Recently I was in a Zoom meeting at our National Strategic Center with a number of government leaders and businessmen. One young judge said something that I have not been able to get out of my mind. He said, “In times like this, I try to remember my father always admonishing me to ‘keep first things first’.”
It seemed at first like a simple enough rule. However, I could not get it out of my mind and soon realized it was simple, but it was “hauntingly simple.” When we lose structure in our lives, we lose order in our lives. When we lose order in our lives, it becomes easy and tempting to not just forget to put first things first in our lives, but we can actually forget what the first things are.
If you are like me, your life has become a bit disoriented since the Coronavirus crisis. Routines and schedules (what is left of them) are markedly different. The days of the week seem to blend together and weekends are no longer weekends, they are just other days. We get up differently. We go to bed differently. Losing order in our lives changes us. It changes how we feel and how we act, and it can greatly impact how we view our lives.
When I was a young teenager, I remember one summer when I stayed up late at night, slept until noon the next day, and sat around watching Television for most of the afternoon. I was doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. At first, this was great but after a couple of weeks, I became miserable. I blamed it on everything else, but I came to realize the lack or order in my life was causing me to not “keep first things first.” Those few weeks taught me there was a consequence to pay for that failure, and I determined never to repeat that mistake.
Proverbs 14:14 could have warned me about this:
“The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But the good man will be satisfied with his.”
Here at the National Strategic Center we are constantly monitoring activity across the nation and developing strategies to ensure we are keeping first things first in our country. During these times, it is easy to let up on those endeavors, but these are the very times we need to fight to keep first things first. There are very few things more important to keep first in our lives than faith.
Unfortunately, the anti-faith groups are not resting. When Attorney General William Barr realized how important it was to keep religious freedom alive even during these challenging moments, his office issued a simple memo which stated:
“I am directing each of our United States attorneys to also be on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”
The memo added:
“The Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis. We must therefore be vigilant to ensure its protections are preserved, at the same time that the public is protected.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation launched an attack on him for this statement, continuing their efforts to remove faith from the marketplace of ideas in America.
Many governors and mayors across America did not keep first things first. They issued orders protecting Walmart, Lowes, and stores selling alcohol products but kicked churches to the curb, even when they were following safety guidelines set down by those same orders.
While this was going on, other leaders have realized the importance of keeping faith first in our lives. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos wrote earlier this year:
“There’s a reason why the First Amendment comes first. Our country was founded upon the ‘first freedoms’ it protects. The freedom to express ourselves – through speech, through the press, through assembly, through petition and through faith – defines what it means to be American.”
Others throughout the country are doing similar things. In Virginia, 200 pastors wrote a letter to the governor challenging his discrimination against churches. In Georgia, the governor held a prayer vigil. In Texas, the governor gave an interview encouraging people to “lean on Jesus.”
Courts are issuing rulings declaring governors cannot suspend the First Amendment. The Department of Justice is joining cases to support religious freedom. Kentucky courts ruled to support churches against the governor. In Kansas, a federal court supported the church over the governor. In Mississippi, the governor and other state leaders stood against a local mayor who tried to stop drive-in churches. We are seeing legislators who are part of the Congressional Prayer Caucus taking stands everywhere to keep first things first and to Keep Faith in America.
While this should encourage us all, it should also remind us that we too need to put first things first. You may not be able to issue an executive order or join in a lawsuit, but you can take simple action that makes an impact. We all need to put things first again in our own homes and with our own families. We also must never stop working to make certain we are putting first things first in our country and one of the first things we can do is support and thank those leaders who are fighting for us. When you are not on the frontlines, showing gratitude for those who are can be one of the first things you can do. I encourage you to reach out and thank someone for the stands they are taking and the sacrifices they are making. They hear from the anti-faith groups but all too seldom from those of us who benefit most from their actions. If you get a chance this week, send one of them an email or a note showing your appreciation and telling them how much you thank them for putting first things first in our country.
Congressman Forbes served as a member of Congress from the 4th District of Virginia from 2001 until 2017. Randy chaired the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and was a member of the Judiciary Committee. He was the founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation(CPCF). He currently serves as the President of CPCF and as the senior strategist at the National Strategic Center.