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Your Religion Does Not Give You the Right to Dictate How Others Live

By on July 2, 2015 0 306 Views

Someone recently sent me a friend request on Facebook. His profile picture had a red and white cross overlaid on his face, and all his posts were scripture from Leviticus, Corinthians, Revelations and more. Real fire and brimstone stuff.

Meanwhile, my avatar has a rainbow, and my religion is listed as Jedi.  

My only thought as to why this person wanted to friend me was to argue with me about how my beliefs differ from his. I have no desire to do that.

I figured that his cross avatar was a reaction to the recent SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, as was my own avatar. Mine, of course, was a celebratory expression of my pro-gay marriage stance. The cross, according to a Google search, was anti-gay marriage.

I have noticed across all social media platforms that many religious people have been losing their minds over the ruling and using such avatars to let the world know their views. However, I don’t really understand why they care so much.

I get that some of their doctrine implies that being gay is a sin and that their definition of marriage is between a man and woman, but that’s just the thing—that’s their belief system, their definition. That is not my definition, nor is it the government’s definition.

What I don’t understand is why they feel the need to impose their beliefs on an entire country, many of whose people don’t share their beliefs. What gives them the right to tell others how to live? I don’t tell people how they should live. Frankly, I don’t care what other people believe so long as it does not affect me in any way.

You could believe that magical fairy unicorns exist so long as you don’t tell me I have to believe they exist as well. Moreover, my not believing in magical fairy unicorns does not affect your life at all.

So why do they feel the need to control others? 

After the ruling, I’ve watched as some friends, relatives, and strangers have seemed to grapple with their faith and/or pronounce their renewed faith despite it all. Since I don’t share their beliefs, their struggle confuses me. Why would a SCOTUS ruling shake their foundations so profoundly?

Could it be that deep down they are beginning to have doubts? Could it be that in our social media lives they are seeing people they love and respect stand up for gay rights, thus forcing them to question their own stance? I can only hope.

In an attempt to better understand their views, I searched Google with the words “religious people losing their minds over gay marriage.” The results were enlightening…

First up was “A Sampling of Conservatives’ Responses to the Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Ruling” on Patheos.com, in which Lauren Nelson wrote, “On a day like today, where the courts just made it so that such bigotry cannot infiltrate the legal system in a deliberate conflation of church and state, these tears of white hot rage are as delicious as they are hilarious.” Then came right-wing quotes taken from various social media platforms that, while eliciting a sort of schadenfreude, belie the sinister underbelly of the religious right. 

They care not for separation of church and state, a fundamental aspect of our government. Clearly. They want to turn America into a Christian tyranny where their values trump all others. It’s frightening, really.

Other search results yielded quite a different position, namely in an article from Time.com. In “Now’s the Time to End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions”, Mark Oppenheimer argued, “Rather than try to rescue tax-exempt status for organizations that dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality, we need to take a more radical step. It’s time to abolish, or greatly diminish, their tax-exempt statuses.”

I can’t say I disagree. If a tax-exempt religious institution attempts to use its power to affect government policy, then it shouldn’t be tax-exempt. But taxes are only the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath is, once again, religion and churches attempting to sway the U.S. government to enforce their own beliefs.

Perhaps threatening to tax them will curb their attempts, but I doubt it.

A third result led me to Christianpost.com’s “Bishop T. D. Jakes Addresses Supreme Court Gay Marriage Decision: ‘We Shouldn’t Lose Our Minds Over the World Being the World,’” wherein Nicola Menzie quoted Jakes from an online video: 

“I’m not really as concerned about this as a lot of people are… The world is gonna be the world and the church is gonna be the church, and you have to understand the difference… The Supreme Court is there to make a decision based on constitutional rights and legalities that fit all Americans. They are not debating scripture.”

So far this is the healthiest reaction I’ve read. Pastor Jakes truly gets it. The world is the world and the church is the church. Separate. If only more Christians could follow in his footsteps and understand that their beliefs are merely that—their beliefs. And that the rest of the world, the rest of America, is entitled to believe—or not believe—in anything they want.

Meanwhile, they’d be wise to understand that under our government, being as it currently is, all Americans can and should be afforded equal rights, and that each of us having equal rights in the eyes of the law does not infringe upon their freedom of religion.

Then again, Christians have been trying to insert their will into the Constitution since 1793, five years after it was ratified…

In Alternet.org’s “5 Reasons America Is Not—And Has Never Been—A Christian Nation”, Rob Boston wrote that in 1793 “The Reverend John J. Mason of New York…called the lack of references to God and Christianity ‘an omission which no pretext whatever can palliate.’”

The Constitution was attacked again in 1811 by Reverend Samuel Austin for being “entirely disconnected from Christianity,” and again “in 1845, the Reverend D. X. Junkin wrote, ‘[The Constitution] is negatively atheistical, for no God is appealed to at all.’”

Thus, since the dawn of the Constitution it has been known that our government is secular, yet it has been challenged by Christians for being so.

The article goes on to discuss that the Christian Nation myth did not stem from the founding of our nation, but rather was a post Civil War development: “The post Civil War era was also a period of great social upheaval. The end of slavery in the South created dislocation and confusion, which left people grasping for answers in the chaos. Other social changes loomed. Late in the century, women began advocating for the right to vote. Not surprisingly, some people reacted to these changes by latching onto reactionary religious views.”

Sounds incredibly reminiscent of the times in which we currently live. As American society shifts more toward equal rights for all (and hopefully equal pay, too) those dwindling few who oppose such liberal changes grasp onto “reactionary religious views.” These views do not match the majority’s. They are not a reflection of modern America. They are a vestige of a past best left behind.

Boston wrote further, “Despite the social unrest; in many ways this period of history is the religious Right’s ideal society. Think about it: public schools were pushing conservative forms of Protestantism. Religiously based censorship was common. All people were required to abide by a set of laws based on Christian principles, with the government playing the role of theological enforcer. Significantly, this was also a time of rigidly enforced gender roles and official policies of racial segregation.”

What is an “ideal society” for some sounds like a torturous hell to most of us. Thankfully, our society of today has made an almost 180-degree turn away from this old worldview, wherein the religious right held our otherwise secular government hostage, and worked to inflict their beliefs upon us all. No wonder Christians are so reactionary. They have been used to getting their way since the Civil War, despite it being unconstitutional.

No wonder we see cases of small but loud fringe groups waving Confederate flags or advocating men’s rights or lobbying for policy with religious rules. They are a dying breed bellowing their final death rattle as the world around them changes—in my opinion—for the better.

Melissa St. Hilaire
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