Ding! Ding! Ding! And We Have a Winner!

 

The Christian Bashers Defense team has pretty much taken over the comboxes on my recent post Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee. 

They are as predictable as mosquitoes. Just say something really true about their behavior, and they show up, armed to buzz bomb you until you go inside and close the door.

In this instance, I asked the simple question: Do Constitutional rights apply to Christians the same as everybody else?

The answer should seem obvious. But of course it’s not. The reason it’s not is the bullies who want to limit other people’s rights always get mad and deny what they are doing when someone calls them on it. They do it every single time.

We’re all supposed to join them in their pretense that there’s nothing discriminatory or offensive in their attempts to drive Christians from the public square. No one is supposed to challenge their idiotic pretense that using government controls to limit the free exercise of religion in this country is actually a push for freedom, instead of the tyranny that it is. 

If we can’t be agree with them, they want us to sit down and be quiet and stop contradicting them. If we don’t, well then, they’ll scream and shout until everybody gives up and lets them have the day.

It has always been thus. People who do things like this always deny it, and they always get mean when someone calls them on their facile denials.

That’s why this particular post ended up being dive-bombed by a whole troupe of angry combox mosquitoes. Even though the readership of this blog is heavily — and I mean heavily – Christian, the Christian defenders were outnumbered. In fact, only three stalwart souls tried to stand up for Christ in these arguments. In the end, it got down mostly to one stubborn Christian, who is hanging in there to this very moment.

For all that, this lone fellow managed to push the whole mosquito assault into a slow unwinding of their lies until, one of them just came out with it.

And I quote:

No one is forcing anyone to do anything. And no one is driving anyone out. But if it does not believe it can conscientiously comply with the law, the Catholic Church can sell its hospitals, schools, universities and charity organizations. And the church and its members have the right to protest and encourage that the law be changed.

Of course, that would dramatically change the face of the church in the United States.

And then the commenter goes on, blah, blah, blahing with a lot of stats (which may or may not be accurate. I haven’t checked.) about the Church’s holdings.

How about that? Not, mind you, that forcing the largest denomination in the country to “sell its hospitals, school, universities and charity organizations” if it won’t violate its 2,000 year-old religious teachings due to government demands that it do so might be …  ummm …. a slight violation of the principles of that fictional “wall of separation between church and state” of which militant atheist are so proud. Also, not that it might be an outright dismissal and abrogation of religious freedom as defined in the Bill of Rights. Nor that it might be just a wee bit of outright tyranny.

Nope.

It’s just deserts for those who have the temerity to think that their individual rights as free Americans amount to a hill of beans to the post Christian, militant secularist demands for moral conformity (with moral being defined by them and them alone) that must govern us all.

I want to remind you that this is about birth control and abortifacients. Nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to free birth control and free abortifacients. Also, nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to force other people to pay for your birth control and abortifacients, even, or in this case, especially if it violates their religious beliefs to do so.

There is, however, a pretty strong Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Not even President Obama is debating that. What he’s trying to do is re-define this Constitutional Right to the free exercise of religion along the lines of how it is defined in Communist dictatorships. He wants to say that freedom of religion is actually just freedom of worship and that only in governmentally prescribed “houses of worship.” And, oh yes, behind the closed doors of your own house.

FireSale

It takes a combox firebrand to just come out and say what all this truly means and where it leads. It is leading to stripping the Church of all its “hospitals, schools, universities, and charity organizations” in what would certainly amount to a fire sale. It means driving the Church out of public life, totally and absolutely.

There’s nothing dishonest about what this person said. In fact what’s powerful about it is that it is the truth of where we are heading. It is exactly where we are going if this tyrannical abuse of the freedoms of Christians as citizens of the United States is allowed to continue.

If the Obama administration succeeds in redefining religious freedom in these terms, it will  have destroyed the First Freedom of the American people.

And all this so that it could bend this country over and bow it down to the little g gods of abortion and death.

I want to thank the strong-hearted Christians who have hung in there during this debate. I encourage some of the rest of you to get in the game along with them. Standing up for Jesus is not a spectator sport. We all need to do it.

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Patheos Election Month: The Most Important Issue For Catholics Is …

I almost took a pass on this one.

Something about Catholics picking out one issue and saying “That’s it! That’s the only thing you need to care about in this election!” seems wrong to me. I don’t think you can trim the Gospels down to an issue, or for that matter to an election, or the democratic process itself.

Following Christ means giving all of you, your whole life, and not just your vote. Too many people these days have convinced themselves that voting right is the equivalent to living right, and living right is all the grace or goodness any of us will ever need. My main complaint about that tidy little approach to Christianity is that I don’t believe it’s Christianity at all.

What kind of Christianity can it be that leaves out Jesus, the Gospels and the Cross?

However, no matter how broad our call, we are also tasked with living out our faith by the decisions we make when we go to the polls and cast our votes. We do this not as a substitute for following Christ day by day, but as part of it.

Clearly, the one issue that threatens my Church, which is the Catholic Church, above all others is the HHS Mandate. I would argue that this Mandate threatens not only Catholics, but all churches. I would follow that argument with another; that the HHS Mandate threatens not just religious people, but secularists, as well.

The HHS Mandate is a broadside fired straight through the First Amendment. The First Amendment not only protects the right of religious people and churches to practice their faith without government interference, it also protects the rights of those who are not religious to ignore and argue against faith without religious interference.

The First Amendment is a wall built around individual conscience and freedom of belief which has allowed us to believe and not believe in harmony with one another for over 200 years. It’s ironic that the forces which seek to tear down this wall are the ones who benefit from it the most.

Atheists are fond of pointing to the excesses of religious practice in the hands of fallen people, even while they seek to practice those same excesses themselves in their attacks on religious faith. What they leave out of their calculations is that the same First Amendment they are working so hard to turn into an instrument of oppression can, once it is fashioned, become an instrument to be used against them.

We live in a time when political activists have become so enamored with their various visions of a brave new tomorrow that they seek to abandon the basic freedoms of speech and religion on which they base their own claims. They would deny those who disagree with them the same freedoms of self-expression and right to organize that they used in their own march to a successful presentation of their arguments.

Thus we have laws and campus rules that deny Christian clubs the right to organize on college campuses because they require their members to express a commitment to traditional Christian principles. The argument is simple: Those principles are opposed to views that other people want to further, in particular same-sex marriage and abortion. So, the clubs must either bend to those views or disband.

All these acts of religious oppression were forerunners and foundation builders for the HHS Mandate. They created a large group of people who have been taught to hate Christianity and Christians so much that they are willing to toss away their own freedoms, if those freedoms also protect the rights of Christians. When these people were presented with the HHS Mandate, they rallied around it in a knee-jerk, hating-Catholics-is-cool reaction.

That leads us back to the question of our votes in two weeks. There is no single issue that, to my mind, trumps the HHS Mandate. I view it as one of the most serious challenges to our Constitutional government since the Civil War.

All this is not to say that we should abandon every other issue and ignore whole chapters of the Gospels in order to fit our faith to political party dictates. Whoever wins this election, Christians are in for a real fight. Political candidates who patronize Christians in order to co-opt them are just as dangerous to our faith as those who attack us outright.

My hope is that no matter how this election turns out, Christians will awaken to the threat the HHS Mandate represents and realize that, even if it should be overturned in the future, it still represents a current threat.

To continue with my use of nautical terms, the hull has been breached. Simply rescinding this mandate does not change the fact that government has stepped over this line. It most certainly will happen again. We can not trust our freedoms to electoral whim, nor can we vest our defense of them in politicians.

We must begin, as Christian people, to take on the responsibility of standing up for our faith ourselves. Every time we have acceded to a diminishment of our rights, we have been faced with another, more extreme, demand that we accede further.

Catholicism is a comprehensive approach to the Gospels. If we are to be true to our Catholic faith, we must work to bring the Kingdom  by our faithful attempts to follow the whole Gospels. The reason why is simple: Jesus doesn’t ask for what’s left over after we give ourselves to everything else first. He wants all of us.

 
Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.


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