Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by nations for My name’s sake. and then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Matthew 24: 9-10
Growing up I remember my dad talking about the “end times” or “time of tribulation”. He would tell us of church members he visited who had stockpiles of canned goods and camping supplies much like many American’s built bomb shelters during the Cuban Missile Crisis. While we never went to the extreme of preparing to flee for our lives, my father believed that towards the end when Jesus was coming back that legislation would pass to restrict religious freedom for a select group of Christians, or the remnant as the Bible calls them.
Many American Christian’s today are concerned about their religious freedom. They see the Ten Commandments removed from county court houses, prayer at town hall meetings eliminated, and intelligent design removed from schools. Todd Starnes of Fox News recently wrote “American Christians are facing uncertain times. Our nation’s values are under assault. Religious liberty has been undermined… Dark clouds are gathering. The winds of intolerance are blowing. There’s a great storm approaching. The days of persecution are upon us.” But is it really religious freedom that is the issue? Is it really a time of tribulation or is it something more than that?
Could it be simple intolerance? Intolerance for those who don’t believe like you do. Intolerance for the acceptance of Gay Marriage or Evolution. Intolerance like the Illinois Family Institute who is giving outlines for parents to identify and reprimand public school teachers whom they feel inappropriately promote unchristian and liberal dogma.
Or maybe it’s intolerance for intolerance. What many ignore is that the majority of the United States is still Christian. The recent census still put Christianity as the majority faith of US citizens.
Is religious freedom under attack or is it actually being enforced in a way it simply hasn’t before? What if we are now seeing religious freedom without the blinders of a singular orthodoxy, but rather through the kaleidoscope of faith expressed in many shapes, sizes, and colors?
The greatest threat to religious freedom are the religious who feel their beliefs are more important that the rights and beliefs of someone else.
While the pilgrims first came to the US in search of freedom from tyrannical religious oppression, they did so at the expense of Native American religious freedom. Christianity has been historically dominionistic from the moment that Constantine used Christianity to unite the pagans and Christians under his rule, through the crusades, and into today’s hyper religious political war. One such extreme was seen in the recent passing of the Missouri “right to pray” bill to protect the religious freedom of the states Christians (80% of the population). For a faith built upon sacrifice and persecution we have little respect for the religious freedom of those around us.
If the founding fathers had the opportunity to write the constitution today with the wealth of awareness for multiple cultures and beliefs, would it have been written very differently? The United States is not solely a Christian Nation. It is a Nation that has been a refuge for all those seeking freedom to be who they are. If this is solely a Christian nation, why don’t we make immigration contingent upon conversion?
I believe that a valedictorian should have the right to give thanks to God in their speech or even offer a prayer. That is freedom of speech. The same as I would expect a Hindu, Muslim, or even Atheist to be permitted to give thanks to their respective beliefs. But people have the right to choose or deny Christ. Forcing them to kneel in prayer at a school board meeting isn’t going to convert them. Many have been turned off by individuals who take opportunities to preach or condemn others for the sake of conversion at those times.
Religious freedom has been threatened for a long time by the beliefs of those who feel that they know how your life should be led. Religious freedom is threatened by those who are afraid and don’t understand other cultures. Religious freedom is seen threatened by blocking a Mosque being built at ground zero. Christian’s are the threat to religious freedom in the US by exhibiting intolerance, bigotry, and narrow-minded worldview’s. Freedom is for all, not some. Freedom comes from appreciation and acceptance.