I recently had the privilege of attending remarkable events in our nation’s capital that dealt with the most pressing issue facing our nation and our world—our religious freedom.
On May 4, I was in Washington, D.C., for the annual National Day of Prayer, where my sister Anne Graham Lotz was one of the featured speakers. It was a wonderful time to spend with fellow Christians from across the country interceding for our troubled nation and seeking God’s direction and wisdom for our leadership.
Not only did we join with tens of thousands of Christians from coast to coast in asking God to heal our land and restore our hearts, but we were able to visit with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and witness the Rose Garden ceremony with the president’s signing of an executive order to help protect our religious liberties.
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“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” the president declared.
The executive order counters the chilling effect on the speech of churches and charities. The president wants to protect the freedom of pastors and church leaders to address political issues and candidates. The order is also designed to help protect religious organizations from being forced to include abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans. “We are giving our churches their voice back,” the president said.
The past decade has seen a precipitous moral decline on a scale that I did not believe possible.
Our religious freedoms have been under relentless assault by the liberal-progressive agenda. The past administration not only refused to support such freedoms but actively worked to restrict and suppress them.
Who would have ever thought that the former president of the United States would staunchly support same-sex marriage and Planned Parenthood, even going so far as to light up the White House in the rainbow colors of the gay/lesbian coalition? Who would have ever dreamed, just a few years ago, that Christian businesses would be prosecuted simply because they followed their Biblically informed consciences on the sanctity of marriage?
By signing the religious liberty executive order, President Trump has made a solid first step to reverse the hostile and dangerous environment fostered by his predecessor.
However, there is still more to do to protect Christian businesses from being targeted by the gay and lesbian lobby and their liberal-progressive allies. Same-sex marriage advocates have gained much ground over the past decade, and those who hold Biblical convictions on the sanctity of marriage must be protected from undue harassment and prosecution.
With this executive order, along with the appointment of conservative justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, the president has fulfilled two of his prominent campaign pledges that I hope and pray will serve to restore and defend our religious liberties.
Just one week after the National Day of Prayer, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association held a historic gathering in Washington, D.C., to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide.
While believers in this country experience growing discrimination and intimidation from our culture and our authorities, it certainly hasn’t been on the scale of persecution abroad. Worldwide, it is estimated that 90,000 men and women who confess the Name of Jesus Christ were persecuted in the past year simply because of their Christian faith. There is no other group of people in the world today who live under such physical, social and emotional distress and are mistreated so brutally.
More than 600 believers from 130 nations attended our World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians. Many of them had been forced to hastily flee their native countries because they were followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. A number have been beaten, bloodied and imprisoned for their faith. Many more have experienced severe economic and social oppression from hostile governments and neighbors.
They have harmed no one. They have mistreated no one. They have broken no laws except those imposed by totalitarian governments or by Islamic Sharia law, where Christians are branded as “infidels” and face dismemberment and death if they refuse to bow to Allah.
When I walked through the charred remains of a church near Mosul not long ago, I saw the ugly reminder of the hate that Islamic radicals have toward Christians. Written on the wall in graffiti meant to desecrate the already shattered ruins was, “You love life, we love death. We have come to drink your blood.”
This was in a village that had been predominantly Christian for millennia and now was empty of any Christian presence. It’s a story that has been repeated in hundreds of communities across the Middle East, some of which have seen more than two-thirds of Christians flee in the past decade due to persecution.
We were honored that Vice President Pence came and addressed this extraordinary summit meeting of God’s choice servants. The vice president is a committed Christian who prays for those who suffer for the sake of the Gospel, and I know he will be a staunch advocate for persecuted believers around the world.
I believe that the Lord has given us a brief window of opportunity in this nation to turn our hearts back to Him. Throughout our history, we have seen seasons of great revival in the church that have tremendously influenced our communities, schools and government. If we repent of our sins and call on His Name, that can happen once again.
The Bible tells us that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
For those who live under the dark shadow of repressive regimes and militant religions that despise the Name of Jesus, their reward in Heaven is great. They endure relentless suffering, even to the point of death, but they boldly confess Jesus as Lord. They are not only heroes of the faith, but my heroes as well.
We have not reached that point—not yet—in this great country, but we must remain vigilant and prayerful, not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the power of God (Romans 12:2).
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). ©2017 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.