Religious Freedom on Our National Day of Prayer

Religious-FreedomOur President in today’s Executive Order is trying to make it easier for churches and pastors to publicly support one candidate over another and push their congregants to do so, without fear of losing their tax-exempt status. This is probably a bad idea. It makes coercion and turning religion into merely a subset of political parties too easy, and it’s pretty easy already. Many say Evangelical Christianity has already sold its soul and become a mere subset of the GOP. I find it hard to argue otherwise.

I speak as somebody who talks relatively freely about politics and whose congregants usually know where he stands, for better and sometimes for worse. But we won’t be having any voter pamphlets at Genesis anytime soon. It’s important to house our politics in faith and Biblical values. But it is also important to encourage independent thought and belief; even within church. We are Outfitting Authentic Disciples as we proclaim in our church’s mission statement. That means adult, independent thinkers.

A more significant issue is that conservatives in our country keep misunderstanding and then abusing the term Religious Freedom.  They keep insisting we don’t have enough of it and we need to change laws to protect it. This isn’t true. Almost always what they are pursuing in fact is protecting their own freedom to oppress and deny rights to others. This is dishonest and corrodes our public discourse.

That is, nobody anywhere in our country is restricting Christian’s rights to worship and pray and exercise their religion. What our country’s conservatives sometimes claim is that their religion extends into their professional sales business, or housing, or even public service industries. They disapprove of how some people live and want permission to deny equal treatment to others. This is unconstitutional, petty and un-Christian. Their religious freedom in fact ends before it begins limiting others’ freedom.

This notion that Christians (and it’s always white Christians insisting) are somehow beleaguered is just ridiculous. We are the top dogs in the USA. Have been forever. It has indeed been hard in the recent decades to learn to share power! It was easier when only Protestants and Catholics got to decide things. Well, easier for us anyways. I understand the grief and insecurity informing this change.

This recently considered Executive Order, like so many of the past 100 days, is designed to “protect” the power of those who already have it at the expense of many who continue to suffer without it. It has nothing to do with Religious Freedom and everything to do with oppression. Our profoundly un-Christian president has much on his mind by way of ego, power, and money, but faith is the last thing driving him and his party’s decisions. It’s offensive to claim so.