It’s apparent that most conservative Christians don’t understand the Constitution. Either that, or they intentionally distort the intent of the founders of our nation in order to push the agenda that suits their warped world view. Long ago, conservative Christian leadership, both religious and political, took control of the narrative on freedom. They misrepresented the intent of the founders and melted down the Constitution and Bill of Rights, poured it into the chalice of their interpretation of scripture, and distributed this unholy amalgamous concoction like communion wine to the masses until it hardened in the hearts of millions. Fast forward to 2016 and we end up with an unthinkable result: President Donald Trump.
Since that time, many of the more free-thinking Christians have separated themselves from the traditional mindset of conservative evangelical Christianity. But a frighteningly large number of people remain all-in despite the obviously anti-Christian nature of Trump’s presidency. Such is the power of that devilish elixir created so long ago. To my way of thinking, the fulcrum of this whole issue is the idea of equal rights and freedom as spelled out in the Constitution. The tipping point where conservative Christianity is concerned was the successful effort, despite mounds of evidence to the contrary, to convince conservative Christians that our founders wrote the Constitution,—the bedrock foundation of our freedoms—as a Christian document. This belief is used as justification for the denial of freedoms to millions of non-Christians and Christ-followers who don’t fit the traditional conservative Christian mold.
There is great irony in this story because, despite what conservative Christians like to think, the majority of our most important founders were, by today’s standards, not even remotely conservative Christians by any stretch of the imagination. They had been greatly influenced by Enlightenment philosophies and, though many maintained some Christian loyalties, they’d be more accurately labeled deists than Christians. Of all the most crucially important founders, John Adams may have been the closest thing to a conservative Christian, yet here is what he had to say about the founding of our nation, regarding Christianity:
“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Our Bill of Rights makes it very clear–or should–that Christians have only the same freedoms as any other citizens of this country, no more and no less. But despite all the undeniable proof of this, the most conservative of Christians won’t hear of it. They hear distorted messages preached from the pulpits of their churches. They seek out bias-confirming propaganda from their chosen “news” sources. They post memes on social media claiming some special birthright as the chosen people of a Christian nation. Conservative Christian political leaders use their positions as bully pulpits to reinforce their messages deeply rooted in bigotry, fear, and hate, all in the name of God. The inclusive and loving message of Christ is, at best, an afterthought.In order to stir up their conservative Christian support base, these charlatan political leaders convince their minions that it is they who are being persecuted, that it is they who are having rights and freedoms removed. This is such a false premise but it is thrown out to the angry masses like a side of beef to a pack of hungry wolves and devoured with lustful abandon. This evil protein sustains bigotry. At the center of this assembly line of deceit is the notion that to allow others their freedoms is to give up your own freedoms. It’s hogwash but it is one of the staples of conservative Christianity.
Freedom is not a zero-sum game. Equality is not mutually exclusive. If you fail to understand this concept, you fail to understand America. Yet, millions of conservative Christians find themselves in this very predicament and, unfortunately, their predicament has led to our national embarrassment as President Trump continues to deface and vandalize our Constitution.
The real irony is that Christians should be among the first to grasp this concept. Freedom is like grace in that it is offered equally to all. Conservative Christians are quick to accept grace but slow to extend freedom to people of whose actions they don’t approve.
Conservative Christian, this is the thing you just don’t seem to get: nobody is taking away your freedom to worship and believe the way you see fit. That’s just not happening. You feel like it is happening because you misconstrue how freedom is supposed to work in this country. When people you see as living outside your concept faith and morals are provided the same freedoms you have, it feels to you as if you’ve had your own freedoms violated. In fact, your freedoms have not been touched. You can still disapprove of others, if that is your wont. You can even judge them, though the Bible warns you about that. What you can’t do is claim that you’ve been wronged in the process of allowing others their freedom.
There is an old saying in Constitutional law that sums this up nicely. It goes something like this: your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of someone else’s nose. That’s it in a nutshell, conservative Christian. Nobody is taking away any freedoms you have. What feels to you like a freedom being denied to you was never a freedom in the first place. You never had the right to deny others their freedoms.
If you ever get to the point where you understand this, maybe we can move forward in this nation and finally make it as great as it was intended to be.
Note: This post was born of a song I wrote last night. I’m posting a link to that song with the lyrics below.