Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dear Christians...

Hi! How are you? I am fine.

This letter isn’t for most of you. But “Dear Christians who think their rigid personal tenets should be the law of the land, the bedroom and the mind” is too bulky for a blog title.

It’s that segment of you that I want to appeal to directly. Because I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding, not just of how America works, but of how the human brain works. And you deserve to understand where people who disagree with you, like me, are coming from.

First, America: There has been a national push recently to enact laws that codify fundamentalist Christianity in everything from education to civil marriage. Many of them are blatantly unconstitutional, while others are merely covertly unconstitutional. This is because the Constitution is not the Bible. Not even close. Not one mention of God in the entire document. You have to go back to the Declaration of Independence to find any official Founding Father reference to a creator, and that one’s abstract at best. But if you fast-forward to the Treaty of Tripoli of 1796, you’ll find an explicit declaration that the United States is not a Christian nation and has no problem with Muslims. For all the convoluted interpretations of Founding Father rhetoric attempting to make a case for Christian government, that cut-and-dry statement so often gets glossed over.

The true miracle of the United States of America is that it’s larger than a single group, ideology or time. It’s a nation where people are free to practice religion, but aren’t free to force their faith upon others (and are thus free from having religion forced upon them). That has allowed multiple faiths to flourish, including yours, without the boot of big government tripping you up.

OK, you disagree completely. The government is trampling all over your religious freedom. I get it. This brings me to my second, and most important, point.

Your absolute moral certainty is working against you.

One of your worst aspects is that you think you, and only you, are correct. Even worse, you apparently think everyone else knows they’re wrong. That people who aren’t far-right Christians are that way specifically to spite you and to revel in godlessness. To that end, nothing is out of bounds when it comes to law, education, social mores, etc. It’s almost, dare I say it, crusade-like.

So when I hear people like you fret over the remote possibility of Sharia law, I want to shake you and shout, “Have you looked in a mirror?!!” Because, frankly, I don’t want a fundamentalist Christian code of law any more than I want women in mandatory burkhas. Strict religious law of any strain is dangerous, and it’s why America broke off from England in the first place.

Consider too that what you believe might not even be what other Christians believe. Many of you — the most rigid ones, natch — are hyperjudgmental of fellow believers for not adhering exactly to your dogma. This is especially disturbing (amusing?) when the particular beliefs in question are something I only learned about in adulthood. If it took someone like me that long to even be aware of a religious practice, it’s probably not the universal ticket to heaven you've been brought up to believe.

If I had 30 seconds on a rooftop to scream something to a massive crowd, it would be this: Everyone thinks they are correct! People don’t actively traffic in ideas they know are wrong. The only thing any of us knows for sure is that we don’t know for sure. You are no more correct than I am, just more certain. So let’s have a nation of practical and secular laws so we can get along, OK?

We don’t know for sure what, if any, spiritual path is correct. But some things are flat-out wrong — institutional discrimination, oppression and teaching creationism as science, just to name three. We can debate spiritual matters all day, but those things have real-world consequences, and that’s where it becomes a problem for the rest of us.

After all this, you might not think I appreciate the teachings of Jesus. But I do, very much. Humility, acceptance, pacifism, forgiveness — I’m all about those things. But sometimes I wonder if you are.

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Colossians 3:17)

It’s time to make the deeds match the words again.

Write me back!

Your friend,
Ian

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