The Christian world itself went through a centuries-long paroxysm of blood and hatred over doctrinal and leadership disputes. Wherever men try to forcibly dictate beliefs (as opposed to punishing a basic set of harmful actions, like murder and theft), men's relationship with God is menaced, distorted, and corrupted. We cannot try to forcibly dictate beliefs to others and remain in God's will.

This doesn't mean that churches can't have statements of belief and doctrine, nor does it mean that nations can't adopt laws that reflect certain beliefs. As regards the latter, however, it does imply what America's Founders wisely believed: that smaller government—government that doesn't attempt to rule on and decide everything for the people—is the most salubrious for the public weal. The Founders believed there were few, if any, social issues on which the national government should proclaim a position. Such issues belonged at the level of local government, if government was to take them up at all.

In the last 40 years, we have forgotten a lesson of history: that an attitude of enforcement over other people's minds and hearts is inherently corruptible and always works against the principles of Jesus Christ. It cannot work for them, because coercion is not Jesus' way. He rules hearts through our voluntary submission; he doesn't rule public policy through coercion against people's consciences. Trying to use his name for that purpose didn't work in the upheavals of the Renaissance and Reformation. No other source of authority can possibly make coercion of the conscience work. It is an inherently evil process that cannot produce good.

It will also help in our thinking task for today's American freedom-lover to understand what hatred, intolerance, and having an "anti-someone" attitude actually are. It is painful to see modern Americans characterizing their political opposition in these terms. Hatred of a politically actionable kind isn't the feeling that someone disagrees with you. Hatred looks like the corpses of Jewish women strewn on a floor at Auschwitz. Hatred looks like the mass murder of 5,000 Tutsis who took refuge in a church in Rwanda in April 1994.

Intolerance looks like burning Protestants at the stake in England in the 1550s, or the massacre of Catholics in Baghdad in 2010. Intolerance looks like the nearly half a million Vietnamese "boat people" who perished on the seas fleeing the Communist takeover of South Vietnam in the mid-1970s.

Being "anti-someone" looks like Iran hanging men from industrial cranes for being gay. It looks like the pogroms under the Russian Czars against Jewish communities. It looks like the atrocities against Christians, Jews, businessmen, and ethnic minorities committed by the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s, or those committed by the Castro regime in Cuba over the past five decades. Being "anti-someone" looks like the depredations of the Soviet Union against Eastern Europe in World War II and the Cold War, from mass executions, raids, and theft, to deportations that drove women and children to starvation and death at internment camps in Siberia.