Samuel Gregg, senior research fellow at the Acton Institute, gave the culminating lecture at Acton University yesterday. He courageously reminded the 900 conference participants from 85 countries of the universal duty to seek religious truth.
Religious liberty is important, said Gregg, because it is a precondition for man’s honest quest for truth – free of coercion and according to human reason. Religious liberty is the primary freedom, and if taken away, all other freedoms can be taken away.
In response to religious persecutions, and infringements on religious liberty worldwide, Gregg encouraged the Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Christian participants to do three things:
1. Gregg challenged Christians to raise awareness about violence against fellow Christians worldwide. He gave several eye opening statistics about the global persecution of Christians including the salient fact that, every day, 273 Christians are killed for their faith.
2. Gregg argued, “Christians need to stop taking government funding” for Christian institutions. He lamented the slow compromise of identity among Christian associations that have taken government money only to find themselves manipulated into a financial dependence that prevents authentic Christian vision and fidelity to our moral and cultural heritage.
3. Ecumenism, said Gregg, is the third solution to religious intolerance. He called for Christians to unite on this front “against the real enemy: social engineering.” Christians must defend the right to be a leading voice in society and not allow themselves to be trampled by the tyranny of relativism.
True tolerance, says Gregg, recognizes that two people do not agree, but are willing to treat each other with human dignity and respect for conscience. The word, tolerance, has been hijacked by bigoted ideologists and become instead, “an affirmation of the zeitgeist,” concluded Gregg.
Martyrdom is a possibility for every Christian today. Gregg believes no Christian ought to feel exempt from the threats of global persecution. Following the example of the Apostle Paul, we need to claim our rights as free citizens and not be intimidated by social bullies.
This is not the time to curl up and be silent, but like the saints before us, we are called to give testimony (Greek: marturia) about the love that dwells within us and be able to support our faith with reason.