The very First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution doesn't just grant the freedom to choose your religion; it grants "the free exercise thereof."
That's an important distinction.
Every American, from your next-door neighbor to the president of the United States, has the right to pray and worship according to his or her faith. If you don't adhere to a religion, that's protected, too. This freedom, so closely linked to personal identity and self-expression, was of such importance that the architects of our Constitution determined it should be the first words inked into the Bill of Rights.
Unfortunately, not everybody holds it in such esteem. This was apparent last week on an ABC's the "View" segment where the hosts discussed Vice President Mike Pence's prayer life.
"It's one thing to talk to Jesus. It's another thing when Jesus talks to you... that's called mental illness," host Joy Behar said in reference to Pence's faith.
Let me put this in perspective: in one breath, Behar single-handedly managed to belittle the faith of millions of Americans, personally insult the vice president of the United States and disparage the U.S. Constitution. Of course, public outrage erupted after Joy Behar's comments went viral, as it should have.
The bigotry against Christians within our media and throughout our culture is becoming increasingly obvious. I can't pinpoint the date it got out of hand, but I know for sure that what I'm seeing is not a good sign for us as a free people.
That being said, I'm not all too surprised at what we're watching unfold. Jesus himself tells us in Matthew chapter 10 that we will be hated because of our faith. Our lives at times may even be endangered because we associate with him.
So as a follower of Christ in the United States, I have two responsibilities. One, as a citizen, is to remind our lawmakers that in this country the very first law that was ever written granted us the freedom to worship in whichever unique way we chose. It is unconstitutional to discriminate against someone based upon whom they worship or how they worship. We simply cannot allow this foundational principle to continue to erode in the court of public opinion.
Secondly, and most importantly, as a Christian, my primary mission in life is to remain faithful to Jesus through every hardship and against every stronghold. I am called to pray for my enemies and show grace and forgiveness even when the same favor isn't returned.
Vice President Pence bravely responded to the attack by sharing that his faith "is the most important thing in my life." It's the most important thing in my life too, and it gives me great comfort to know that the vice president, among many other of our nation's leaders, also find their meaning and their purpose through faith in God. And I'm grateful we have a leader who is not afraid to say he speaks with God and listens for his voice.
Perhaps some people would rather our vice president not speak about his faith. They might even prefer he had no faith at all. If so, I would then ask this: what kind of qualities are you looking for in the vice president of the United States?
A humble attitude? It was Jesus who knelt down and washed his disciples' feet.
A willingness to forgive? It was Jesus who freely forgave all who came to him and offered them new life — no matter who they were or what they had done.
A courageous spirit? It was Jesus who stood up to the judgemental pharisees of his day.
The vice president talks with Jesus so that he can become more like Jesus. Prayer is as foundational to our country's origins as any other practice, and I'm thankful that we have a vice president who starts and ends his day with prayer.
Pastor Jentezen Franklin served on the Donald J. Trump campaign's "evangelical advisory board," is the pastor of Free Chapel, the host of "Kingdom Connection," and the author of the forthcoming book Love Like You've Never Been Hurt.