The Gift of Religious Liberty and the Real Dangers to It

“Congress shall make no law respecting the 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.” The First Amendment of the US Constitution

“no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” Thomas Jefferson in the 1779 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

Religious freedom is a central tenant of the Bill of Rights and has been a central facet of American life since our inception as a country, in fact pre-dating our founding in some of the original 13 colonies most notably Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.  Now before anyone gets the idea that I am about to write something in favor of limiting the freedom to worship or for that matter any limitation on religious practices I am not in fact I am a stalwart supporter of religion in the Public Square and not just mine. You see I am a bit of a purest about this at least most of the time and my view is as long as the practice is not hurting anyone who cares. Some might take me to task for that as a Christian, but my point is not to argue for the Christian faith in this article but rather point out some of the inconsistencies of those of various faiths who while proclaiming their defense of this fundamental right of all American citizens who seek to limit the practice of others that they find disagreeable or even repugnant. What I will do in this essay is to do what I did back in my seminary days, where fellow students asked me why I hadn’t gone to Law School instead of seminary, which mind you was not a complement and actually play the “Devil’s advocate” in the matter of the free exercise of religion as it currently exists in the United States.

You see my gentle readers it is my view that while many individuals and religious organizations loudly proclaim their defense of the right to free exercise it is more their free exercise rights that they are defending than the rights of others. In fact many that proclaim this the loudest are also those that would seek to limit the religious rights of others using the laws of the Federal Government and the various States and Commonwealths that make up the Untied States to do so.  Since law in the United States is based on legal precedence everything that goes to court on matters of religious liberty as well as the actions of various legislatures matters, precedent matters and once precedent has been established it is very hard to change. Thus it is a matter of importance to all that no one acts hastily and emotionally on any issue that I might bring up since each decision sets a precedent and can effect decisions in entirely unrelated matters.

Our First Amendment Rights are marvels which are envied by the citizens of most of the rest of the world and why shouldn’t they be?  In many nations simply being born as a member of a minority religion is enough to ensure that you will never have full legal rights and may even face persecution and death at the hands of those in power, Sudan anyone? Kosovo? Saudi Arabia? Iran? Indonesia?  These rights have provided the opportunity for churches that were suppressed on the European continent and elsewhere to thrive free of government persecution, take Baptists for instance.  In the early 1600’s the first Baptists, English Baptists were persecuted, imprisoned and even killed for their beliefs by the English Crown in particular by King James who despite authorizing the Bible given his name and loved by many Baptists as the “only” valid English translation was a notorious homosexual, not that there is anything wrong with that, hated those early Baptists and persecuted them throughout the land.  On the continent itself the Anabaptists and Mennonites as well as others referred to as “enthusiasts,” obviously forerunners of the Pentecostal movements of the 20th Century were brutally suppressed in many European lands.  The Jews were persecuted often brutally almost everywhere except surprisingly in places like the Ottoman Empire where in places like Baghdad they composed a rather sizable part of the population and were quite prominent in the Empire.  Of course Catholics were heavily persecuted in England and could not hold public office for many years following the English Reformation.  In fact there were hundreds of Catholics martyred for simply practicing their religion in private, simply celebrating Mass could get them a death sentence. Then there were the Huguenots in France, they were French Protestants who had gained a great deal of influence and power that were brutally suppressed and many killed by the French Crown and the Catholic Church.  The Lutherans were not big fans of other religions in Germany and worked with their Archrival Roman Catholics to kill off the Anabaptists and the Enthusiasts.  Spain was a great place to be anything but Roman Catholic but I jest, even some Roman Catholics now canonized as Saints were brought before the show called the Inquisition, Protestants, Jews, Moslems, none had a good time in Spain and Spain was equally repressive of native religions in the lands that it colonized in the “New World.”   The Russian Empire was known for its toleration of Catholics, Protestants and Jews especially in the equal treatment given to them in various Progroms conducted by the government and the Orthodox Church.  The Ottoman Empire had a limited amount of religious toleration; one cannot call it liberty and persecuted anyone equally that threatened the Caliphate or that they thought were heretical including the Arab tribes of the Arabian Peninsula that practiced something called Wahabi Islam.

Of course one can go around the world to see other stirring examples of religious toleration and expression.  Then along came the United States where our forefathers said to each other “gee wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just get along” or something like that and enjoined that right in our Bill of Rights right up there in the number one spot along with freedom of speech, assembly and the press.  Well it seems that we have a few contradictions in the applications of these rights in our history and sometimes the more religious people have had a negative influence in this notwithstanding all of the good things that many have done as religious individuals, particularly Christians and that churches have done in promoting human rights and the civil rights of all in our country.

While Christians were in the forefront of the Abolitionist movement whole denominations split on the issue of Slavery including the Southern Baptists, the Methodists and the Presbyterians. Curiously neither the Episcopalians nor the Catholics split over the issues although the war found them heavily engaged on both sides of the conflict.  After the war many American Christians worked for the rights of workers, the abolition of child labor and even something that I oppose, Prohibition. Notwithstanding the unbiblical and inhuman temperance movement, at least some Christians and Churches advocated  for the full civil rights of African Americans though few spoke up for rights of the Native Americans. Chinese immigrants to California were frequently mistreated and worked for almost nothing on the most demanding jobs like building the trans-continental railroad, mining gold and building stone walls for ranchers.

While enshrining the right to the free exercise of religion the Founding Fathers kind of ignored the human rights of a whole class of people, African American slaves and allowed the practice of slavery every allowing Blacks to be counted as 3/5ths of a person, which 3/5ths I don’t know but nonetheless only 60% of a full human being.  We also did wonderful things to Native Americans driving them off of their lands, hunting them down and confining them to reservations all while ignoring the treaties that we made with the various Indian Nations, try that with a European Country and see what happens.  Of course if we believe the “history” promoted by some on the Religious Right we have to believe that the vast majority of the people perpetuating these acts were solid Bible Believing Christians, but then how do we reconcile these crimes against humanity, even crimes against fellow Christians with the Christian faith?  In fact nearly every ethnic group that immigrated to the United States has experienced some form of discrimination, often religious from the good citizens of this land.  It turns out that throughout history we have had some problems in the matter of religious liberty and toleration, especially of those whose customs, language, culture and religion are different than our own.  My goodness my own family owned slaves and the family patriarch who fought as a Confederate officer in the American Civil War and after the defeat of the Confederacy refused to sign the loyalty oath, which good honorable men like Robert E Lee did and lost the family lands to the Federal Government.

But the crux of all of this comes down to religious liberty which as Americans we hold dear, at least our own religious liberty though I cannot be sure about the extension of this right to others that we disagree with in belief, practice or even politics.

Now everyone is for religious liberty in the Public Square until a loathsome man like Fred Phelps and his family owned and operated “Westboro Baptist Church” shows up to protest and hurl vile epithets at those grieving the loss of family members killed in war, taunting these people in the most abhorrent of ways.  However, as grievous as these people are they do this under the right to the free exercise of religion.  Fundamentalist Moslems have as a stated goal of instating Sharia Law in this land, at least for Moslems. This they proclaim under the banner of religious liberty, however the imposition of Sharia Law on Moslems in the name of their religion also takes away their civil rights under the Constitution and the various laws of the Federal Government of the States that make up our fair land.  The Roman Catholic Church at the direction of the Vatican has attempted rather successfully until a recent Supreme Court ruling to shield Bishops that were complicit in personnel moves and cover ups regarding Priests accused or convicted of sexual misconduct and the sexual abuse of minors from criminal prosecution and civil suits under the guise of diplomatic immunity as the Vatican is a nation state. Now I ask you dear reader could any other religious organization shield its clergy from the laws of the land that any other citizen would be subject too? Not on your or my life, but the Vatican has blatantly done so and since we all value religious liberty we have as a nation turned a blind eye to this until now.  What about those of various beliefs and practices that use television, radio and the internet to espouse hatred and violence in the name of their religious beliefs and under the banner of religious liberty?

What about the question of the Metropolitan Community Church, a predominantly Homosexual Christian church wants to see the legalization of Gay Marriage as well as the right for homosexuals to serve openly in the Military.  The part about marriage is particularly fraught with peril because both the Church and the State have interests in marriage. For many marriage is primarily a religious act with civil overtones, in fact ministers of all denominations are licensed by the state to perform marriages on behalf of the State becoming in effect de-facto officers of the courts and at the same time most states deny homosexual couples the right to marry, regardless of one’s position on the legitimacy of such unions who could say that it is right for the states to approve and license the clergy of almost every religious tradition to conduct weddings that have the full civil effect, including tax breaks for all but a certain group?  We have this enshrined in our culture but would deny it to the Metropolitan Community Church to perform weddings for its members.  What if someone said that any other minister could not marry members of their own church under their church laws, ordinances and beliefs? There would be a public outcry, but not for the Metropolitan Community Church or other denominations that sanction Gay marriage.

What about adherents of Wicca and other Earth based religions or Native American religions? Some of their practices would not be welcomed by those of many Christian denominations as well as secularists and atheists but if they are not hurting anyone else why should others object? Likewise why should people object if a religious symbol is displayed on private property or on state property where it has been displayed for decades or longer? Is it hurting anyone? Not really but hurt feelings and being offended count as much as real injury to the litigious and as such there have been long, expensive and divisive court proceedings that have served little purpose.  Now am I in favor of the government using such symbols to advance the rights of a given religion?  Absolutely not, but there are times where religious symbols and American culture, particularly that which seeks to honor veterans from previous wars is not about the advancement of any religion but simply a memorial with intent of promoting a religious cause.

Likewise there are those that would attempt to limit the free speech rights and religious rights of Christians and others that protest the practice of abortion using civil disobedience to do so, some in polite and well mannered demonstrations but others in pretty unseemly manners.  At the same time there are Christians who call themselves “pro-life” who bless and baptize practices condemned by the same Church Fathers and Biblical writers who they uses to support the rights of the unborn. They support the death penalty despite evidence that in many states that the practice is abused and sentences often wrong. Many advocate for harsh treatment of aliens and exhibit a xenophobic attitude towards some immigrant groups, especially those that are not Christian. Then there is a now popular belief that the economic Social Darwinism of unfettered Capitalism is not only Biblical but God’s best ordained economic system while treating the poor and the elderly with distain and treat their political opponents as agents of the Devil rather than people that God might actually care about.

Local governments and even home owners associations have acted to quash home churches and Bible studies, acted to zone land so that the construction of religious buildings, edifices or displays is illegal all of which have been protested and fought in the courts by the groups involved particularly Evangelical Christians of various denominations.  Even churches that neighbors have deemed to be too loud in their expression of worship have been penalized by local governments and courts.

Yet many Christians had little problem with the suppression of the Branch Davidians at their Waco compound after all David Koresh was a “dangerous” cult leader.  Nor do many seem to have a problem in limiting the rights of Moslems that happen to be American citizens and protest if a Moslem clergyman becomes a military Chaplain or if Moslems want to build a Mosque in their neighborhood.  I think that religious intolerance is often in the eye of the beholder.  As David Barton the President of Wallbuilders an organization that seeks to promote America’s “Christian heritage” quoted William Penn “Whatever is Christian is legal; whatever is not is illegal.”

So as you can see my dear friends the subject of religious liberty and the freedom to practice our religions is one that is not as clear cut as we would like to admit.  The question, to play the Devil’s advocate here is “Should we limit the rights to the free exercise of religion?”    If we do so where do we draw the line? If we say everything goes does this mean for everyone or just us?  Could it be that in the enshrining of this right that the Founders actually meant the expression of rational and enlightened religion and not religious expression that limits the rights of other groups or supports the abolition of others Constitutional Rights?

You see that I think that our religious liberty is something to be cherished but I can see times and places where there would be a need for the community or state to limit such expression, not to take it away but to ensure that such expression is not used as a weapon against others as religious beliefs have been used in the past and present by people and governments around the world.

You see the lawyer that dwells deep within my heart that my fellow seminarians saw could argue the point for any position in this debate, which I guess kind of makes me a bit of a prostitute but still there are valid points to be made on all sides of this issue and to the extenuating civil, social and even economic and national security concerns that the absolute right to the freedom of religious expression impacts.  It seems that the waters get pretty muddy here my concern is that those on various sides of this issue are more about promoting their religion if they have one and do not really care about the religious rights of others while the devoted secularists would seek to expunge religion from the public square.  As I said at the beginning of this essay the issue is about legal precedence and sometimes the unintended consequences of decisions reached hastily when those on the various sides of an issue take it to court.

The question of religious liberty and the tension between competing Free Exercise rights and concerns about the “excessive entanglement” of religion in government will be with us for a long time. I think the result of the heated and often litigious nature of the debate will actually turn people away from the more strident groups in the debate and will actually do damage to the First Amendment protections that we all enjoy.  This causes me great concern and if you value your rights to the free exercise of your religion or expression or your right not to have the religious views of any group made the law of the land.  Religion can be abused and used as a dictatorial bludgeon and those who now advocate so stridently for their faith to be made the law of the land should well remember the words of James Madison:

“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

Peace

Padre Steve+

Advertisements

33 Comments

Filed under faith, History, laws and legislation, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion

33 responses to “The Gift of Religious Liberty and the Real Dangers to It

  1. John Erickson

    We need more “Devil’s advocates” like you, Padre. It’s too easy to pass laws and judgements today that will “bite us in the butt” in the very near future. Many of the pogroms you described above were carried out under the protection of the laws of their respective lands.
    And a valid point to remember is the meaning of the wording of the famous separation of church and state. The original wording simply stated that the government would not support or encourage any one church. It has, unfortunately, been transmuted to mean that our government must work IN LIEU of any religion – hence no creches on capitol house lawns, and so forth. The Founding Fathers wanted us to work with ALL religions equally, not in the absence of them. With any luck, a few more voices of reason like yours might keep us from blindly stampeding ourselves off a legal or moral cliff.

  2. Ray James

    Now before anyone gets the idea that I am about to write something in favor of limiting the freedom to worship or for that matter any limitation on religious practices I am not in fact I am a stalwart supporter of religion in the Public Square and not just mine

    Please learn to use grammar. So much easier to read

    Now, before anyone gets the idea that I’m about to write something in favor of limiting the freedom to worship, or for that matter, any limitation on religious practices, I am not. In fact, I am a stalwart supporter of religion in the Public Square and not just mine.

  3. Ray James

    Some might take me to task for that as a Christian, but my point is not to argue for the Christian faith in this article but rather point out some of the inconsistencies of those of various faiths who while proclaiming their defense of this fundamental right of all American citizens who seek to limit the practice of others that they find disagreeable or even repugnant

    As a Christian, some might take me to task for that, but it’s not my goal to argue for the Christian faith. I’d like to point out some of the inconsistencies of those of various faiths, who while proclaiming their defense of this fundamental right of all American citizens, seek to limit the practice of others who they find disagreeable or even repugnant.

    Better?

    • padresteve

      Ray
      Grammar please. I see no recognizable sentence structure in your post and you repeat yourself. I’m still trying to figure out where you stand on the issue. But thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Peace
      Padre Steve+

  4. John Erickson

    Being a proofreader, I hate to say this, Ray, but the Padre’s … um … “unique” management of the English language is part of the charm of his posts. Then again, compared to some of the train wrecks I’ve had to edit into something legible, the Padre’s grammar reads like a professional’s. Maybe that’s the next million-dollar idea – grammar check, much like spell check corrects your spelling! I know a bit of computer programming if you’re game, Ray. 😀

  5. Trey Atkins

    Great reminder and challenge to stand for religious liberty for all. Thanks!

  6. Jonathan

    I have a serious problem with anyone who calls themselves a Christian supporting the religious liberty of all those who are not Christians because by doing so you condone their worship of false gods which is idolatry. I would rather see all religious worship outlawed than to allow worshippers of false gods allowed to spew their demon inspired idolatrous lies in public. Every time ancient Israel allowed or even tolerated the worship of other gods but the One True God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob they suffered being conquered and taken into captivity in foreign lands. If America does not remove the freedom of non-Christians to worship it seems inevitable that America will at some point be conquered and Americans led into captivity.

    • padresteve

      Jonathan

      At least you have the freedom to make your incredibly silly comments here. However last time I looked the United States is not ancient Israel nor for that matter is modern Israel. The comparison with ancient Israel is absurd and was not the view of the early church or the early church fathers. You forget the parable of the wheat and the tares. I don’t want to be rude but I’ll bet without knowing your denominational background that there are Christians more conservative than you who would call you a heretic but I digress. Please give the Lord and the founders of our country a bit more credit for sense. As for me I’m glad there is the freedom to disagree in this country.

      Peace

      Padre Steve+

      • Jonathan

        The comparison to ancient Israel is not absurd. It shows a pattern..when any people have allowed any god or gods but the One True God to be worshipped disaster has always followed. If this was not the view of the early church or the early church fathers then they were wrong..perhaps even heretical. They would also be violating one of the Ten Commandments to worship the Lord your God and him only should you worship. Did King David allow the worship of false gods in Israel? No. He didn’t and neither should we. There are certainly no Christians more conservative than me nor would any true Christian call me a heretic..any who would are projecting their own heresy onto me. You insult the One True God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to say that the allowing of false religions to be practiced in America is his idea..it is the idea of ungodly men. I trust in the founders no more than I trust in any fallible man. The freedom to disagree is one thing to allow false religions to flourish in America is one that will undoubtedly lead to the destruction of America and the rise of the antichrist.

      • John Erickson

        The major problem with your commentary, Jonathon, is you view the world ONLY through your religion. Egypt was a great empire, and fell having little to do with Christianity. Rome fell, in part, BECAUSE of worshiping Christ, not despite him. While Christianity may be the one true religion (though there’s billions who would argue with you on that), those that don’t worship Christianity have moved history just as much (if not more) than those who do, and I don’t really see how allowing others to worship as they please (as enshrined in both the Declaration and Constitution by our Founding Fathers) will bring us down – otherwise, England and Australia and Canada would be economic if not literal wastelands today, and no Asian country would be prosperous in the least (though Japan, China, and Indonesia would strongly argue with you).
        I realise I won’t change your mind, I’d just like to expand your thinking. 🙂

      • Jonathan

        England practically is an economic wasteland (as is much of western europe) as are Greece, Spain, Italy and the rest of the European Union is following down that same path. Japan is hardly prosperous especially after the natural disaster that has struck it. Rome most certainly did not fall because of Christianity because by the time it was legal to practice Christianity in the Roman Empire it was already decayed morally (as evidenced by the actions of nearly all Roman Emperors) and an overreliance on conscripted troops from conquered lands. By the time the barbarians invaded all they did was put the Roman Empire out of it’s misery. Egypt fell as a world power partially due to how they had treated the Hebrew people while they held them in bondage for five hundred years..God cursed them. America has only prospered as much as it has in it’s 200+ year history because of a recognition of God..now that it has been moving towards godless secularism and religious pluralism it has begun to reap the degeneration that always follows a nation that has forgotten God. My thinking is based upon the teachings of the Bible and the biblical worldview that flows from it..beyond that I have no desire to “expand” my thinking.

      • padresteve

        Jonathan Rogers

        You seem awfully confused and fanatical at the same time. Just over a year ago you were answering an atheist on his site with this little nugget.

        PingEcho728Dec 1, 2010 01:55 PM
        I love what you wrote and agree wholeheartedly. Ironically I used to be once upon a time one of those religionist who was content with the “God did it” answer..if the Bible said it I believed it a hundred percent but once I opened my eyes and actually examined everything I had once easily believed to see why I had believed those things I found I had no good rational answer or evidence for believing those things. So I did the only thing a rational freethinking person could do, I abandoned beliefs for which I had no reason or evidence to support it. It’s actually been a liberating feeling knowing that it was ok to say “I don’t know” when I didn’t know. I’m glad there are people like you out here in the webiverse (sorta like the universe but on the web) and what I have read here helps me more than I could ever express in words. Thank you.

        Seems that you are all over the board on this. You seem terribly confused and angry. Your attempt at history and Christian theology is positively shabby and many conservative Christians, especially historian types would say the same as I do to you. It seems that your “Biblical worldview” is very limited, the worldview of an angry unemployed man with limited education and a seething anger against a nation that he once served, thus your affiliation with groups like the “Oathkeepers” and fantasy of being part of the “Sons of Liberty.” I do think that a Facebook profile and the Google search is an amazing way to learn about people don’t you? But I digress…

        Your position would baffle the Founders and the fact that you would be willing to forbid the free exercise of religion for your fellow Christians to prevent others from their freedom shows that your “faith” is more a foil for your anger at those that you loathe. You currently find your “interpretation” of a Biblical worldview as something that supports your current beliefs.

        Eric Hoffer said of fanatics: “The fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure. He cannot generate self assurance out of his individual resources-out of his rejected self-but finds it only by clinging to whatever cause he happens to embrace. This passionate attachment is the source of his blind devotion and religiosity, and he sees in it the source of all virtue and strength. Through his single minded dedication is a holding on for dear life , he easily sees himself as the supporter and defender of the holy cause to which he clings….Still his sense of security is derived from his passionate attachment and not from the excellence of his cause. The fanatic is not really a stickler to principle. He embraces a cause not because of its justness and holiness but because of his desperate need for something to hold on to. Often, indeed, it is his need for passionate attachment which turns every cause he embraces into a holy cause. The fanatic cannot be weened away from his cause by an appeal to reason or moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude of his holy cause. But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another. He cannot be convinced but only converted. His passionate attachment is more vital than the cause to which he is attached.”

        Sounds a lot like you doesn’t it?

        Again Jonathan thank you for your comments you are always welcome here, unless you become abusive or threatening. I value my freedom and I value yours, even though I may disagree wholeheartedly with you. But then that is why I choose to serve this country and its people in time of war.

        Peace

        Padre Steve+

      • Jonathan

        Your reference to a comment posted an entire year ago and comparing it to my comments now leave out a very vital piece of information – people change with time and the person I was then is very different from the person I am now. My “affiliation”, if you want to call it that, with groups like Oathkeepers is solely based on the fact that although no longer in uniform I still firmly hold to the oath I took to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. I see people like atheists as well as non-Christian religions as a threat to the core ideals of the Constitution. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that if given sufficient political power that atheists or even non-Christian religions (particularly Islam) would strip the rights of Christians or even exterminate us with no so much as a second thought. My being unemployed nor my “limited” education have absolutely nothing to do with my present views. I am not confused but certain of where I stand. I do admit to being angry because there is valid reasons to be angry. I see the country I love threatened both from without and from within. I can’t say with positivity what the founders would think of anything I’ve said because they’ve been dead for two hundred years but I have to doubt that when they enshrined religious liberty in the Constitution that they had any idea how that would be used and abused by non-Christian religions in order to destroy us. What I am concerned about is moves on all fronts by atheists to strip the public square of any religious symbols and references in history as if they never existed. I am also concerned that one day if we aren’t vigilant that we’ll wake up to either a totalitarian dictatorship like the Soviet Union or an Islamic theocratic state where Sharia law..not the Constitution rules. If there’s one thing I loathe..it is the same thing every Christian should loathe..and that is the idolatrous worship of false gods instead of the worship of the One True God. Of course I fear compromise but then again so should everyone who calls himself a Christian because compromise with the world is the last thing any of us should be willing to do no matter how small the compromise because by doing so even a little bit leads to more compromises until we’ve got nothing left to compromise.

      • padresteve

        Jonathan

        You proved my point. You are a selective constitutionalist and a selective Biblical literalist. You are also a selective Libertarian. Your thought process is not a process of reason but of a man that needs a cause that is big enough to destroy the things that he hates. You see tolerance as a sign of weakness, while our founders understood it as a strength. I could go on but I don’t need to. You have done quite well on your own to prove my point.You are the same person, you simply have exchanged one form of radicalism for another and the “Christian” faith that you now profess bears little resemblance to that proclaimed by Jesus and lived by the early church.

        I will keep you in my prayers,

        Peace

        Padre Steve+

      • padresteve

        Jonathan

        You proved my point. You are a selective constitutionalist and a selective Biblical literalist. You are also a selective Libertarian. Your thought process is not a process of reason but of a man that needs a cause that is big enough to destroy the things that he hates. You see tolerance as a sign of weakness, while our founders understood it as a strength. I could go on but I don’t need to. You have done quite well on your own to prove my point.You are the same person, you simply have exchanged one form of radicalism for another and the “Christian” faith that you now profess bears little resemblance to that proclaimed by Jesus and lived by the early church.

        I will keep you in my prayers,

        Peace

        Padre Steve+

      • Jonathan

        The things I hate are the things any Christian should hate. Tolerance is merely the latest fashion the world has adopted that always translates to “tolerate everyone but the Christian”. Why should I see tolerance as anything other than a sign of weakness when the only one who will receive tolerance is everyone BUT the Christian. Where in the Bible is the Christian told to “tolerate” evil..to “tolerate” sin..to “tolerate” idolatry (which is what every other religion but Christianity is because they worship false gods)? You seem to choose to make yourself a friend of the world whereas I do not. By the way, what exactly is the “gospel” you believe in that you think Jesus and the early church proclaimed? See James 4:4 which plainly says “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that the friendship of the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever purposes to be a friend of the world is put down as a hostile one to God.” Nice to know though that you’re practically saying that I’m not saved and going to hell. Never expected it from someone who claims to be a Christian.

      • padresteve

        Jonathan
        I wonder what sin of yours that you must cover to be so upset at me.

        This isn’t about the Bible or the Christian faith to you as much as you make it seem so. This says more about the lack of certainty in your faith, that you cannot believe that another Christian could disagree with you.

        Call me whatever you want but all I know is that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” and that as Paul says in 2 Cor 5:19 “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself counting men’s sins not against them…” and that we are “saved by grace through faith and this is not of yourselves it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

        Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world but I digress…

        You represent what I like to call the “Christian Taliban.” you may not like the term but I call it as I see it.

        I do invite you back to comment but ask you to be a little bit more civil.

        Peace

        Padre Steve+

      • Jonathan

        There is no sin that I must cover to be upset at you. I’m upset at you because you seem perfectly willing to tolerate all manner of false religion. To tolerate the practice of the worship of false gods in America is the same as approving of those religions as well as the false gods those religions worship.
        I certainly do not lack certainty of my faith otherwise I would be tolerant of all religions because they might be right but because I know that Christianity is the only one to worship the One True God of the Bible while all others worship false gods created in the image of man that I find them intolerable.
        I find that when people use terms like “Christian Taliban” they are using these terms as a means of silencing those who won’t compromise and accept that all religions are equally true and correct. If I were, as you label me, a “Christian Taliban” then I would be going around killing non-Christians but I do not do that because it would violate the commandment against murder.
        I suppose you would prefer that I simply tolerate all other religions and accept them as equally good and true as Christianity. If we allow unfettered religious liberty for all then how long is it before we are living under Sharia law or in an atheistic totalitarian state like the Soviet Union? Neither situation would be very desireable. You talk about being more civil but you have all but said that I’m not a Christian thus essentially going to hell.

      • padresteve

        Jonathan

        I do apologize for the comments about you “sin” however you somehow seem to believe that the United States is analogous to ancient Biblical Israel when it is not. Nor did I say that you are not a Christian nor speculate about your eternal destination. You did that to me. Nor did I say that all religions were equal. I said that they have equal rights to practice in a pluralistic society. I simply stated how you come across, you come across as a flip-flopping fanatic of little historical or theological depth. That is how you come across. I haven’t tried to shut you up, if I wanted to silence you I just wouldn’t approve your posts. They would never be seen. I agree with James Madison who said “The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.”

        Your history is terrible. Israel was a theocracy and we are not our founders made that perfectly clear even in the 1795 Treaty with the Dey of Algiers that “the United States is not a Christian Nation.” I quote the treaty:

        “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

        The Church was given the mission to make disciples, preaching teaching and baptizing, not the mission of running nations. I know that Christians that follow Dominion theology believe that but it is the mission but if you look at history and the nations that established official “Christian” churches it is a history of persecution of dissenters, privilege for the church and eventual decline. James Madison wrote in 1785; “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

        But that is not the the practice of New Testament Christianity. The comment about “Christian Taliban” is actually dead on and I won’t take it back because what you assert. I might also add that that many American Christians seem to be champions of an “Imperial Church.” You seem to desire a theocracy. While you say that you aren’t like the Taliban your assertion that we cannot tolerate non-Christians in this country leads to the obvious question. What do you do with them? Ban their faith? Drive them out of the country? What? In the Old Testament the practice was to drive them out and kill them.

        The freedom of religion gives Christians as much right to evangelize and convert non-Christians as it does the right for others to follow the tenants of their faith. Tolerance does not mean that you have to agree with someone or even judge the truth claims of competing religions. It means that they and we have a right under the civil statutes of the nation to practice their faith.

        If this country were ever to become in our words “an atheistic totalitarian state like the Soviet Union” or “living under Sharia law” it will not be the triumph of Islam or Atheism but the failure of Christians to make disciples and demonstrate the love of God proclaimed in the Gospel. When Christians have to rely on the state to enforce our faith and drive out non-Christians we have lost the battle.

        The gift of religious liberty is one that most of the world would treasure. I don’t understand why so many American Christians seem to despise it so much.

        Peace

        Padre Steve+

      • Jonathan

        Actually Israel was only a theocracy until the people demanded a King so they could be like all the other nations around them and got Saul as their first King. I doubt Israel under King David or Solomon was a theocracy but rather a monarchy like the European nations all once had. I don’t recall saying that America was analogous to Biblical Israel but if disaster followed when Israel strayed from following God then it would stand to reason that the same would happen to America. It sure seems that ever since 1962 our prosperity as a nation and our greatness as a nation have been on a steady decline. If you think I said America was analogous to Biblical Israel then perhaps I was not clear as I thought I was. I certainly do not desire a theocracy but when you have religions like Islam using our own religious freedoms against us then there is cause for concern that perhaps we have allowed religious liberty to go too far.
        You may think Tolerance doesn’t mean accept or condone what other religious believe but that is exactly what the secular world means when it demands tolerance. Tolerance has become the new American virtue where if you disagree with them at all then you are intolerant. If you speak against abortion or homosexuality or atheism or anything that is currently PC then you are labeled an intolerant bigot or a fanatic.
        I would argue that if our nation was to become like the Soviet Union or an Islamic state it would be false to say this was so because of the failure of Christians. It would be like saying that the practice of throwing Christians to the lions in the Roman Empire was because of the failure of Christians.
        It isn’t religious freedom I despise but rather the way various religions (like Islam in particular) uses our own religious freedoms against us to push for Sharia law. If you still think me some manner of Christian Taliban then should you not be advocating for me to be arrested and treated no differently than our military has treated the Taliban in Afghanistan? By the way, it is not “Christian Taliban” you should worry about but the Atheistic Taliban who are so hostile to religion that if they could they would murder us all without question because in their mind religious belief in any fashion is something to be stamped out entirely.

      • padresteve

        Jonathan

        I am not going to keep this up. You are not going to listen to me and you are going to twist everything that I say to fit your paranoid version of reality. I don’t think that you or anyone like you have anyone to fear. For goodness sake. I fight and swear to uphold your religious freedom as much as anyone else’s and cannot imagine imprisoning anyone for their religious beliefs. You may be like the Taliban but you have rights and unlike you I do believe that the tolerance of the Constitution extends to people whose beliefs that I do not agree.

        So please, I won’t delete your posts and they will remain here for anyone to see. But unless you want to actually dialogue and not beat me with talking points that I can listen to on talk radio any day of the week please go somewhere else to preach. I wish you nothing but the best.

        Peace

        Padre Steve+

      • Jonathan

        What do you consider dialogue? I’m not trying to beat you or anyone else with talking points nor have I ever suggested that anyone should be imprisoned for their religious beliefs (or even the lack of religious beliefs).

      • John Erickson

        Actually, Jonathon, you openly stated to me that you don’t want dialogue. You refuse to broaden your thinking, which does NOT mean dropping your (frantic, if not fanatic) religious beliefs. Perhaps you can give an example of where a Muslim or Hindu or Shintoist has stepped on your rights, because I can point to numerous points in history where Christianity stepped on their rights.
        And if your faith is so strong, what have you to fear? Won’t God overcome all, per your beliefs? Not killing people is laudable for a civilian, but standing in the (virtual) street and screaming your biased views at the top of your lungs isn’t exactly “do unto others” and “love thy neighbor”.
        (I’m not expecting anything other than more ranting. I just remain hopeful you can see that your beliefs are YOURS, and that others can hold different beliefs without needing to be killed or expelled by force.)

      • Jonathan

        Where have I said that I don’t want dialogue? I haven’t experienced anywhere in which a Hindu or a Shintoist has stepped on my rights but then again I have never met a Hindu or Shintoist. While I will admit that not all Muslims want to or have stepped on anyone’s rights there are those among them who want nothing less than to bring us down from within. In fact, our government has documents showing the blueprint of what the Muslim Brotherhood has in mind for America..and it isn’t something anyone who believes in religious liberty at all would want.
        Where has Christianity stepped on the rights of Muslims? Sure there have been instances where people have used the name of Christianity to do some terrible things but that doesn’t mean that Christianity or the Bible justify such actions. Of course you’re right..I don’t really have anything to fear (either from secular authorities or other religions) because anyone reading the last chapter in the Bible knows that God and God’s people prevail in the end but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about those (like muslims or even atheists) who want to bit by bit see religion..especially Christianity purged from the public square where our faith ends up confined to our homes or the four walls of the church. Of course people can hold whatever beliefs (or none for that matter) that they wish. I certainly don’t think they should be killed or expelled (except of course radical Islam that seeks to impose Sharia law and Islam on everyone..they are a threat to everyone both religious and non-religious alike). Killing anyone who believes differently would be violating the commandment to not commit murder. I’ll admit that after having thought things through that I have been wrong to suggest that anyone be denied their freedom to worship as their conscience dictates. So I was wrong..I’d rather allow others to believe as they wish as it ensures that I can do the same. I struggle to not react out of emotion rather than reason. So there it is..take it as you will.

      • John Erickson

        All I ask is that you be willing to allow others to hold what beliefs they do – and you have accepted that, so no problems there. I’m not expecting 100% agreement – that would make life far too boring. And I will definitely agree that PC has gone WAY too far.
        Thank you for being willing to listen. That is a rarity in our overly-polarised world today.

  7. Pingback: Revisiting the Gift of Religious Liberty: The Danger posed by Fanatics | Padresteve's World…Musings of a Passionate Moderate

  8. padresteve

    Jonathan

    Since you haven’t heard a word that I have said and twist what I do say to fit your twisted view of the world I just leave you with this one thought from the German pastor, theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening.”

    Peace
    Padre Steve+

    • Jonathan

      I have heard a word that you have said and in retrospect I’ll admit that suggesting that religious liberties should be taken from others was wrong. I apologize for twisting your words. I’ll endevour to listen more although I cannot guarantee that I may always agree.

  9. Jonathan

    I have a comment on something you said regarding the death penalty. I’m pro-life and I support the death penalty. Here’s why: Genesis 9:5-6(KJ3) “And surely the blood of your lives I will demand. At the hand of every animal I will demand it, and at the hand of man. I will demand the soul of man at the hand of every man’s brother. Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood shall be shed by man. For He made man in the image of God.” and Romans 13:1-4(KJ3) “Let every soul be subject to higher authorities having power, for there is no authority except from God, but the existing authorities have been ordained by God. So that the one resisting authority has opposed the ordinances of God, and the ones opposing will receive judgement to themselves. For the rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the bad ones. And do you desire not to fear the authority? Do the good thing, and you will have praise from it; for it is a servant of God to you for the good. But if you do the bad things, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword in vain; for it is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to the one practicing bad things.” So this is why I support the death penalty..because Scripture tells me that it is God who first instituted it as punishment for murder.

  10. Pingback: DOMA Struck Down: The Day After our 30th Wedding Anniversary | Padresteve's World...Musings of a Passionate Moderate

  11. Pingback: Religious Fanaticism and Politics: The Danger of the “True” Believers | Padresteve's World...Musings of a Passionate Moderate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s