Jeffrey MacDonald reports on an interesting development: left-of-center religious groups invoking religious liberty much as right-of-center groups have in recent years. A church wants to install solar panels despite the objections of a local historic district commission; elsewhere, groups serving the homeless are looking to faith-based partners to protect their ability to do so. The story provides a lens on the classic questions about what counts as religious exercise and who decides.
Yet it’s a little odd that MacDonald’s framing takes as given this very recent use of the term “religious liberty”—more strategy than principle, an argument to advance a cause.
During the earliest years of my ministry I served as a hospital chaplain, shepherding both religious and non-religious patients and families through the worst days of their lives. I quickly specialized in trauma, mostly because others didn’t want to, and so often found myself in emergency rooms and trauma ICUs.
I hear a fearful refrain coming from church leaders, from every denominational level. They twist their fingers into knots as they say: If we don’t have our endowment, we will die. It’s our job to protect the endowment for future generations. Our future depends on a healthy endowment.