- I do not believe God is a Republican. (Yes, I'm speaking tongue in cheek. But I do not believe either party has it all right. Never have.)
- The Puritans came to "The New World" not because they were brave or adventurous but because they had been persecuted for their religious beliefs. (I used to talk about this each Thanksgiving week when I was a pastor, and someone always told me they had no idea...)
- The words "separation of church and state" are not found in the US Constitution nor in the additional Bill of Rights.
- There is no such thing as a "Christian nation." We were never that--though it is true that most of our leaders, and indeed our citizens, believe in God (or, as they were likely to say in a previous time, "Divine Providence.")
- I believe we were founded upon Judeo-Christian PRINCIPLES, and that the writings of our forebears make that very clear. Maybe some day I'll post about that.
- I think there was an intent by our founding fathers NOT to establish a state religion (as can be found in the majority of European countries and in our mother country of England, where the reigning monarch is also the "defender of the faith").
Here is the first amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That's it.I could write about 10 rants about this subject and how I think the whole arena of "church & state" has been mangled beyond recognition--until abridging the freedom of speech has become commonplace in our local high school, and a kid gets in trouble for talking about God to a friend. While the majority of Americans who identify themselves with a religion or denomination are one form of "Christian" or another I've never heard anyone suggest there should be a law establishing a state religion.
Yet, while those who labored over our amazing constitution were avoiding a national, state-sponsored and funded religion, they were also affirming our freedom to believe, or not to believe, to go to a Christian church or a Jewish temple (or a Buddhist one) or to stay home and read the funny papers without fear of reprisal from the government.
So what is the point?
I am dismayed at the reaction in our county to the fact that a small group of Muslims have acquired a former store in which to establish a mosque. Reading the paper, and looking at pictures and viewing a video of a local civic meeting would lead one to believe that a group of known, previously-arrested, avowed friends of Osama Bin Laden have arrived and announced "Death to all."
Perhaps I should be honest and say that I find much in the Koran that is profoundly troubling, and I am not a fan of Islam for many reasons. But it is quite something else to be carrying a sign that reads
or protesting, or name-calling, or angrily quoting the first commandment ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me") to the city council and warning them that they will rue the day they allowed a mosque anywhere near. Sorry, but all that stuff is just plain old fashioned bigotry and ignorance--ignorance of so many things I don't know where to begin!
Just one day ago a speaker on a local religious radio station said, "When it comes to discussions with people of other religions you dare not be polite. " He used Jesus' encounters with SOME of the Jewish community to justify his assertion. My husband turned to me and said, "That's not true! Did I hear him right?" Yes, unfortunately, he did!
Last time I checked, no one I know claims to be the Messiah. We cannot know the thoughts, or intentions of our fellow human beings. We are sometimes required to be judges of actions and behavior, but we are not the judge of the human heart. Only God can be that.
First off, let's spend more time pondering these words of Jesus:
Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus went on to tell the story commonly known as "The Good Samaritan," a story with some profound implications of how damaging it is when we judge those we consider different or not as righteous as we are. Or how about these words, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12
One of my favorite biblical scholars and apologists, Ravi Zacharias, says that without love, faithfulness, and personal integrity the message of grace often goes unheard and that if we want to have a positive impact we must be willing to take the time to actually learn what someone else thinks. He adds that most people of other faiths could rightly say to many [most?] Christians, "You don't know anything about what I really believe."
The imam of the little group of Muslims in our county said he hoped people would get to know them and put the ugliness of the process behind them. Do you think they feel respected, valued and loved, or do you think they feel misjudged and misunderstood and maybe even hated? Are they likely to share their customs, beliefs, hopes and fears with anyone who stood up at the meeting and denounced them?
If someone said we could not have a church in their community because of what some Christians somewhere else did or did not do, wouldn't we be upset and feel we were being unfairly judged? How do many of us feel about countries where churches are not allowed and where sharing one's faith is not only considered impolite but is unlawful? What if someone carried a sign that said
And secondly, as I said to begin with, one of our founding principles is freedom of religion. And that means not just the kind we know and like. Those of us who sometimes are troubled by what we regard as the misunderstanding or misquoting of the constitution believe in the free exercise of religion--don't we? So let's stand up and say so and stop denying others the rights and freedoms we want for ourselves. Anything else is unamerican.