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Christian Union
October 4, 2013

Authors Tell Students to Defend Liberty, Speak the Truth in Love

In speeches during the spring semester, writers R.R. Reno, Yale PhD '90, and Eric Metaxas, Yale '84, exhorted college students and the nation to be aware of the growing sentiment against religious freedom.

"We're in the midst of climate change—one that's getting colder and colder toward religion," said Reno when he addressed students at Hillsdale College in Michigan.

From his professional purview, Reno has a broad scope of the narrowing "tolerance" for people of faith, particularly Christians who choose to vote and live according to their consciences. The editor of the journal First Things and the author of Fighting the Noonday Devil, he told the Hillsdale students, "What we're seeing today is a secular liberalism that wants to expand the prohibition of establishment to silence articulate religious voices and disenfranchise religiously motivated voters, and at the same time, to narrow the scope of free exercise, so that the new secular morality can reign over American society unimpeded."

Conversely, the United States strives to empower the religious rights of those in other countries through The Office of International Religious Freedom; which, according to its Web site, seeks to "promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries; and assist emerging democracies in implementing freedom of religion and conscience." Yet, Americans who attempt to live in that matter face judicial overturn of their votes for marriage and financial punishment for refusing to provide health care that can lead to the termination of pregnancies.

Metaxas, the author of several books, including Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, and the voice of the radio commentary BreakPoint, spoke out against such affronts to religious freedom before the Conservative Political Action Conference this spring. While denouncing the inequality of the HHS Mandate, Metaxas also likened the current state of religious freedom in this country to that of early Nazi Germany.

Metaxas was inspired to explore religious liberty after doing research on German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis after being implicated in a plot to assassinate Hitler.
"Many people have said they see disturbing parallels between what was happening in Germany in the 1930s and America today on that issue. I'm very sorry to agree."

In May, Metaxas served as the commencement speaker for Palm Beach Atlantic University, where he challenged students to be ready to challenge false ideas propagated by a secular society.

"Every age has its battles," he said. "A little over fifty years ago, an Iron Curtain descended over Europe and that was the great battle of that time and of the many decades that followed. But in our age, a secular orthodoxy has arisen, and every person of faith is called to battle against false ideas, these false ideas that say we are not glorious creatures created in the image of a loving God, with an eternal purpose to love Him and one another."

Metaxas encouraged the students to take heart.

"God wants us to have courage and to speak the truth in love. If we don't speak the truth in love, it is not truth. And, if we don't say anything, we're not loving," he said.

Also responding to the secular salvos fired across the bow of freedom, Reno outlined a battle plan to thwart the effort to confine the expression of faith, telling students, "First and most obvious, defend religious liberty in the courts; second, fight against the emerging legal theories that threaten to undermine religious liberty; and third, fight the cultural battle."

He reminded students of what he called the "remarkable capacity for communities of faith to endure," saying the church emerged 2,000 years ago in a pagan culture, absent of constitutional protection. And, with that legacy in mind, he rallied students to bank on faith over popular opinion, and fortitude over accommodation.

"Right now, the Nones [those identifying as being without religious affiliation] seem to have the upper hand in America. But, what seems powerful is not always so. If I had to bet on Harvard or the Catholic Church, Yale or the Mennonites in Goshen, Indiana, the New York Times or yeshivas in Brooklyn, I wouldn't hesitate. Over the long haul, religious faith has proven itself the most powerful and enduring force in human history."