Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fellow Christians, the Law Does NOT Belong to Us

Most of you are familiar with the phrase "separation of church and state."  It's a doctrine that our country was founded upon after our founding fathers learned the hard way that mixing religion with the law is a recipe for disaster.  Accordingly, the very first thing they did after they drafted the Constitution was to make this thing called the First Amendment which explicitly says that while the citizens in our country are free to practice the religion of their choice, this country will not choose any one religion to be the official religion of our nation:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" - U.S. Const. amend. I

This is the bedrock of the United States of America. Religious freedom.  A land where people are free to choose their own religion -- or no religion at all -- without government intervention, and also a land where the law cannot force any one religion onto the people. We should be grateful that the founding fathers had this much foresight.  But lately it seems that some people have become willfully ignorant of this core principle.

Recently Arizona, Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Oklahoma and my home state of Kansas put forth proposals that would allow businesses to legally refuse goods and service to same-sex couples if the notion of homosexuality goes against their religion.  Namely, Christianity. To be fair to my Christian religion, there are plenty of people who oppose homosexuality and same-sex marriage based upon religions other than Christianity.  However, the majority of the state legislators who are putting these laws forward are Christians, and many of them are unapologetically citing Christianity as the driving force behind the proposal. Indeed, the Kansas Catholic Conference put out a release in support of Kansas' proposed law. 

Look, it's great to be a Christian.  I love it.  My faith in Christianity has kept me grounded and motivated me to do many positive things, like helping others.  I could spend a whole day talking about it.  But one thing that bothers me about some (not all but some) of my fellow Christians is that we seem to think that our religious beliefs need to be codified into law.  It's not good enough for us to live our lives according to the Bible, we need to pass laws making EVERYBODY ELSE live their lives according to our Bible too. 

In a nation of 300 million diverse people, that's problematic.

Not everybody believes what we believe as Christians.  Nor should they.  At some point you have to realize that that's ok. In fact, it's more than ok - that's America!  That's how our nation's founding fathers -- many of whom were Christians themselves -- chose to establish this great country of ours.  They could have easily written the First Amendment to say that Christianity is the official religion of the United States of America.  But they didn't.  And there's a reason for that: freedom. 

In this country, we value freedom.  We cherish freedom.  We take pride in freedom.  But then the moment a couple of people exercise that same freedom to love each other in a way that we disagree with religiously, we want to pass a law as quickly as possible to stop them from doing so.

That's not right.

You've heard the phrase "with great power comes great responsibility"? Well, with great freedom comes great tolerance.  Last time I checked, tolerance was a virtue preached in the Christian Church.  So rather than go through all of this trouble to create laws that would allow us to be intolerant of others, why don't we make this easy on ourselves and just practice tolerance towards those we disagree with and keep it moving? 

To be clear, I'm not saying that you have to agree with same sex marriage.  All I'm saying is that if we're going to continue to live in a free country (and I don't exactly see anybody rushing to find the exit), then that means we're going to have to learn to tolerate those who we may disagree with - not pass laws that will disrupt the lives of millions of people just so that we don't have to deal with our own issues of intolerance.

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