Bishop Harry Jackson, the absolutely deranged anti-gay bigot, was part of an interfaith panel on CBS News talking about religious freedom and other issues. Jackson delivered the tired old line about Christianity being the basis for the nation’s founding and for the entire concept of religious liberty.
“In deference to the Christian foundation of this nation, it is that foundation that allows us freedom,” Jackson explained. “I don’t see this diversity in other places. So to the credit of our Christian foundation of this nation, this freedom we’re experiencing is because folks came and said, ‘We believe this is to be a Christian nation. We feel like we’ve been persecuted in the places we came from, and we’re going to intentionally let this nation be founded in a way that if you come here and you’re Islamic and you come here and you’re Jewish, we’re not going to persecute you.’”
“Although we don’t worship as Jewish people, we’re going to let this country be guided in a place where there’s going to be liberty and freedom or worship. I feel we’d be remiss if we act like some other set of countries has operated in this way.”
This claim is just so profoundly anti-historical. If Christianity is the foundation of a free and tolerant society, why was there not a single example of a Christian-dominated country from the 4th century (when Christianity took control of the Roman empire) to the Catholic and Protestant governments of Europe to the early American colonies that had anything even remotely like religious freedom? And why is there not a single verse in the Bible that argues for religious freedom and dozens of verses that command the death of those of other faiths and punishment for espousing them? And why was there no tradition at all of Christian theologians arguing for religious freedom on a Christian basis and innumerable theologians, from Augustine to Luther and Calvin, who argued vociferously against religious freedom?
Religious freedom is emphatically not a Christian idea. There is zero support for it in the Bible and the history of Christendom. Religious freedom is a product of Enlightenment humanism. And like every other advance in freedom and justice, the Christian establishment was staunchly opposed to it and is now claiming credit for it.
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