Friday, November 2, 2012

Seats Available Up Front

Every Sunday, I am reminded that right of religious freedom in the United States is in imminent danger of being outlawed.  Every Sunday, I pull on the doors to the church ever so slightly, expecting them to be locked and the parish priests arrested and tortured for their beliefs.  It’s gotten to the point that I think I need a disguise on Sundays in case the government is watching where I worship, how I worship, and to whom I pray.  At least, that’s what I’m being told.

On Sunday, services ended with a prayer to protect Catholic religious freedom in America.  I am beginning to wonder if the calls to protect religious freedom are actually coded calls to protect religious orthodoxy by voting against a certain Socialist who wants to take away freedom and while he’s at it, more than a few guns.

Focus on the Family’s political arm is sending Iowa voters a flyer claiming that President Obama thinks “we’re no longer a Christian nation”.  When the President states that we’re a pluralistic nation of many faiths, I would hope that people claiming to be protecting religious freedom agree.  I am apparently mistaken.

Doug Saunders in The Globe and Mail discussed the ugly side of “religious freedom” in a recent article:

“The concept (of religious freedom) has been invoked by the Indian Hindus to justify killing Muslims, by Sri Lankan Buddhists to imprison Hindus, by Israeli Jews to deny Muslims citizenship, and by Egyptian Islamists to oppress Coptic Christians.   In many places, religious freedom refers to the right to restrict women’s freedom.”

He added:  “That’s why the most important religious freedom is freedom from religion.”

The public may be starting to agree and they are voting with their denominational preferences.  Members of a Protestant religion no longer represent the majority of Americans.  One of the fastest growing religions is the absence of membership in any organized religion.  Could it be that as religious institutions become more muscular and louder in the public square that potential members are being driven away?  Call the Marketing department!

The world’s organized religions have played a vital role in the march of civilization throughout history, and thankfully so.  Where would Europe be without the Christianity and the church structure?  It cannot be ignored however that the combination of nation-states and religion also had painful results for those outside the majority faith.  Who can forget the freedom of the Spanish Inquisition, the freedom of the Salem Witch Trials, the freedom brought to non-believers during The Crusades, and the freedom of the Shia in Iraq? 

Saunders made one more point:  “Using government to promote religious freedom over other freedoms will only embolden extremists – of every sect.”

In our country today, politicians seem emboldened when divining God’s will for the rest of us.  Republican Richard Mourdock, his party's U.S. Senate candidate in Indiana, arguing in a debate last week that a rape pregnancy "is something that God intended to happen." This is quickly becoming a major national controversy for the candidate -- and Mitt Romney, who's championed Mourdock -- for good reason.  It’s a troubling trend.

Maybe it’s not Will and Grace and their message of tolerance that’s destroying freedom; maybe it’s organized religion and its message of hierarchical obedience and intolerance of other religions.  

I end with this clip from The Week:

A schizophrenic inmate on Florida’s death row can be executed, a state judge ruled, because his grandiose religious delusions are quite common.  The legally insane may not be executed, but Judge David Glant ruled that murderer John Ferguson’s claim to be the “Prince of God” who will sit at God’s right hand is “a relatively normal Christian belief” and doesn’t prove he’s crazy.

Next Sunday when I pull on that church door, maybe it will only be locked for me.

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