Why Religious Liberty Is Important to Me?   5 comments

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If I had to name THE most important principle in my life after my salvation and my family, it would be my religious liberty. Anyone who has read my blog should know by now that I take Christ with me in EVERYTHING I do. I don’t just worship Him in church, I worship Him with my life. It colors how I treat people, how I conduct my business, how I vote, what I do with my leisure time, even what I choose to spend my money on.

I don’t segregate God into a little corner of my life labeled “church worship” because I can’t. My relationship with Jesus informs every aspect of my life.

Not everyone knows that about me. If you’re a casual acquaintance you won’t see a Bible on my desk, hear endless Scripture quotes from me, or see a cross around my neck (though I do have some pretty jade earrings I wear occasionally). I don’t immediately lead a conversation with my faith insights. You can probably figure out that I go to church if you’re around me for a while, but I don’t hang my faith around my neck like a signboard.

My closest friends are Christians, but I have many friends who are not. Alaska is more unchurched that the New England states, so it’s impossible not to have friends (and family) who are not Christians. To be “in the world but not of it” when you’re surrounded by non Christians requires that Christians exercise a high degree of toleration for the non-Christian behaviors of their neighbors, but that word “toleration” has been hijacked by the postmodernists. This radical breed of skeptics rejects any idea of truth and often follows up their rallying cry with an appeal for “tolerance.”

The “tolerant” person allegedly occupies neutral ground, a place of complete impartiality where each individual is permitted to decide for him or herself. No judgments allowed. All views are equally valid.

Of course, if you’re a Christian living in 21st century America, you know that this definition of tolerance is s a myth! While relativist is freely encouraged to assert:

  • All views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another.

The Christian will be labeled “intolerant” if she asserts:

  • Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the only way to heaven.

Postmoderns view the first statement as truth and the second statement as violating the first statement, but anyone trained in logic knows that the second statement is itself a view, so ought to fall under the first statement, but it is deemed “intolerant” because it is telling someone who believes differently that they are wrong, which is disrepectful and now gives society authority to treat Christians with disdain for holding wrong views.

Yes, the serpent can eat its own tail.

It really comes down to a failure to understand that while all people have value and should be afforded respect and dignity in their interactions, not all ideas are equal. You’re welcome to reject what I believe as I may reject what you believe. But that doesn’t make either of us of less value than the other person and it should not be an excuse for society to marginalize those who believe differently or to coerce them into violating their beliefs.

In the classic view of tolerance, people were egalitarian regarding persons, but elitist regarding ideas. We treat others as having equal standing in value or worth, but we recognize that not all ideas have the same merit.

When we do that, we recognize the right of people to hold their own ideas and to share them with anyone who is willing to listen. We may not agree with those ideas, but we acknowledge the right of other human beings to agree with them. As well that door swings both ways. There can be no tolerance if we don’t allow others to hold ideas that differ from our own.

But allowing them to hold divergent ideas does not obligate us to accept or approve those ideas, nor participate in behaviors stemming from those ideas, because the person being forced to accept, approve or participate is then subjugated to the will of the one doing the forcing. One becomes the slave while the other becomes the master. People become unequal.

Of course, we’re talking hypotheticals if we don’t take the conversation down to the brass tacks. I’ve got examples. In the marketplace of ideas, there are some ideas that are patently ridiculous. If someone came to us and said they could fly without an airplane, we would usually suggest they need mental health treatment. There are economic theories that have shown themselves to be utter failures, collapsing the economies the countries that have tried them. There are all manner of “snake oil” medicine that reasonable people realize is just so much placebo. Yet, the mentally ill person, the foolish economist and the medical con artist all deserve to be treated with dignity as human beings. They should not be treated as “less than” just because we disagree with their ideas. It’s their ideas that require opposition. And, while it is not fun to have your ideas opposed by others, it is far preferrable than being forced to surrender your will to the will of others.

The free exercise of religion presents some complications. We can’t all be right. There is no way the atheist and the devout Christian are ever going to agree. Despite what atheists want to believe, there is no scientific evidence they are any more right than Muslims. A lack of evidence is not an argument for non-belief any more than it is an argument for belief. Everyone has a right to the free exercise of religion to the degree that that exercise is not harming anyone else. What does not break my leg or pick my pocket is none of my concern. Ah, but … the right of conscience is self-evidently inadequate if believers are prevented from acting upon their beliefs.

Examples, religious liberty would be inadequate were Jews free to believe that sons must be circumcised on the eighth day after birth if American law concurrently prohibited circumcision. That was actually a proposed initiative in San Francisco that was struck from the ballot. But such initiatives have a habit of returning. Efforts to ban circumcision and the kosher slaughter of meat are having some success in Europe. If measures such as that pass, then observant Jews become slaves to the consciences of those who consider themselves better than observant Jews. Freedom of religion becomes a mockery … a meaningless sentence on a parchment barrier that means about as much as the wind sighing through trees.

Why? Let’s look at it closely. The logic goes something like this. Jews have their beliefs, but it is wrong to mutilate the body of an infant who cannot consent. Similarly, the argument goes, animal-rights laws are broadly and equally applicable. There is no reason to give special exemption from the law to anyone. After all, the law applies equally to all citizens. Pierson versus Smith is a US Supreme Court case that ruled that.

Should a Muslim restaurant be forced to prepare pork dishes or serve alcohol because their customers demand it? What if a law were floated to demand them to do so?

In years past, I had a pastor who would not conduct weddings unless both parties were professing, church-going Christians. This was a very firmly held belief of his that is not universally embraced among Christian churches, but does have support in the Bible. Should he be forced to violate that belief because some non-Christians or marginally churched folks want to get married?

It really comes down to a fundamental question of “Can Americans be free to pursue happiness if the government makes it impossible to work peacefully at one’s business, to conduct that business according to one’s conscientious beliefs, to raise one’s children according to those same beliefs?” The answer is clearly “No!” If the government can tell you what you are allowed to believe and how you may worship your god, then there is no freedom of conscience and religious freedom is a hoax.

Tolerance (in the classical sense of the word) makes it possible for us to truly be free, but only if we take a PAUSE and realize that just because we believe something is a net good that everybody ought to get on board with does not mean that people have to agree with us. Tolerance is minding your own business and allowing the other guy to mind his.

My fellow blog hoppers are also discussing this same topic. Check it out.

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5 responses to “Why Religious Liberty Is Important to Me?

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  1. Great post. I agree that everyone has a right to his or her own religious beliefs. What I do not like, is somebody knocking on my front door trying to convert me to their particular religion. Why do people feel the need to do this?

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    • Not really sure I can explain it because I don’t do it myself. Studies show that people are more likely to attend a church if they know someone from that church, so I have participated in knocking on doors in the area around my church to invite people to attend, especially special events. That’s a no-pressure, ya-all-come form of door-to-door evangelism that can be very effective in getting people interested in a church where they might hear the gospel. It’s completely voluntary because it’s conducted by people who realize that God never browbeats us into salvation, but He does invite us to it through His people.

      Then, there is the more aggressive form most commonly done by Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses here. Although I’ve heard of Christian churches that do it, I’ve never had anyone but the cultists come to my door. I’m going to assume, from the conversations I’ve had with them, that they believe God requires them to convert souls and they want to personally get the points for having you change your beliefs.

      I hope you see the difference between the two. One is being friendly and letting you decide if you want to check it out and the other is pretty aggressive, self-serving and coercive.

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  2. They are here too. They show up at your door on Saturday morning when you haven’t showered or had coffee yet and they bring a little kid with them so you will feel obligated to let them in the door because its 20 below zero F. I demand equal time, though, and I know their beliefs well enough to know when they’re distorting the Bible, so they usually don’t come back for a couple of years after one of our conversations. Hey, you came to MY door. This is a perfect opportunity for ME to evangelize you. I’ve never had one pray the sinner’s prayer in my front entry, but my pastor and husband have.

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  3. There are passages in the Bible that can be interpreted to mean that evangelism is an essential part of practicing your faith. There are other passages that seem to say that faith is a private matter. Which are correct? And balancing between wanting to share your beliefs while not imposing on others is a fine line, subject to the views of those you are approaching. What you feel is respectful I may find offensive—or not. As in all of life’s journey, respect for our fellow voyagers goes a long way.

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