These are incredibly challenging times, but if America ever needed its spiritual leaders, it's now. "Pastors," Secretary Ben Carson said this morning, "make all the difference in the world." If the faith community bands together, he insisted, "this virus will not defeat us." Thursday, the faith community did in fact band together -- joining FRC for our first-ever National Virtual Pastors Roundtable. Together with President Trump, Secretaries Mike Pompeo and Chad Wolf, Attorney General William Barr, and others, we turned what used to be our annual conference into its biggest gathering yet -- by going virtual.
Despite his busy schedule, President Trump spoke to the thousands of participating pastors for more than 20 minutes -- covering a range of topics from China's responsibility for the coronavirus to the progress his administration has made in deregulation, cutting taxes, and rebuilding the military. He also devoted time to the issue nearest and dearest to the faith community's heart: religious liberty. "The spiritual strength of our citizens is vital to our nation," he agreed, reiterating his support for churches to start the return to normalcy. "I want to get them open soon," the president insisted -- pointing to all of the "pressure" his administration has been exerting on states that have been less than cooperative. As far as he's concerned, the church in America has been a "spectacular" friend to him, working alongside the White House to protect life and freedom.
The country, President Trump insisted, is ready for a "transition to greatness." Churches, his attorney general said later, are important to that transition. "Religion is the foundation of our entire system," Barr pointed out. When society moves away from core moral principles, there are "practical consequences," he warned. At the DOJ, Barr reminded pastors, the religious liberty task force is working hard to stop those violations when they happen. But it's also important, the chief law enforcer pointed out, for people to go out and exercise their religious liberties. He pledged that the DOJ will continue to press for accommodations to be made to churches and will make sure every U.S. district attorney's office around the country has a coordinator for religious liberty.
For Secretary Wolf, that freedom has a practical impact. From his perch at Homeland Security, he knows that the faith community is usually the first and last one on the scene of a crisis. It's these pastors and congregations, he said gratefully, who are on the front lines providing food, security, and transportation to the people who need it. So the more we can do to protect their involvement, the better.
The rest of the world, Secretary Pompeo encouraged, will know us by that fruit. Pastors, he urged, have a role to play in fighting for that freedom for everyone. "Bringing the light of Christ to the world," he insisted, is every Christian's responsibility. "Even in the most restricted places, we can open hearts" if we pay attention to the cracks of light and continue to work day in and day out. Let's hope this event helped remind men and women of faith that yes, the crisis has been difficult. But the mission to advance biblical truth doesn't just go on -- it's essential to recovering.