Note on New Zealand and Religious Freedom

Note on New Zealand and Religious Freedom March 18, 2019

I, unfortunately, wrote about New Zealand just days prior to the horrific attack.

For those who read that article after the attacks, my article surely sounds tone deaf.

In it, I spoke about the irresponsible way that New Zealand’s prime minister had spoken about my faith. But these issues are very minor in comparison to the hatreds that stoked the shooter.

There is no place for the kind of hatred on display there.

There are those who have confused my support for faith in general, and my faith specifically, as support for right-wing extremism, nationalism, or white supremacy. They are wrong.

I condemn these attacks and the ideologies that led to it.

And no one should justify or rationalize the hatred that led to them. I’m concerned that anyone would read what I’ve written and conclude I would say anything else. I would not have written about those relatively minor issues, if I had known the context they would soon take on.

One of the primary purposes of this blog is to call out divisiveness and hatred. Ordinarily, my sights are trained on those who target my faith, since that is my area of focus and influence.

But the principle remains steadfast.

As Latter-day Saints, we are fortunate to have religious pluralism baked into the very foundation of our faith. It is a motto we would do well to remember:

“We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

And our Prophet has recently given an example in meeting with Pope Francis. He wrote:

“The differences in doctrine are real, They are important. But they are not nearly as important as things we have in common—our concern for human suffering, our desire for and the importance of religious liberty for all of society, and the importance of building bridges of friendship instead of building walls of segregation.”

On this occasion, we should each take the opportunity to stand up for religious freedom. To stand up for those who were gunned down merely because of the way and place they worshiped.

There are Latter-day Saints like my fellow Patheos blogger Dan Peterson who have been steadfast in defending Muslims and their right to worship. But there are others who continue to pedal in conspiracy theories, and purposeful misreadings of their scripture. They have contributed to the culture that made a massacre like this possible.

Knock it off.

Treat them with the same understanding and perspective we expect others to treat us with.

Latter-day Saints have a millennial vision of a future of religious peace. It is the future prophesied by Micah, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares . . . nation shall not lift up a sword against nation . . . For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.”

One of the primary missions of Latter-day Saints is to work toward this future. This attack should be a warning call that we are not doing good enough yet.

My prayers this weekend were with the people of New Zealand. They were with those of the Islamic faith I know and love, many of whom feel scared.

I’m going to do my part to make sure they never feel this way again. I hope you’ll join me.

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