My heart is heavy today as I write this post. More and more our government and a very vocal, but minority group of people in our country are becoming religiously intolerant and breeding an atmosphere of religious intolerance of one particular kind. And the media is promoting the same thing. This post may make some people mad, but I feel that it needs to be said.
Religious Freedom and Freedom of Speech
Folks, the Constitution of the United States of America gives all peoples in the US the right to religious freedom and the right to freedom of speech. It is in our very Constitution. It is a part of the American way of life. That means that as people living in the US we may worship in any way we wish and speak about the object of our worship freely. It means that we can share our faith with others. It doesn’t matter if a person is a Hindu, a Mormon, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Protestant Christian, a Catholic Christian, an Orthodox Christian, a Seventh Day Adventist, an Agnostic, an Atheist, someone into witchcraft, or any other group. We all have the same rights to freedom of worship and freedom of speech. Along with that comes the right to live as our beliefs and faith teach us to live and not be forced to do something that is contrary to our very beliefs.
Now, along with those rights comes responsibility. We are American citizens. Our entire country was founded on immigration… many people from many nations. By nature, our society is a hodge podge of various cultures from each family’s unique and individual culture (our histories, backgrounds, ways of doing things, etc.), to religious cultures, to regional cultures (for example, folks on the Bayou are different from those in Pennsylvania Dutch country or the Smoky Mountain region or the mid-West), and so on. But, more than that… along with being a human being in any society comes such things as just plain good manners, caring about others, being kind and considerate, working together for the common good, growing together as a country, and growing individually in every way possible.
What I see becoming more and more prominent in America today is hatefulness. Evidently hate speech IS allowed, but only if it is against Christians. If it is against any other group, it is not tolerated. The same person who is vicious with Christians and can get away with it and even have the government use him as a consultant on such things would be blasted out of the water should he say the same type of things about Muslims. In my humble opinion, NONE of it should be tolerated.
Our men and women in uniform, people of many religious faiths, have fought to protect us and to protect the rights of US citizens regardless of their beliefs. Yet, in the military, Christians are being viciously and angrily targeted in a very real way… a blocking of their very right to worship God and speak of Him. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is an organization that fights for the Constitutional rights of American citizens as well as for people all over the world. Currently, they are helping with cases where our own military is taking away from Christians in the military the very religious rights for which they fight and serve. Here is a petition for some work the ACLJ is doing. I have to ask why the Pentagon is disregarding hate speech and is consulting with someone who is an extremist himself in his hatred for, disregard of, and vengeance against Christians. His attitude, extreme intolerance of Christians, and name calling is not what America is all about. Why is he advising the Pentagon on religious freedom and freedom of speech issues in the military? His goal to take away religious rights from Christians is very clear. Yet, Christians make up a massive portion of our US population. Is the intention to debase, label as extreme, and stop all Christians from being able to freely worship and speak of their faith? Evidently, that’s the goal in the military. What happened to our Constitution? Why all the viciousness? And why are the very people who are fighting for our Constitutional freedoms not allowed those same freedoms?
Calling people “monsters” and “unconstitutional carpetbaggers” because of their faith does nothing helpful. The Constitution assures their right to worship and speak about their beliefs. According to the Constitution, those people have the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. This person’s behavior and attitude says everything about him and nothing about those he is attacking except for what he personally thinks of them.
That’s a real problem because he’s using what sway he has to influence others to do the same. But, it’s a two way street. It’s also a real problem in the “Christian” community. Note the quotation marks. There’s a saying that there are some bad apples in every barrel. Well, without a doubt, there are some people who call themselves “Christians”. But, in reality, they live and teach their children to live completely opposite to what the Bible teaches us. Name calling against those whose lifestyles or beliefs are different, hatred against anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe, legalism to the extreme… it’s all there. But, don’t be fooled. People who live contrary to the teachings of the Bible are not followers of Christ (or Christians). Don’t confuse them with true Christians.
What does the Bible teach?
But, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Do any of these verses encourage name calling, hatefulness, unkindness, determination to say things that provoke others? Not that I can see. But, this is how the Bible teaches us to live our lives. To be sure, the Bible teaches us to also live in purity and watch what we say, eliminating crude speech and jokes from our lips, to be obedient to God, and so much more… but, our lives are to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit. If we are loving others the way Christ loved us, how can we name-call and be vicious toward them. We can’t. This is not to say that all Christians must be perfect. We’re all human beings who are striving to live the way God wants us to live. We blow it, ask forgiveness, learn, grow and move on, strengthened in our Christian walk. Over time, we learn to live more and more like Christ commanded. Can we do it in and of ourselves? No, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13)
I Corinthians 13:13
“So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
I Thessalonians 3:12
“…may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…”
“By this will all people know you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”
Over and over the Bible teaches us to love. In I Thessalonians, it’s not just love for one another (Christians), but for ALL. That means all people, not just the ones in our church or the ones with whom we agree or having something in common.
So, I’m feeling sad that people who are not Christians are attacking Christians and trying to take away our Constitutional rights in this free land. But, I’m also sad that in general the Church of Christ has been so lacking in demonstration of love towards each other and toward all peoples that we have lost our witness.
“Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Attacking people who believe differently will not help change their minds. Being unkind to them and calling them names doesn’t ever help a situation. All these things do is to put up walls and show that you’re not walking the talk… you’re not living out your Christian life. So, church people who are negative and offensive, who attack others for believing something differently or living differently need to understand that this doesn’t show Christ’s love to others at all. It pushes them away from God. Perhaps that’s why people like the one in the petition I posted above are so angry, offended, offensive, and vengeful. They’ve experienced anything but Christian love, Christ’s love… agape love.
We need to stop being the Holy Spirit in the lives of others. Yes, our job is to tell them about Christ and to live the true Christian life, but it is NOT to be their personal Holy Spirit. It is not to badger them into the Kingdom through negativity, criticism, attacks, anger, or anything of the sort. We are clearly to love them even if they are being unlovable so that they can’t help but see God’s love through us. Then we pray and leave it up to the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to them and to show them their need for Him. It isn’t until someone feels loved and accepted as a person that they’re willing to open up. We don’t need to love the actions, lifestyle or choices of others, but we are commanded to love them as people.
So, my precious brothers and sisters in Christ, I pray that all of us will seek to know Christ ourselves, to understand God’s love personally so that we can show it to others. I pray that our lives will be filled with prayer for others who need Christ rather than attacking them personally. Because if we truly pray for them we open our hearts to showing love to them. Let’s pray that God will work in us so that we can have an impact and that He will use us to change the world around us for the better. As Jerry Falwell often said, “Nothing of eternal significance is accomplished apart from prayer.”