CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
Helen and I are preparing to move “back home again, in Indiana.” Some friends have questioned that.
“Why would you want to live in a state that is so backward politically, so eager to deny civil and even human rights to minority groups, so hypocritical in its use of religion to justify its disdain for the weak and powerless and different, so blatantly hypocritical in claiming to be Christian but trying to stamp on the faces of the very ones Christ said to treat with kindness and dignity?”
Okay, no single one of them put all those particular words together, but taken together, that’s what they add up do.
They say those things as though civil rights and human dignity and concern for the weak are more important than basketball.
To those of us who grew up in Indiana, the latest affront to justice and civility, the so-called “religious freedom” act, this is nothing new. Indiana is the only northern state that had an active KKK chapter in every county, the only northern state that gave its vote to segregationist George Wallace in the 1964 presidential election. I have always called Indiana, particularly the SW “pocket,” where I grew up, “The Mississippi of the North.”
The “religious freedom act,” is not about religious liberty, of course. It is about religious bigotry. It is one of the same arguments used for 100 years to deny public access to people of color.
There are no absolute rights, although people who want to deny rights to others usually use a “my rights are being violated” argument to deny rights to others. For example, the right to free speech is enshrined in the Constitution, but it is not absolute. You do not have a free speech right to cry “Fire!” in a crowded theater, if there is no fire, even if you think the Bible or the voice of God requires you to do so, because of the way that would impact the rights of others, such as the right to be alive instead of trampled to death in a mad dash for the exits. Individual rights cannot be used as an excuse to deny public rights.
In the debate in the 1960s over racial segregation, the Supreme Court, and the nation, came down on the side of public rights, that if you have a business that is open to the public, you cannot deny service to individuals, even though you claim that to serve them would violate your religious freedom. “Public” means everybody.
“My religious rights are being violated” is often the last resort for those who want to discriminate against others, deny rights to others, because it is such a strong emotional argument. We hold very dear the right to practice whatever religion a person wants to. Of course, those who hold most dear their own religious rights are often the ones most eager to deny right to persons of other religions. People never hide behind religious rights to be kind or civil to others, but only to be unkind and discriminatory to others.
It is strange that in the Easter season, with Good Friday hard upon us, people who claim they worship and/or follow the One who gave up ALL his rights, his very life, for their sake, for the sake of the WORLD, [John 3:16] that means EVERYONE, want to claim that their religion requires them to be sure some people are left out. [Take a look at Romans 8:32, also.]
Those people, though, who want to leave others out, who use religion as a barrier instead of a bridge, are not my enemies. They were once, and soon will be again, my friends, my neighbors, my family. They are not malicious people, even though they sometimes act that way. I love them, and most of them love me, even though some of them think I am not really Christian.
On Sunday mornings we shall gather separately to worship different Gods, even though the Gods have the same name. But on Friday nights and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons, we shall gather together to cheer on black men and Muslim men and gay men as they do battle against one another for our amusement. And when enough people have refused to do business with us, and thus reduced the size of our bank account, because we refuse to do business with those black and Muslim and gay men Monday through Friday, we shall rethink just how much God wants us to leave some people out of our business, and thus out of our cash register. That’s a start. That’s reality. That’s home.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]
I tweet as yooper1721.