Why American Christians Should Condemn “Religious Liberty” Legislation

You are known by the company you keep.

This week the President signed an Executive Order allowing discrimination against the LGBTQ community in the name of “religious liberty.” Not surprisingly, lots of Conservative Christians applauded, and pointed skyward like a kicker nailing a winning field goal at the buzzer—and they should be mortified.

Jesus is not celebrating this.
This is not a win for the Gospel, it is a rejection of it.
It is not a defense of the Christian faith, but a perversion of it.
And it is
 is not an affirmation of religious liberty by our government—it is an attack on it.

The essence of what has been woven into our American Constitution for people of all faith traditions, is the individual freedom to worship as one chooses, unfettered by any individual or group. It is personal protection for all. That freedom was intended to create space here in this country where people of disparate religious convictions are equally able to pursue their religious practices without fear or suppression or censorship—and the freedom of all people to live without religious practices of any another, forced upon them.

This liberty, is not permission for one, small extremist segment of one religious tradition to impose its beliefs on the citizenry—no matter which segment of which tradition it is. In fact, that Christians seem to specifically benefit from this legislation is the very reason we who follow Jesus should reject it. Christianity was never supposed to be synonymous with power. It was born in obscurity and smallness; a grassroots movement of the low and ordinary, birthed by a homeless, itinerant preacher who kept company with lepers and prostitutes and beggars. That was its beauty: it welcomed diversity, it denounced power, it shunned affluence. Jesus was never about imposing his will upon anyone, but about people’s free decision to choose or reject him. He would never allow religion to be coerced, let alone mandated.

When religious liberty is used as justification for discrimination or when it impedes the daily life of those who don’t share our convictions, we move from merely having freedom, to demanding that others adopt our beliefs and adapt to our prejudices. We become a theocracy—and Christians, we cannot become a theocracy because Jesus would have had nothing to do with such things. He rejected privilege and dominance with every second of his humble existence, and he would be horrified by the bullying being done in his name under the guise of spirituality. It is the very kind of domineering religious shakedown that he repeatedly condemned in the Scriptures from the both the Jewish religious leaders and the Romans.

And when such religious manipulation targets those already among the most marginalized and at-risk (as it does the LGBTQ and Muslim-American communities), it runs in direct opposition to the core of our faith, which seeks to protect and shelter those that the powerful would swallow up. Legislation like this transforms us into the very thing Jesus was pushing hard against.

The heart of the Gospels, as witnessed in the life and ministry of Jesus, is a declaration of the inherent worth of all people; that all warrant dignity, respect, and love equally. Any Executive Order or legislation that denies that inherent worth, or that fosters and sanctions bigotry, even in the name of religion—is still bigotry, still hatred, and still in direct opposition to both the Constitution and the Gospel. 

Do we Christians really want to be known as the people who force others to conform to our preferences, through the might of legislative mandate? I don’t think so. I know it is not what Jesus would have us be known for. He said that it was the way that we loved one another: as we wish to be loved. That was our stated purpose and the desired legacy we should seek as we claim the name Christian.

In the Scriptures, in the 25th chapter of Matthew, Jesus gives his most explicit warning to those who neglect “the least among us;” those overlooked, vulnerable, and oppressed—as if they were neglecting Jesus himself. Far more than simply neglect, these religious liberty laws are doing intentional harm to the least, and to the image of God residing in all people; of all faiths, all races, all gender identities, and all sexual orientations. We cannot embrace Jesus and the tactics of this Presidency simultaneously. They are fully incompatible.

Christian, if you can’t differentiate between your personal freedom to worship as you desire, and a Government-decreed, forced compliance of people who don’t share your beliefs—you need to do better. We who are Christians should declare our unequivocal denouncement of these actions by our government, and we should instead, affirm the central call of our faith: to love our neighbor as ourselves—regardless of whether that neighbor worships the way we worship or loves the way we love.

The thing about sanctioning religious liberty as an excuse for discrimination, is that one day you may not be the beneficiaries of it—and then you’ll want freedom from it.

And in any case, the liberty we Christians are supposed be marked by, is the freedom we find in Christ to love others and to reflect the character of God to people through mercy and kindness and compassion—not to demand that the world share our beliefs. 

Recognizing the face of God in everyone.
Seeing the image of the divine in everyone.
Extending the love of Jesus to everyone,
and demanding nothing in return.

This should be the only religious liberty we seek to exercise in these days.

 

298 thoughts on “Why American Christians Should Condemn “Religious Liberty” Legislation

  1. President Trump’s “Religious Liberty” EO is a perversion of true religious freedom as Thomas Jefferson, others of the founders, and court after U.S court has understood it.

      • If you are so stupid and uninformed about public affairs that you need someone to spoon feed it to you, then I am not going to tell you. He might not either.

        You fundies spend your days in a fairy tale world of your own creation and then dare to blaspheme the Holy Trinity by labeling it a “Christian worldview.” There is nothing Christian about your worldview because you willfully ignore half of what Jesus had to say, most of what He did, and a really big part of what He wants you to do—commands you to do— in this life.

        People like you who ally with a religious belief system that, in practice, hates your neighbors as much as you hate yourselves, deserve no attention. My neighbors are flesh and blood people with all the joys and sorrows that regular people have. To you fundies, all they are is sinners on the road to Hell. You do not even see them as human beings because your fundie belief system “objectifies them” so you can keep them SEPARATE from your perfect selves—and most of the times you fundies treat them like trash in a dumpster. Having trouble finding new converts? Wonder why people treat you like the sh**t that you are? They do it because fundie people like you treat them like sh**t first.

  2. The part that specifies that no adverse action shall be taken relating to tax-exempt status for political preaching, for pastors telling their congregants how to vote. That is in flagrant violation of the separation of church and state (and no, that is not a fiction invented by the left, the “wall of separation’ was expressed in Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802 or so. The establishment clause (“Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” ) is the Constitutional expression of this principle, and hundreds of years’ worth of jurisprudence backs the wall of separation up legally. I want neither the Baptists nor the Catholics nor the Pagans telling me who to vote for – the realm of religion and the realm of politics are separate and need to remain so in a democracy. And the conflation of religion with politics is one more death knell for democracy in this country.

    We are not, nor should we be, a nation of religious conservative reactionaries. That will be totalitarianism.

    • I agree John Fisher. You do not see the United Methodists, Lutherans, or Roman Catholics trying to take over the government at any level (local, state, or federal) and use it to control American citizens or force American citizens to believe their particular “take” on Christianity.

      You do see the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals trying to do precisely that—and it is very widespread and often highly organized and well funded. At the local level, there is almost always some fundie weasel employing various dirty tricks to get himself or herself elected to a local school board. The reason is almost always to impose one or more aspects of the fundie belief system on innocent nonfundie children and their parents.

      For example, one of these little fundie weasels, who looked like a short version of Julius Rosenberg, got himself elected to the school board in the small southern town where I grew up. Before you knew it, he was trying to implement a “book rating system” in our public schools to define for all parents and their school children which books were “good” and which books were “evil, according to fundie beliefs and encourage parents to prevent their children from reading the “evil” books—and then he had the unmitigated gall to claim that this was not a system of book censorship. More fundie lies!!!

    • But, John Fisher, “We are not, nor should we be, a nation of religious conservative reactionaries. That will be totalitarianism.”

      That seems to be exactly what they want. They want everyone to think as they, feel as they.

  3. I would like to bring up a serious—very serious—subject we have never talked about here. As we have recently learned from the FBI, CIA, NSA, and other American intelligence organizations, Russia now has a highly organized cyberwarfare force consisting of literally thousands and thousands of employees. We have also learned along the way that this cyberwarfare force is NOT limited to hackers trying to break computer passwords and gain entry into U.S. Government and corporate computers. We now know that a great deal of this Russian cyberwarfare force is dedicated to undermining the cultural and social fabric of nations and fomenting dissension, rebellion, and revolution to cause such nations to implode from within—like the Soviet Union did. We already know about their extensive “fake news” efforts.

    In various recent days, I have read in various places increasing concerns that the Russian cyberwarfare forces may already be invading popular blogs and other on-line forums in nations around the world for the specific purpose of creatively exploiting and exacerbating social, economic, and religious conflicts among ORDINARY PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME—all designed to deeply divide large portions of the populations within nations and help them to hate each other so much that negative consequences will will inevitably ensue to rip those nations apart.

    The John Pavlovitz blog is really popular around the nation, and the Russian cyber warfare force already knows how much Christian fundamentalists/conservative evangelicals and Liberal/Conservative Christians hate each other—and I think we should be honest here. Whether we like it or not or want to admit it or not—right down where the rubber meets the road—these two groups do indeed hate each other. This hatred is so vehement, vitriolic, widespread, and disruptive—with its claws dug so deeply into governmental issues and state/religion issues—that the Russian cyberwarfare forces could not help but see it as prime territory to exploit and make worse on-line to undermine our nation. As a juicy target, this blog sticks out like a sore thumb and begs entry by Russian cyberwarfare agents.

    In huge buildings in Moscow and St. Petersburg (and other locations around Russia), large rooms in buildings may be literally filled with hundreds of cubicles, and the Russian government employee in each cubicle may have been assigned a particular Internet blog or Internet forum to invade, disrupt, and enlarge hatreds and dissensions among American citizens. These Russian employees are well trained, have masterfully planned strategies and tactics—and they are masters at implementing them.

    These Russian employees are most likely the kinds of people the German Army Intelligence used to create battlefield confusion in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. They speak and write perfect American English and know American life and culture inside out, many of them having grown up in the United States and then returned to Russia with their families. This means they know us all too well and know precisely how to exploit us and tear us apart as a people.

    I think all of us here at the John Pavlovitz blog need to seriously consider the very real possibility that one or more of these Russian cyberwarfare agents has already shown up here on the John Pavlovitz blog. I was here for most of three years, and nothing like the degree of disruption that we see now ever existed on this blog before. It all began when Joe Catholic showed up and his friend evil “Anonymous” showed up to play the role of “redneck fundie.” I think the John Pavlovitz blog is so well-known in the on-line Christian realm now—so well known—and so open to posting without moderation—that it is a target too rich for the Russian cyberwarfare forces to ignore.

    • Charles wrote ” It all began when Joe Catholic showed up and his friend evil “Anonymous” showed up to play the role of “redneck fundie.” I think the John Pavlovitz blog is so well-known in the on-line Christian realm now—so well known—and so open to posting without moderation—that it is a target too rich for the Russian cyberwarfare forces to ignore.”

      So, all of the following are possibly Russian agents hacking the blog?

      Benny
      Joe Catholic
      Lone Catholic
      Let everyone be born
      Everyone has a right to birth
      anonymous
      Wayne
      A Catholic Perspective
      Bud Maunch
      La vida es como una sombra QUE pasa.
Lionel Hutz
      R J Grayson
      Gordon Nicely
      pj
      Uber Doofus
      The Right to Life
      Another name he used was Miss and I forget the rest
      Tom Cottone
      James T Kirk
      Mr.Spock
      Kim Jong-un
      Monsters Are Due on JP Street
      Ted
      Victor Stone
      AJ Ravinsky
      Pdiddle53
      Arthur Curry
      Schnickleberry Donkershonk
      Make America Great Again
      Trump Supporter
      José el Catolico (indocumentado-no le digas a Juan)
      Patrick
      Captain Justice
      José el Catolico
      JoeJoeJoeJoeJoeJoe
      Darth Vader
      Gandalf
      Joe Blow
      Shnockleberry Dinkerdonklage
      Winker Dinker
      Scatman Crothers
      Swheeeper Dinglehoffer
      Krinkledopper Weemperhaumpt
      No wonder people want to remain anonymous
      Theo Seeber real name
      Alexander The Gr8
      The Authority of the Church
      fighting the lies from the left
      Skippy
      Dear Daughter,
      Humility Grace Mercy
      Peter Piper
      Joe, posting from Patmos
      Christian Trump Supporter
      Ima Trumpfan
      Play Better, Holtby!
      Mother Teresa, aka Saint Teresa of Calcutta
      Auntie Feticide
      Harry Potter
      Lloyd Braun
      Nothing To See Here
      Bobby

        • I never called you such things and I am astonished that you would tell such a lie about me. It is unbecoming in one who styles as “Humility Grace Mercy.”

            • GA suffers from alternative facts syndrome that she accuses others of having. She appears to not recognize her words are easily searchable but it’s always good for a chuckle 🙂
              But I recognize it’s better for you to be a Russian super-model (as if :P) than Theodore Seeber.

              In love and peace,
              Just Another Sinner

              • Hey sinner
                I know you wish i was a russian super-model ….. I know I should always be kind but i couldn’t resist the joke especially after my meltdown about being called Theo Seeber.

                Love
                Humility Grace Mercy

      • No. Probably just one or two agents who know that use of multiple names is a great tactic for increasing dissension and bad feelings among people—especially for those who do not quickly grasp what is really going on.

        • Charles, I do think there is something weird regarding some here, and I guess that is as good an explanation than any I can come up with. There are word patterns and such, that make one wonder.
          Peace and Love,

        • Charles, that’s what I meant.

          It is patently obvious that the many trolls here are only two or three people posting under many different aliases.

          I’ve probably missed quite a number of the pseudonyms. I doubt the list is exhaustive.

  4. The separation between church and state is about keeping government out of church. A government should never tell thier citizens what to believe in or how to worship. Government should not dictate what pastors preachers or don’t preach. Government should stay out of religion.

    This law was because of the Catholic vs Protestant debate that Kings and Queend across the ocean had been having. People worshiped in secret and would loose their lives if they worshipped the wrong way. This law is so we don’t become like China where persecution real and people are killed by the government for thier beliefs.

    The separation between church and state is not about keeping government out of churches. The government should not be able to tell the church, what to do or that they can’t do anything except in very extreme cases where lives are at risk or the church is breaking serious laws of the government.

    From a government standard, I believe John Pavlovitz has the right to say whatever he choses on his page or from a pulpit. He does treat this as his church, making the same amount from his Patreon page as I earn as a senior caregiver a month, that doesn’t include his book sales or adds on this page. I believe he should not face a fine or loose 501 status (he has it) for preaching what he believes. John has the government right to do this. Also I think an LGBT organization, that helps support and provide protection for the LGBT community should have the right to have 501 status and support openly whichever president they want without censorship or dictatorship. I personally would not go to a church that became a political advocate. But this is about censorship and individual rights. I don’t think any organization, as long as it’s following the safety laws should be censored.

    Laws are brought to government by people who feel strongly about things. For example MADD lobbied because of the loss of a child. There are Amber laws because mother’s fought for laws to protect their children. Yes some church goers feel strongly about some issues, and lobby for that to become law, there is nothing wrong with it, they aren’t the law makers and the law has to go through a strenuous vetting process before it becomes law. Checks and balances are great ways to keep unconditional issues our of Government.

    The government should not pass laws that discriminate against any religion or person. Someone ask if I would be upset if a law or order was passed for the Sharia Law, yes government should not enforce any religion. I would also be up in arms if a law was passed enforcing the first three laws of the Christian 10 Commandments! What God you worship is a personal choice and should not be mandated by the government. Honestly government shouldn’t enforce the Sabbath and the Blue Laws weren’t constitutional. God wants individuals to make the correct choice on their own.

    All of this is a non-issue because the Executive order does nothing but say in a bunch of legalize that the laws on the books have to be upheld.

    “Liberal groups preparing to sue over the ordersaid there was no need. The American Civil Liberties Union called the order “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.” Public Citizen said it was “a sham because what it actually does is instruct the IRS to enforce the law as written”” source from NPR.

    On the personal side, I would not go to or donate to a church with a political agenda. If a law was going to be passed that would take away individuals right to worship or not worship, how and when they saw fit, then I would become political.

    I believe there is only one true God, the only way to heaven is through a relationship with Jesus Christ. I try to live that in my everyday life. God gave us free will because He desires a real relationship with us. Everyone has the choice to follow Him or not. Everyone has a choice to obey the laws of God or not. I cannot and should not force my beliefs on anyone, each person must come to God by their own choice. The government should never be involved in that choice.

    Sincerely with,
    Humility Grace Mercy

    • Dear Humility Grace Mercy, When one stands over a pregnant woman and intones “You must, you WILL carry this pregnancy to term”, religion has imposed its totalitarian will, and that is inimical to democracy. Ask the Jewish or non-believing students in the 1940s who were forced into Christian religious exercises as part of their day in a public school, and see the decisions handed down by our federal courts. That is but one instance of how religion has quite properly been kept out of government (public schools are an instrument of the state and that makes them government). Read the jurisprudence. It cuts both ways, and this argument that church/state separation is only to keep government out of churches’ business is either uniformed, or disingenuous in the service of religious totalitarianism. In this day of computers and readily available information, I rather suspect the latter.

      • My take, it is disingenuous. They have always wanted to impose their brand on everyone else. What is confusing is, there are more of us than them but here we are. Peace,

      • John Fisher, thank you for your grasp of US actual history. More and more I fear that the evangelicals.fundamentalists have turned their back on what has actually been the true history of our country.

        • I am not surprised, if you believe in alternate facts, it reasons you will believe alternate history. I really don’t think God is going to be impressed with their alternates. Truth is truth and history is history. They don’t get to rewrite it. That falls in line with the holocaust deniers. Peace and Love,

          • ” I really don’t think God is going to be impressed with their alternates. Truth is truth and history is history. ”

            Kathleen B, that is the bottom line. Departing from the truth, falsifying history are both forms of lying. Jesus doesn’t like it when we lie. does He?

    • I might be naive and believe that government can do the right thing but that doesn’t change my beliefs. I believe 100% Government should stay out of religion.

      I realize I did not go back through history and point out every single time the country has overstepped with religious interference. I only brought up a couple. The awesome thing about religious freedom is if you see government overstepped with one religion, you can rally and propose to overturn the law or lobby for a new law to be written for what you believe in. Your religion, your non-profit group can support any law it wants; as with most of the laws you pointed out, they have been overturned or replaced.

      Read the Constitution, government is not to dictate religion. Under our Constitution I should be able to start the church of “Democrates United” where the congregation worships at the foot of a golden donkey and preach nothing but CNN news stories and the desire for all Republicans to burn in hell. That is your religious right. The government can’t stop you and if they tried I would fight for your religious freedom because if they take yours they can take mine. I am aware there are way fewer believers in America than there once was and my beliefs are extremely important to me. So you bet I believe in religious freedom. I believe the government should stay out of religion. I believe they should never dictate what a religion should say, believe or do as long as they remain in the bounds of safety laws.

      I find your belief that if religion backs our argument for a law than the law is unconstitutional to be extreme. We would have to rewrite the Constitution, it was written using biblical beliefs as guidelines. Also murder, purgery, and theft would have to be removed from the laws, those are part of the Ten Commandments.

      Honestly, I believe abortion is a humanity issue not a religious one. I believe every single life is as important as every other. I would think those who believe survival of the fittest would agree, that’s how the race continues itself. As a mother who carried a life in me for over nine months I know my child was a precious life, even before he was born. My circumstances were such that many told me to abort but I could feel the life growing inside me. That is why I believe even unborn life is worthy of living. I can’t say whether or not rape cases or incest should be carried to term, that’s another debate but most women have a lot of choices before they become pregnant.

      Sincerely,
      Humility Grace Mercy

      • And HGM, that was fine for you. You were allowed to make the choice to carry your baby. But people like you are trying very hard to take the choice of NOT carrying a baby away from millions of other women who don’t feel as you do. And why do you feel that women who choose abortion do so capriciously and without much thought? I’ve personally know women who had abortions due to the circumstances in their lives at the time, and I can assure you that it was a decision that was arrived at after a great deal of consideration. It was not an easy decision, but the point is that, like you, it was THEIR decision to make. No one has the right to make it for them.

        • Susan, the problem is that they do believe that they have the right to get in my womb and tell me what to do. Even if it will kill me that have no problem making that decision on my behalf. I wish they would just stay out of other women’s wombs and we will stay out of their’s. I have also known woman who have had abortions, not one of them had a easy time with it but most it was a medical reason and their other children are certainly glad to have them still around. Peace and Love,

        • Susan you make the case for individual choice regarding abortions, instead of religiously-inspired totalitarianism, much better and more compassionately than I did. Thank You.

  5. Sorry for typo. I am standing with you on this. I wrote my senators and representatives. Mary

  6. Those that condemn John and “read into” his blogs hate is because that is what they themselves feel for anyone who is “not like them”. I have never seen John use the word hate and he has only condemned beliefs/ideas, not people. He preaches what Jesus preached , Love for all, standing up for the sick, the poor, the disabled, the elderly, all of those who are least among us, while the right wingers condemn all of those because what ever condition they are in is somehow “their own fault and why should they have to take care of them? “.

    • Spot on Ellen Casteel! I love John Pavlovitz telling the unvarnished truth and I love the people who come here and support his honesty. He is not coming from a place of hate at all. He is in pain seeing the damage that people who dare to call themselves Christian are inflicting and what they support.

      If you want to stand with the likes of Trump and his instability; if you want to stand with white supremacists and bigots; if you want to stand with people who would deny equality, equal protection, privacy laws and worst of all, the teachings of Jesus Christ, you go right ahead, just do not expect us not to notice and call it out!

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