Couching religion as only "A PERSONAL set of beliefs", is a fallacy. Did the Founders of our country take this tact? Thankfully no. A little over a year ago, I published a post entitled, Our Civic Responsibility as Christians. In it, I quoted Fr. Frank Pavone from a Washington Post article, where he said,
"Religion isn't just private. Beliefs have consequences on public policy, morality, and the safety and rights of citizens."As I said then, it's a particularly American attitude, being the ultimate individualists that we are, to feel the need to keep our faith in our pocket and not let it out, because it's PRIVATE and PERSONAL, don't ya know. But ultimately, as I said then, it's our responsibility as Americans, to take a stand for what we believe in, and to act on that belief, otherwise we are just hypocrites, right? If, I as a Christian, belief that all human life is sacred, is it not my responsibility to act on that belief in the public square? Is that then, ME forcing my religion on YOU? I can't see how. Isn't that the point of a democracy? Divergent voices coming together to discuss, debate and ultimately vote on the issues? But discussion and debate aren't politically correct any longer, are they?
It is unrealistic, and I would have to say un-American, to expect that citizens of faith just sit on their hands, go to Church on Sunday (or Friday or Saturday, etc) and just shut up when it comes to socially and constitutionally relevant issues that directly affect us. Let's look, for example, at the current situation with the Department of Health and Human Services mandate. This current tension over religious freedom comes down to a simple fact. The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion. It really is that simple...the First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion; and that includes the right of religious institutions to define and carry out their ministries. Unlike how it is being portrayed, this issue is not about contraception. It's not even about abortion. And is certainly isn't about "healthcare". It's about the guarantees of the First Amendment. The Obama Administration's HHS mandate that compels virtually all employers to provide sterilization and contraceptives without a co-pay does have religious exemption to it, but it so NARROW that Jesus Christ himself wouldn't qualify for it. The Administration is in effect attempting to redefine what a religious ministry is. A specific ministry would qualify for an exemption only if:
- the people providing the service are (insert your religion/denomination here);
- the ones being served are (insert your religion/denomination here) in their entirety; and
- the service itself comes packaged with (insert your religion/denomination here) religious instruction.
So when someone tries to tell me not to FORCE my religion on them, I'll say, I'm not. I'm acting with a fully-formed conscience on the social and political issues in this country that affect me.
In speaking on religious liberty George Washington said,
"For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” - from an August 17, 1790 letter to Moses Seixas and the Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.How sad is it that we have reached a point in this country where the Government itself is giving said assistance to a persecution of its own making?
In the end, how should we all respond to hate and persecution? My faith tells me, "with love". God Bless You.