Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
America’s politicians are engaged in internecine warfare, but there is a far larger and equally destructive religious war going on. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction in religion. Christians build ostentatious monuments to the Ten Commandments so Satanists want their due. If the Christians and Satanists get their statues the Hindus and Atheists want theirs.
This tit for tat generally infuriates Christians, particularly evangelicals, because they see it as an innocent act that no one should object to. After all, the vast majority of Americans are Christians and most evangelicals see their place as an unquestionable birthright. Non-Christians think this is an improper and illegal affront to their views. They both have points.
Non-Christians are familiar with being a religious minority. They see it daily on their money and in their Pledge of Allegiance. Bibles are the swear-stones of every court and if left to Christians’ devices, they’d see the Ten Commandments pasted to every flat surface available. In a daily sense, their comfort zone is very small and not very comfortable…by default.
Let’s forget that the Constitution says, “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” and not “Christians can establish any religious beliefs they choose and exercise them as they see fit so everyone else can suck it.”
Let’s Forget Non-Christians are Devils
Let’s forget “majority rules”, “the Bible says so“, non-Christians are devils, and that many minority Christians like gays should get just as few rights as the heathen. Those are all spurious arguments not supported by anything, including the inconsistent Bible.
Christians let me invite you out of your comfort zones.
Imagine you live in a country where the majority religion is Islam. As you say, Islamic countries routinely oppress Christians for simply believing in a different deity.
You still have the same fervor for your Bible and the Ten Commandments. God has told you to raise a huge stone representation of the Ten Commandments in the center of Islamabad’s main town square.
Now let’s imagine you’ve beautifully carved your stone masterpiece and take it to the square. You remove it from your truck and before you get the tailgate down the police show up. Needless to say, their reaction is, well, reactionary. They will pull out their long wooden truncheons and savagely beat you. If you are lucky, they won’t beat you to death and you’ll end up in front of a Sharia court that will sentence you to a long stay in prison making little rocks out of big rocks.
Christians criticize this treatment vociferously, as they should. Whether one person believes in a minority God is no cause to smite them. It is no cause to deprive them of their human rights or banish them from public areas. Quite simply it is wrong, but anyone’s holy book.
Luckily, Christians deserve and get better treatment than this in America. When they want to place the 10 Commandments in a public square here the most oppression they face is the threat of a legal challenge. More often than not, they’ll get permission to place their statue exactly where they want.
Muslims are the new American majority. You still want to build your monument for the glorification of your God. So, you show up at the statehouse and start to put up The Big Ten right next to a spanking new statue glorifying the Quran. The Muslim majority reacts in much the same way Christians normally react now.
Muslims don’t believe in Jesus. They think he is a poseur. They find your prophet offensive and balk at letting you into the public square. Besides, the Hindus and Satanists and Atheists, along with 50 other religions, want to put up their statues and the state is hard pressed to crowd them in next to Oklahoma’s famous statehouse oil well.
But these are unusually tolerant Muslims. They don’t beat you. They explain it doesn’t matter what the American Constitution says, they aren’t going to approve your statue because, well, they are the majority and the Quran says that’s how you treat infidels. They think you’re a bit daft for not believing in Allah and cannot comprehend why you don’t want to abdicate a strong guiding principle in your life to join them for some grapes peeled by 72 nubile virgins, provided you are male, the deal for women is substantially less attractive. They explain you will burn in the fires of Jahannam and you shamefully degrade the Muslim values that hold America together.
If you have truly stepped into another’s shoes this will feel frustrating, angering, degrading, and a repudiation of you as an American. It doesn’t matter that you served your country or led a life of charity and devotion. You can never elevate yourself to a true American unless you capitulate, join the Borg as the kids say.
You may ask if I’ve ever tried this experiment. Yes, every time there is a secular-on-non-secular battle. Sometimes I understand and agree with the Christian point of view. Sometimes secularists complain about the most infuriating minutiae. Some of them are hostile to Christian beliefs and may believe that religion as an institution is a danger to society, the converse of the belief that Christianity is the only way to save the world.
But more often, I find myself pondering the Christian view that in a pluralistic society Christianity is the only way to do anything from draw up a budget to deciding what science really is. I find it unfathomable that Christians can behave in the most unchristian of ways while simultaneously proclaiming their sect the only true believers. I struggle with the idea that Christians are the loudest to proclaim the pretzeling of the Constitution while doing exactly what the Constitution forbids.
I don’t hate Christians. I don’t even hate their sins, but love them as sinners. I don’t believe they have sinned. They are a majority with no check. They have an overwhelming monopoly on power and understandably are reluctant to part with it, just as the gridlocked Congress everyone hates does the same thing.
For as complex as this issue is it is remarkably easy to resolve with a little tolerance and common sense. Christians, as much as you believe otherwise, it’s not your statue of the Ten Commandments others object to in the main. They object to crowding out other beliefs on public property that you, above all others, have laid claim to. The statehouse lawn is not “yours” it is “ours”, all of us.
Everyone else wants to exercise their rights in exactly the way as Christians. The Constitution already sets that path forward and as a nation we need to follow the wisdom of that path.
The government is a secular institution. The framers created it that way regardless of whether a majority of them were Christian or not (they weren’t). You may not believe or want that to be true, but you don’t make the rules and in a secular state, neither does any God.
There course is clear and the solution is so obvious no one discusses it. Everyone simply go back to your corners — literally.
If you want a statue of Ten Commandments, place it on the church lawn, not in the town square. If you don’t like to say Happy Holidays, don’t, and more importantly don’t take it as an affront or trying to steal a random date on a calender. If you want a nativity, put it up next to your Ten Commandments. If you want a Festivus pole made from beer cans, the world’s ugliest Atheist bench, or a Buddha with a belly big enough for thousands to rub, put it on your own hallowed ground. That is the most sacred of places and the place where it will mean the most.
Let’s just this once, all of us from Druids to the followers of Xenu, follow a core Christian principle — charity to all mankind. Open your hearts to the goodness of humans and leave them to practice whatever they believe. It will make everyone stronger.
In short, become a Christian in new shoes for the day.