RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE? - Many Christians are mightily agrieved when their right to practice religion as they see fit is questioned. From the looks of the Air Force Academy's newly installed "earth-centered religious prayer circle" some of them missed Sunday school when they covered "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".
Self Disclosure: I am an atheist and neither condemn nor support the Air Force Academy‘s action. I just find it interesting.
The Air Force Academy recently provided a worship area for Pagans, Wiccans, Druids, and other Earth-centered religions and the event passed surprisingly quietly given the religious culture wars of our times. Atheists didn’t denounce it as a dagger to the heart of separation of church and state. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly didn’t say that allowing Druids to celebrate evergreens was an assault on Christmas. Heck, even Pat Robertson hasn’t claimed blizzards in Colorado Springs are a punishment from God…yet.
Still, there’s always one in the crowd.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church, said, “to construct an outdoor space for the worship of pagan deities is an open invitation for God to send His harshest judgments against our nation.”
Jeffress’s main beef seems to be that the alternative worship area is a clear and present danger to “our nation” because it promotes idolatry.
“God has judged idolatry in the past through military invasions, earthquakes, a flood, and a mixture of fire and brimstone,” Jeffress warns. I partially agree. Different beliefs in different Gods has been a major burr in humanity’s backside for eons. Jeffress goes on, “The book of Revelation prophesies that God will employ the same agents of His wrath during the final seven years of earth’s history. There is no reason to think God is on hiatus during this present age.”
He’s quite right that the first commandment from (his Christian) God is, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” But, the Pastor’s biblical references may have more holes that the theory of Creationism.
Using biblical quotes to support his argument is about as useful to people who don’t believe the bible as saying “thou shalt not sin because the phone book says so.” Whether he thinks so or not, many people deeply believe there are other Gods, no Gods, or just don’t care about it one way or another and would appreciate it if he not diss their beliefs just as others shalt not diss his.
Jeffress argues the Constitution says nothing about all religions being treated equally, but notions of equality have been benchmarks of the courts’ interpretations in recent history (not withstanding his citing of judicial opinions from the early 1800s). His contention is that if the Bible says it and the Constitution doesn’t, then the Academy is under no obligation to provide a place of worship. He’d be right, although others might argue they don’t have to provide a Christian church either and if the Constitution isn’t about fostering equality, what is it about?
Although Jeffress denounced Pat Robertson’s claim that the Haitian earthquake was God’s punishment for alleged voodoo incidents in their past, he changes logical horses in mid-stream to believe, “…without hesitation that any nation that officially embraces idolatry is openly inviting God’s wrath.”
Ow! Mental whiplash!
The well-meaning Jeffress seems to fear another terrorist attack and advises, “this would be a good time to seek God’s protection rather than kindle His anger.”
So, does that mean Jeffress will refuse the protection of a Pagan Air Force Academy-trained pilot fighting off a terrorist attack because the pilot had angered Jeffress’s God?