Jason and David Benham, the Christian real-estate entrepreneurs who were famously dropped from an HGTV home-flipping show due to their belief in traditional marriage, have urged Christians to become involved in the civic arena -- or allow America to further distance itself from Biblical principles.
"Christians have not been the conscience of the state," David Benham told The Gospel Herald during a sit-down interview in Nashville, Tennessee. "We have turned our lights off. The only way darkness prevails is when you turn the light off. The only reason we're in the condition we're in today is because the church has retreated from culture into the safety of its holy huddle inside of the church building. It's time that we flip those lights back on and lovingly go back out and engage, not from an issues-fighting perspective, but from from the perspective of, 'Hey, if we do it God's way, we're blessed.'"
The brothers, who were recently appointed by Sen. Ted Cruz to join his "Religious Liberty Advisory Council" that will be chaired by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, today speak around the nation advocating for religious liberty, calling Christians to "reach out with compassion to all people with the love of Christ while resisting with courage the agenda set against our freedoms and faith."
"It's so important that the church wakes up and gets back to what Martin Luther King, Jr. said the church needs to be, which is the conscience of the state, the conscience of the government," Jason said. "Do you know what it would be like if you lived for a week without a conscience? It would be chaos. When the church has withdrawn itself from the public dialogue...then our conscience, our state's conscience, our government's conscience, our nation's conscience, goes dark. When that happens, then we enter God's judgement."
The Benhams also serve as co-hosts alongside Kirk Cameron on season 2 of the National Bible Bee Game Show, and in June, will release their second book, "Living Among Lions: How to Thrive like Daniel in Today's Babylon" as a follow-up to their 2015 bestseller, "Whatever the Cost."
"In 'Whatever the Cost' we explain our story, but in 'Living Among Lions' we talk about how to build your story," David explained. "We're excited about everything that's happening."
Below is the exclusive interview with David and Jason Benham.
GH: You both frequently write and speak out a number of hot-button issues, including abortion, gay marriage, gun control, and even Bruce Jenner. In this upcoming election, what are some issues Christians need to be focusing on when choosing a candidate?
David: First and foremost, Psalm 24 says, 'The earth is the Lord's and everything that is in it.' Everything. That includes government, education, when life begins, marriage, finances, human sexuality, etc. So, Jason and I, we don't like to call ourselves issues fighters -- we just like to call ourselves Biblical Christians. One thing that is very important, of course, in the upcoming election is where a candidate stands on life. You call yourself a Biblical Christian, but if you vote for a candidate that believes in abortion, then that means they believe in murder, according to God's word. If you call yourself a Christian and you're voting for a candidate that believe that gay marriage is okay -- God is the definer of marriage. If you've got the Bible as a closed book, then you've turned your light off. God wants to show us the path to human flourishing and the path to political prosperity. It's through God's ways, not man's ways.
Jason: Regardless of who is in office this time next year, God is still on the throne. We may end up having a candidate winning this election and all of us are just so depressed. But God would look down and say, 'You know what? I'm still in control.' What we do need to know as a nation: When we're electing leaders, it really shows you the state of your culture. If we worship entertainment, then we may very well vote for an entertainer. And if you have an entertainer as a president, well, you can just imagine the circus our country will become. Yet, God is always speaking. This is why it's so important that the church wakes up and gets back to what Martin Luther King, Jr. said the church needs to be, which is the conscience of the state, the conscience of the government. Do you know what it would be like if you lived for a week without a conscience? It would be chaos.
The church has withdrawn itself from the public dialogue and relegated itself to the 'Jesus loves all people and he'll save your soul from hell' talk, and that's it, and won't talk about things like how abortion is murder, that any sex outside marriage is sin, marriage is between a man and a woman. If we don't bring the truth of God's word into those situations, then our conscience, our state's conscience, our government's conscience, our nation's conscience -- goes dark. When that happens, then we enter God's judgement. And God is the answer.
GH: As business owners, do you believe the government should have the right to force individuals to act in a way that might violate their beliefs?
David: We're fighting this issue all around the country. 200 hundred cities and plus, they're falling like dominoes to the Human Rights Campaign and the sexual identity ordinances. Jason and I just fought this in Charlotte. I stood in front of the city council and the mayor and I said, 'We've sold over 20,000 houses in Charlotte...Never once have we discriminated against any individual, nor would we ever.' Nobody in America believes that; if you're truly an American, a Muslim baker should never be forced to make a gay wedding cake. In the same way, if you and your dad owned a printing company, and a gay pride march came in and said, 'We want you to print t-shirts for a gay pride parade,' what they're asking you to do is promote an event and a message that is against your beliefs. It's not an individual that comes into the restaurant and says, 'Please may you serve me food?' Of course you're going to serve everybody food. Of course you're going to print everyone t-shirts. Of course you're going to bake cakes for homosexuals, of course you're going to serve all individuals. But never should you, as a Christian business owner, and as an American, or a Muslim business owner, or a Jewish business owner, be forced to endorse expressive events or support those messages that are against your deeply held convictions. It's that simple.
Unfortunately, the church isn't speaking. You get some loudmouths like us and some others that are speaking, and then we get bullied into silence, where we're viewed as bigots and haters. The Bible says in Matthew 5:11: 'Blessed are you when men persecute you and falsely accuse you, rejoice and be glad.' Because if they falsely accused us, thank God they falsely accuse us for standing for truth.
Jason: We just have to get back to the understanding that there is a difference between an idea and an individual. As Christians, we have a responsibility to resist ideas that stand against the knowledge of God. That's Scriptural -- 2nd Corinthians 1:4: 'The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.' So, we resist ideas that set themselves up against the knowledge of God, while at the same time, we reach out with compassion to people who hold those ideas. We have to separate ideas and individuals. We hear a lot of Christians who don't understand that separation. So, Muslim, Christian, Jewish business owners should not be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding -- that's an event, that's an idea. That's not an individual, because that very same gay person could say, 'Can you bake a cake for my birthday?' and they would say, 'Yes!' And they should do that. That one little difference right there is what Christians need to understand.
GH: What would you say to those who accuse you of intolerance because of your views?
Jason: I would go back to Matthew, where he says 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake...Blessed are you when you are falsely accused.' He didn't just say 'accused,' he said 'falsely accused,' which means that a rumor has been spread about you and people have a perception of you that's not true. But as Christians, if we focus on how we're perceived, we're going to miss the truth, and then we're going to walk around as fakes. When the world takes a bite of us, they'll realize they bit into a fake. We have a perception problem in the church today; not that we're perceived incorrectly, but that we as a church by and large are concerned with how we're perceived. What Jesus would say to us today is, 'Don't worry about that. You just be true, you be the real deal, I'll handle the perception. Then, when people take a bite out of you and out of your church, they'll experience the real thing.'
GH: In your opinion, how should we pray for our government ahead of the election season?
David: Paul encouraged a young Timothy, 'Always be praying for your leaders with uplifted hands.' We should be praying for all of our leaders. Jason and I are Conservative Christians, so we've tended to vote Republican, although, trust me, Republicans are headed off the cliff, maybe not quite as fast as the Democrats, but both parties are headed off the cliff. It's crazy. The moral, spiritual decline in this country has crossed red and blue. It does not matter which side of the aisle you're on. Take the story of Balaam -- he's riding his donkey and the angel of the Lord appears to him and Balaam is whacking on this donkey trying to get past, but the angel is in his way. Finally, as he's whacking the donkey, the donkey speaks, and says, 'Hey, it ain't me, there's an angel up ahead.'
It's very interesting; a lot of Conservative Christians will whack the donkey, which is the Democratic party. We'll point fingers at the president, we'll point fingers at the Democrats, when the fingers need to be pointed right back at us. Christians have not been the conscience of the state. We have turned our lights off. The only way darkness prevails is when you turn the light off. The only reason we're in the condition we're in today is because the church has retreated from culture into the safety of its holy huddle inside of the church building. It's time that we flip those lights back on and lovingly go back out and engage, not from an issues-fighting perspective, but from from the perspective of, 'Hey, if we do it God's way, we're blessed.'
We'll have political prosperity, economic prosperity, everybody flourishes, we have religious freedom. When Christians are actually engaged, it brings freedom to everybody. Everybody flourishes when Christians are engaged in culture.