Outside the University Union Building at the University of North Texas, a small stone marked one of six "free speech areas" on campus. In the early 2000s, when I was a student there, these designated areas were used mostly by Christians to proclaim hellfire and damnation upon "whoremongers, atheists, homosexuals, and church gossips," among many others. As an agnostic at the time, I marveled at how ineffectively they used the precious little real estate they had to talk about their faith.

Though policies have since changed at UNT, more Christians today tend feel like those students did: that our place in the cultural conversation is shrinking, and we need to shout louder to have our voices heard. A report by Lifeway Research found full 70 percent of pastors (and just over half of the general public) believe that religious liberty is declining in America, and 59 percent believe that Christians are losing the culture wars.

Lifeway Research president Ed Stetzer attributes this unease to "shifts in American culture and church practice" as well as a decline in the number of American Protestants. In the 1960s, Christians made up two-thirds of the population, but today, they make up less than half.

Since Lifeway's research only measured perceptions, it doesn't tell us if Christians really are losing their religious liberty and if so, to what extent. But it isn't hard to get a good read of the situation from the headlines: the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (being argued in the Supreme Court this week); the veto of controversial SB1062, which would allow Arizona businesses to refuse services to gay weddings; the rights of businesses to terminate individuals based on their views on homosexuality. The right to sexual freedom has consistently trumped the rights of religious groups.

It's the latest incarnation of a very old story. John the Baptist lost his head for challenging Herod's marriage to Herodias, the wife of his brother. Church tradition tells us that the Apostle Peter was crucified for teaching sexual purity to the prefect Agrippa's concubines. The Mayflower launched for the New World because King Henry VIII wanted a divorce.

The Religious Right interprets these dilemmas and judicial decisions as catastrophic losses in the fight for religious liberty, losses that will usher us down a slippery slope to religious persecution. The left celebrates them as victories, advances in the fight for civil rights and social justice reform.

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But from where I stand, in the religious middle, the full import of these events is not yet clear. For who has the prescience to know the events upon which the world will turn? Situations we thought would be momentous turned out to be ordinary; Y2K came and went with barely a ripple. Events we thought were ordinary turned out to be momentous; Martin Luther, nor anyone else in his day, anticipated that his 95 theses would split the world in half.

On one hand, these judicial losses are indeed losses for people of faith. Marc Stern, the general counsel for the American Jewish Congress suggests that if the early cases are any indication, pastoral sermons against same-sex marriages will be the only religious activity protected by the law. If the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, lose their challenge against the contraceptive mandate, Christian business owners will be obligated to comply with a mandate they believe interferes with their right to practice their religion.

And from there, what then? History has shown us the folly in complacently dismissing small wrongs, small injustices as temporary aberrations in an otherwise just society. It is not a great leap of logic to imagine how other offensive tenets of the Christian faith could be targeted. Wherever you stand on the religious spectrum, the biblical truth is that the scandal of particularity makes the Christian faith offensive. That's inescapable. It is not alarmist to imagine how these offenses could be whittled away, little by little.

And yet, it is probably safe to surmise that the proverbial sky is not falling for Christians. We're not likely to be forced underground or executed for our religious beliefs tomorrow. Though the religious right bemoans (and the secular left celebrates) the "death of religion," no government, no legislation can stop the work of God in the world. God cannot be shut out. We are not given all points of the plot, but we know how the story ends. Our part is to be faithful in whatever sort of times we find ourselves in—in times of religious liberty and in times of religious persecution.

Christianity's influence on culture is waning—not only legislatively, but also in the media and the arts—so much that we're surprised to learn of a Christian in Hollywood, in Washington D.C., or at the New York Times. Our real estate in Western culture is shrinking, and it is incumbent upon us to steward that space wisely.

We should not underestimate the power of a quiet, gentle resistance and being stalwart models of truth as we know it. This agnostic was finally won over, not by the hellfire preachers at my university or by laws restricting my life choices, but by the love and support of a single Christian whose life compelled me towards Christ. God broke in to my life—and nothing could shut him out.