a Chinese pastor speaks about a public policy issue from the pulpit, he’s off to jail. That’s what I see coming here.

That’s why I signed the Manhattan Declaration. I think it’s the most important thing going on in America today in terms of policy; to be able to take a stand on the major moral issues of the day.

Life, family and marriage, and religious liberty are the burning issues. Those are the threshold to all other issues.

I want to a million people to sign it. It’s across the denominational lines. It’s the historic Christian faith. People who can confess the creeds and believe in the Bible are coming together to take a united stand.

We’ve only invited people who can pledge their belief and faith and commitment to the word of God. We are speaking to the two great fundamental issues. 470,000 people have signed it; but, we want a million. Go to the website at But, don’t just sign on. Get your friends.

3. You’re a fan of William Wilberforce. As I talk to younger people, they don’t know who he was. Can you explain who he was and what his relevancy is in today’s society? How did he shape your thinking about Christian participation in the public square?

No one in history has had more of an influence on my life than William Wilberforce. He was a Parliamentarian in England. He came from the upper class of society, but he was converted, and it was remarkable when he was. He was a young man rising in Parliament in the 1780s, and he then became a very active Christian. He took on the campaign to abolish the slave trade, because that was the most heinous violation of human rights ever. This outraged his Christian conscious, so he stood alone on the floor of Parliament and denounced it. The battle went on for twenty years.

Go see Amazing Grace. It tells his story. It’s beautifully done. He made this successful stand and the slave trade was abolished in 1807. Slavery itself was abolished in 1833, five days before he died. The interesting thing is that he never let his focus be just politics. He knew that you couldn’t change things with just politics. He famously said ‘God has given me two great objectives: the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.’ He understood that you could end this systemic evil; but unless you at the same time worked to change the attitudes and habits and beliefs of the people, you weren’t going to solve the problem. He did both. He took on a hundred different causes over those next thirty five years that he lived. He should be a model for us today as to how we engage the public square.

He overcame just about every obstacle anybody could overcome. He had this violent problem with his stomach and was constantly sick. He was called every name in the book because the slave traders had bought seats in the Parliament. They controlled it. He was defamed his whole life. He kept pressing on.

He understood something which we need to grasp today because the circumstances are very similar. You belonged in the public square in politics. Christians have a duty to be engaged in the political process. The very least we should be doing is voting. We should be the best of citizens. We should bring the values of the kingdom of God to bear in the kingdom of man. That means voting. It means getting involved in politics. It means arguing before the school board. It means all the things Christians should do as citizens. But don’t put your element of trust there. Politics has become so big and powerful and controlled by the special interests that the only way it’s going to be reformed is the culture. And when you stop to think about it, politics is simply a reflection of the values of the culture. You change the culture, you will change the politics. If politics is sick, it means the culture is sick and we Christians are responsible for the culture.

So, get engaged in culture to begin to change the public attitudes, because that will be reflected ultimately in how the country is changed. I hope everybody gets involved and gets active and prays. This fall, the Pray and Act campaign will have Christians praying and fasting across the country for life, marriage, and liberty.

4. Why should any parent – any American – care about public policy and politics? What about the so-called separation of church and state?

The child they’re raising is going to be shaped not only by their paternal-maternal responsibility, but by the culture around us. We are products of both nature and nurture. And there’s no way you can have that child, no matter how well you’ve protected them, go off to a public school today without having everything that you believe to be sacred challenged. So you’ve got to care about what’s going on. I know what it is to be busy and work hard and be preoccupied with things. The same way you need a devotional time in the morning, you also need a time when you’re reflecting on what’s going on in the world around you and how you can be engaged in it.

Worry about what’s going on in your own school board. Worry about what’s going on in your own neighborhood, in your own county, with your own county officials.

I’m a great believer in what Nesbit said. ‘Fads start from the top down. Movements start from the bottom up.’ Movements change society. There are people today saying we Christians shouldn’t be involved with these things and to just be a faithful presence where we are. That’s bad advice.

We need to be involved with the world around us because we live as Christians with a worldview which is in conflict with the worldview of the society we live in. We should be constantly, winsomely, lovingly pushing Christian truth into the public square.

The whole separation of church and state is something that the ACLU loves to have you think prevents you from doing things. It really doesn’t. Separation of church and state is one thing. Separation of religion and politics is entirely different. Religion and politics deal with the same sphere. Religion is how people organize their lives together. Aristotle said ‘politics is how we organize our common lives together.’ So we’re talking about how people live.

I wrote a book called How Now Shall We Live. It’s about how Christians bring Christian truth into all of life. So never separate religion and politics. Separate church and state only that you’re respectful of the fact that there is a civic order and a religious and moral order for which we’re responsible.

5. Many say the 2010 election is the most important in our lifetime. Is this true? If so, what can people do?

It’s an important election of course because the government is taking on to itself unlimited powers that used to be reserved for the people. So there’s a great threat to freedom in American today.

There’s also a great threat to our economy and whether we can survive with these kinds of burgeoning deficits. I don’t think we can. But, all elections are important.

Don’t put your hope in the political system or in one party or the other. I know a lot of Republicans that I liked and respected and then they got into office and they got corrupted by the system. The system is inherently corruptive for Republicans or Democrats.

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