Free To Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty In America, by Luke Goodrich
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Multnomah/Waterbrook Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This is the sort of book that is easy to respect, even where I disagree with some of its points. It is clear that this book is written for an audience that is mainstream and evangelical and that is used to being part of the dominant culture of the United States and is quite alarmed at the way in which serious and mainstream Christianity has been undermined by cultural changes among elites with the threat of hostility. The author’s advice is for such readers to get used to being a counterculture but to be savvy and wise in the way that Christianity is defended. As someone who belongs to a more sectarian and outsider tradition, much of this book struck me as not particularly surprising and if somewhat alarming than at least nothing alarming that I was not already aware of and concerned about. Other readers may in fact be surprised at the author’s experience and perspective and may thus view this book as more surprising than I do, though.
This book is a relatively short one at 200 pages long and is divided into three parts and thirteen chapters. The book begins with an introduction and promises a foreword that was not available in the review copy I read. After that there are three chapters on the definition of religious freedom (I), including chapters on how Christians get it wrong (1), how they can get it right (2), and how to persuade others to respect religious freedom (3). The bulk of the book discusses the threats to Christian freedom of religion (II), namely the question of whether Christians are under attack (4), is discrimination inherently evil (5), will abortion have to be accepted (6), the problem and solution of whether gay rights will trump religious freedom (7,8), will Muslims take over (9), and will God become a dirty word in the United States (10). After that the author looks at what can be done in the mean time (III), tempering expectations of victory in the culture wars that creates bad blood with others (11), learning from scripture about the promise of persecution for those who follow God’s ways (12), and preparing for the future (13), after which the book ends with acknowledgments and notes.
One of the underlying focal points of the author that he returns to over and over again is the way that the Christian defense of religious freedom and of liberty in general must be genuine and consistent and not only self-serving. It is immensely difficult to defend freedom in a consistent manner, because a great many people are not always fond of the way that religious freedom looks from the point of view of Mormons or Sabbatarians or Jews or Muslims in the same way that they would look at it from the point of view of mainstream evangelical Protestants. The author’s broad experience in defending religious liberty helps him to see that it may be immensely wise for broader alliances to be made of people who support godly and biblical standards of morality than have traditionally been the case in the past, which would involve a friendly and mutually respectful dialogue with conservative (but not extreme) Jews, Catholics, and Muslims as well as more outlying Christian traditions than has often been the case. The author’s advice and counsel in these areas is wise, because he sees a prolonged period of religious tension and conflict within society, and it is clear that we need to be able to handle such matters wisely.