On several occasions I have been asked, as a mother of three and a former pre-school teacher, why I would venture into the political blogging world. It’s difficult to really put it into words but the easiest way for me to describe it is to simply mention the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I began to have this pull into the political world but it wasn’t until I read Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer that I realized it was more of a calling on my life. I suddenly was completely grateful for my faith and my love for God and the freedom I was given to express this faith in America. However, at the same time I began to notice the encroaching changes in this country that were limiting this freedom. Suddenly, I saw this freedom through the eyes of my children and realized, that boldly standing up for religious liberty was important even if done simply through the blogging world.
The story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life has taught me the importance of religious liberty but it is also a reminder that faith in God is the cornerstone of life itself. I recently had the opportunity to interview Eric Metaxas and I am grateful for his ability to tell stories like Bonhoeffer that change hearts and minds. The following is my interview.
JK: People are really responding in a positive way to the life story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Through all the interviews you have done and the people you have talked to, why do you think people are resonating with his life story?
Eric Metaxas: You really need to go to my website at EricMetaxas.com because there is so much to stay about that and I say them in many different speeches. The short version is that almost everybody recognizes the parallels with what is happening now. It is shocking because I didn’t put the parallels in there on purpose. The first parallel is the religious liberty issue, that you have a big state beginning to push a church around and the church never really having had to deal with that and doesn’t know how to deal with it. They don’t know how to stand up quickly enough and before you know it they have been neutralized and boxed out. A lot of people can see that happening here and there is a rising tide of secularism which fundamentally violates the Founders’ sacred idea of religious liberty. When that is violated all liberties are compromised. This is something people are waking up to because of the story of Bonhoeffer. Also, we need heroes and Bonhoeffer was a real hero and people want to be inspired and people are being inspired dramatically.
JK: You also wrote “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce and his heroic battle to end the slave trade. Both Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer were men who brought their faith outside the walls of the church to fight injustice. They were in many ways seen as radicals of their day. Do you think the church of today has lost that radical Christianity?
Eric Metaxas: I think the church of every era has lost that radical Christianity and there are people that God uses to attempt to reawaken it. There are always prophets. In the Old Testament, you have prophets calling the people of God to be the people of God. How is it that the people of God never are the people of God but in name only? But the prophetic voice comes through someone or through a number of people to wake up the church. That’s exactly what Wilberforce was in his generation. There were others but he was one of the main voices. He was speaking to a dead church across Great Britain and saying you call yourself a Christian nation and here is what it means to be Christian. He called the church to itself and in a way he called the nation to itself. Same thing with Bonhoeffer, except he was less successful and he was crying out like a Cassandra and the people did not heed his voice. I think there are voices now calling the church to wake up. I think the voice of Bonhoeffer through my book is calling the American church to wake up and stand against encroaching government.
JK: Last year at CPAC, you outlined the importance of religious freedom in this country. You referred to the HHS mandate in requiring religious groups to provide contraceptives and abortificiants. Now we have Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius going before the federal court. Why is it important as Christians to pay close attention to this federal case?
Eric Metaxas: This is a classic example of how we have forgotten this idea of principles. This particular case may not affect us but in the bigger picture it will affect us dramatically because it is an issue of fundamental religious liberty. If the government can push around anybody and tell them, ‘We don’t care what you believe or what your faith teaches. We don’t care, tough luck. You better do what we tell you to do’, then once it starts to do that, it is game over or it’s the beginning of the end of the game. Because that’s what it is to be an American. That is being taken away under ridiculous pretenses. It’s amazing that the government sees an issue on their side that they think is a principle of women’s rights. That’s absurd! It is not women’s rights, otherwise people of faith would be all for it. It’s sort of sexual license and it is big government. This case and others like it are determining our future as a nation. People should be aware of what’s happening and sign the Manhattan Declaration and really understand that our religious liberties are being threatened. If we don’t stand up against it as one, we will rue the day that we did nothing.
JK: You also talked about the political ramifications to religious freedom in redefining marriage. Now we have bakers and wedding photographers having to choose between their faith and their convictions over their jobs and livelihoods. This is a heated debate and frankly it feels like we (Christians) are losing the battle. How do we stand up for religious liberty and traditional marriage while (to quote you from last year) “expressing the truth in civility and love”?
Eric Metaxas: We can express the truth in civility and love and people who don’t like it can say that we are not expressing it in civility and love. It’s really not an issue if we can convince everyone that it is in civility and love. If someone is against same sex marriage as the law of the land, which I am, do people appreciate the struggle that someone who is dealing with same sex attraction go through? Do their hearts break for someone who has to deal with that struggle? If we are not with those people appreciating that, then how can we really talk to them and cavalierly express our opinions? Our hearts have to break at the very least so that we know this is difficult for everyone. This is not an easy thing that we can just say this is wrong and move on. Even if we differ politically, we can express that we generally do care about the struggles that people are going through. However, I do think we have to be clear about what we believe and be clear that there is religious liberty in this country and we ought not to be forced to celebrate something that we find goes against our faith.
JK: What is the biggest misconception about religious freedom in this country?
Eric Metaxas: I think most people have no idea about what religious freedom means. I barely did two years ago. It is only recently that I have had some sense of what that is. I think that is true not just about religious freedom but a lot of the things that make America what it is. We haven’t had civics classes where past generations have really understood what it means to be an American. We are not familiar with these ideas, we take them for granted, and think we will always have them. Suddenly we realize they are being taken away. Well, it’s because we haven’t appreciated them for all these decades. Religious liberty is misunderstood. It simply means that the Founders said that everyone in America should have the freedom to practice and exercise their religion. Not to believe it but to exercise our beliefs- to act on our beliefs. It’s not about believing privately in your head, privately in that building, or simply about freedom of worship. It is freedom of religion where you can live out your faith boldly. In fact, not only do they say we should be able to do that but it is at the heart of the genius of the United States of America. If we don’t have people freely acting out their beliefs, eventually that will be the end of America. Religious liberty is the salt and light that has made us the great nation we are in a whole number of ways. We have taken it for granted and we need to wake-up to what it is and we need to begin to stand against those encroachments.
JK: You also wrote “7 Men” and answered the question of what makes a man great by sharing the stories of 7 men such as Bonhoeffer, Wilberforce, George Washington, Jackie Robinson, as well as others. So I am going to put you on the spot a little. What makes a woman great? And if you were to write a book about 7 Women, whom would you write about?
Eric Metaxas: I am writing a book about 7 women right now. I really don’t want to talk about it now because I am still working it out in my introduction and in how I want to frame it. But there is a ninety year-old woman named Alice von Hildebrand and she’s a friend of mine. She wrote a book titled, “The Privilege of Being a Woman” and another book called, “Man and Woman: A Divine Invention”. In both books she lays out the difference between men and women and why being a woman is a privilege and a beautiful thing. She talks differently about women and their strengths than we are hearing in the current culture. Alice von Hildebrand is the most pro-woman I know and yet she despises feminism. It is very interesting. She will be mentioned in my introduction of my book which should be coming out some time next year.
William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many of the other people that Eric Metaxas has either written or shared about have the common theme of courage and faith. Metaxas has also demonstrated courage and faith in telling these kinds of stories. Perhaps, it is time that we live out these characteristics in our own lives and step beyond the walls of the places we worship for that truly is what religious liberty is all about.
To learn more about Eric Metaxas go to www.ericmetaxas.com.