I recently watched the classic film The Sandlot for probably the fifteenth time, and it got me thinking about the Fourth of July—Independence Day.
Baseball, barbeques, fireworks, freedom… Good ol’ Americana.
Take this scene for example:
I won’t lie—it made me nostalgic for those simpler times—when the greatest threat was a neighborhood dog holding hostage a baseball signed by Babe Ruth.
It’s hard not to read today’s news and wonder if we’ve become trapped in Wonderland, wandering around like Alice in an alternate reality of chaos. Some days you might even wish it was all a crazy dream and hope that you’ll soon wake up from the madness of what our world has become. I do.
That’s the problem though, isn’t it? A lot of times we hope that the things that are scary, challenging, or completely bonkers will simply go away if we ignore them. But that’s not the way the world works.
The Bible tells us that we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33). The pessimist in us may dwell on that fact, but as with the rest of the Gospel message, Jesus follows up that warning with good news, “…take courage; I have overcome the world.”
This is an incredible message of hope for all of us, but it’s also a call to action. Jesus says, “take courage!” Courage isn’t an abstract emotion or feeling—it’s taking action despite the fear.
You see, freedom requires sacrifice—and sacrifice requires courage.
It took courage for the original colonies to stand up to British oppression and declare independence in 1776. It also took the sacrifice of thousands of lives for the U.S. to win that independence.
It takes the courage and sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of men and women in the military today to continue to defend that freedom.
And it took courage for Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez to challenge The Beast on its own turf, where baseballs go to die.
But Benny was willing to sacrifice what seemed to him like certain death to do something great—to retrieve the lost ball. Without his bravery (and a pep talk from The Babe himself), the Sandlot would have always lived in fear of The Beast, and they would have surrendered a lot more baseballs too.
The reality is that if you want to change the status quo, you have to take action. That’s what inspires me the most about our Alliance Defending Freedom clients—the courage of their convictions.
Last month, the Supreme Court delivered some incredible victories for freedom. And it all started with courage—courage to stand up and say, “I will not give up my freedom without a fight.”
It took courage for Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips to stand for his faith in the face of death threats, intimidation, boycotts, and punishment from the government. Jack and his family sacrificed years of their lives to fight this legal battle, and last month the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a victory.
But the victory wasn’t just for Jack. Not only did the High Court reverse the government’s decision to punish Jack for living and working consistently with his religious beliefs about marriage, but the justices also condemned the government’s hostility towards his faith. In America, the government is supposed to protect our religious freedom, not punish us for exercising it. This is a victory for us all.
It also took courage for pro-life pregnancy centers to stand up to the California government that was infringing on their freedom of speech. I don’t have to tell you how absurd—how un-American—it is to try to force pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion. But that’s what California did.
The Supreme Court issued a strong rebuke to that when it ruled in favor of these pregnancy centers in the case of NIFLA v. Becerra. In a concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote: “Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. [California’s] law imperils those liberties.” What a win for freedom!
And finally, you better believe it took courage for floral artist Barronelle Stutzman to stand calmly and firmly as the State of Washington and the ACLU came after her and tried to make an example out of her. They’ve threatened this sweet grandmother with financial ruin. They’ve assaulted her character and her professional reputation. And they’ve done all of this because she acted consistently with her faith and declined to participate in a longtime customer’s same-sex wedding.
But because of her resolve and the victory for Jack at the Supreme Court, Barronelle now has the chance for redemption in the Washington courts. The Supreme Court has asked them to reconsider her case. This is great news!
Every victory we achieve for these courageous souls is a victory for your freedom too. But none of these wins would have been possible without action.
If we truly want to protect freedom—freedom of the people, freedom from government overreach and tyranny—we must be willing to take action when it really counts.
As The Great Bambino told Benny, “Everybody gets one chance to do something great. Most people never take the chance, either 'cause they're too scared...or they don't recognize it when it spits on their shoes.”
So take courage, friends. Don’t settle for the sidelines. Freedom is at stake.