Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No Establishment

A friend posted this quote from Jon Stewart on Facebook the other day:

I have to say, as someone who is not a Christian, it's hard for me to believe Christians are a persecuted people in America. God-willing, maybe one of you one day will even rise up and get to be president of this country -- or maybe forty-four in a row. But that's my point, is they've taken this idea of no establishment as persecution, because they feel entitled, not to equal status, but to greater status.

A few personal words to Jon.

Agreed -- Christians are NOT a persecuted people in America. The Christians out there who whine about persecution apparently don't know what persecution is. They need to spend some time in a Muslim or Communist country where people are imprisoned or killed for practicing their faith.

Agreed -- there are Christians out there who think because Christians are the majority in America and because the nation was founded on Christian principles that Christianity deserves a "greater status" than other religions here. They are wrong. But let me contend that, although that group of believers may be loudmouths, they are not necessarily representative of Christianity in America.

Let me also contend that you may be misunderstanding the "no establishment" situations that you are referring to. Any public bickering I'm aware of concerning Christians and the no establishment clause deal with things like . . . the Ten Commandments being displayed in a courthouse. (I'm not including the gay marriage debate because that is a much bigger, more complex issue dealing with more than religious belief.)

Here's the thing: if I was living in, say Saudi Arabia, I would understand that the vast majority of people there live their lives by the principles in the Koran. I would understand that Islam and the Koran is a significant part of the culture and heritage of the country. I would fully expect to find scripture from the Koran on display in public places -- I would expect community celebrations, even those promoted by the local governments, to be centered on Muslim holidays and beliefs -- I would expect Muslim teachings to come up in the schools, even if they are run by the government (which I don't know if they are . . . ). None of this would qualify to me as "establishment of religion", even if they make me uncomfortable or make my life inconvenient. Sometimes faith is uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Now, if I were required to participate in these religious activities, if I had no choice but to put my children in schools promoting Islam . . . now we're talking about establishment of religion. And if I had rights or freedoms taken away from me for practicing Christianity, now we're talking about persecution. I don't believe we are there in America, for any faith or non-faith group.

Understand, Jon, that sincere believer of every religion want no establishment of religion in the United States. But no establishment does not have to mean we put a cloak on our religious practice and hide it in a closet for fear of making someone uncomfortable.

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