Keep your eye on the prize and run to win! That was Paul’s charge to the Corinthians in pursuing the call of God upon their lives. Knowing their love of sports, he told them they should run with the same determination, discipline, and focus that they would use to win the prize in the Isthmian games held in Corinth. Paul’s appeal to these qualities in the pursuit of what should be our ultimate goal, living life by God’s design, only serves to underscore the importance of these characteristics to success in any undertaking that is worth pursuing.
In America today, determination, discipline, and focus are also what is required to continue on our current path of restoring the core values that built a great and prosperous country. In particular, we have seen the end to eight years of a withering assault on religious freedom, an issue that motivated voters in the 2016 election.
A clarion call to respect people of faith and our First Freedom — religious liberty — could not come at a better time as we mourn as a nation the loss of life in Pittsburgh where a man allegedly motivated by hatred against Jewish people committed an act of violence.
That barbarism illustrates why respect for people of faith and protection of religious liberty is so important, especially after years of marginalization by the last administration.
The anti-faith attacks could be seen most clearly in our own government prosecuting nuns, who were aiding the least of these, for refusing to violate their religious beliefs and fund contraceptives, including abortifacients, in their health care plans.
There were also the cases of Soldiers, Airmen, Coastguardsmen and Marines punished for seeking to live out their religious faith in the most basic ways, like having a Bible on their desk or chaplains like Wes Modder being removed from his command for counseling according to the principles of his biblical faith.
We witnessed small business owners like Don Vander Boon, whose family owns a meat packing facility in Michigan, told by agents of the federal government that he had to remove Bible-based articles from his breakroom where employees gathered, or the government would shut their business down.
But stopping this prejudice is only the first step to righting our course. It will take a concerted and consistent effort to rebuild respect for America’s First Freedom throughout the ranks of a government, which the previous administration had mobilized to attack.
Less than two years in office, the Trump administration is restoring religious liberty. In May of 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Department of Justice to ensure all federal agencies were protecting and promoting religious freedom. Despite tremendous opposition from leftist groups that are suing the DOJ and other agencies to hinder or stop the effort, the restoration of our First Freedom continues.
For the first time in a long time, religious freedom has also become a priority in U.S. foreign policy, most notably demonstrated in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Just three months into his post, he hosted the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, attended by leaders from over 80 different nations.
It is essential to each individual American, especially to Christians who are called to follow the teaching of Scripture no matter what they do: “whether eating or drinking, do all to the glory of God.” This understanding that religious freedom is the ability to live every aspect of our lives according to our faith is deeply rooted in what historians describe as America’s Protestant work ethic, which has led to unparalleled productivity and prosperity, as work is an act of worship done in service to God.
French historian Alexis De Tocqueville, in his historical analysis of America’s growing prosperity in the 1800’s, made clear that the foundation and anchor for democracy and prosperity in America was the Christian faith pioneered by the Puritans. In other words, America didn’t create religious freedom; religious freedom created America.
Many will be quick to try and dismiss the connection between religious freedom, economic prosperity and social stability, but a growing body of academic research shows the correlation. Indeed, a study by the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation reports that “religion contributes $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, more than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology U.S. companies including Apple, Amazon and Google.”
Is it a coincidence that as religious freedom is being promoted and protected again in America, our economy is growing and unemployment is shrinking to historic lows? Maybe, but economic growth and prosperity cannot be long sustained without religious freedom. And for religious freedom to impact the economy, it has to be an individual freedom that permeates all aspects of society. The mere freedom of worship, which seeks to quarantine the practice of one’s faith within the walls of a church, is not authentic religious freedom.
The Trump administration has done more to restore religious freedom than any other administration since the steady assault began over a half century ago. This election is about whether or not we continue on a path that restores America’s First Freedom, which is foundational to genuinely making America great again. We must be disciplined in systematically pursuing those policies that will restore religious freedom and stay focused on the prize — one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.
For more motivation heading into Tuesday, check out this op-ed by FRC’s Patrina Mosley and David Closson, “For Christians, Voting Is Not an Option. It’s a Divine Calling.”
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.
EDITORS NOTE: This column with images is republished with permission.