I hear things often about how there should be a separation of church and state, meaning that religion needs to stay out of public life. How it has no place in politics, education or the marketplace. At the same time, religion is a key driving factor in one of the fastest growing demographics in this country, the Muslim population. In light of what has, is and will happen in this country, we need to look at what the separation of Church and state is, what the first amendment really says and how it is supposed to function.
First, we need to remember our foundation. Many of those who came to this country from England did so to escape religious intolerance. They were called Separatist (not the Star Wars kind) and they had no desire to be part of the Anglican church. They were Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, Puritans, Brethren and others. They came to this country to escape the persecution that was happening, as a result, the freedom of worship was important to them. They wanted those who lived in this country to be free from the fear of prison for worship. This is why they wrote the first amendment, that Congress shall pass no law concerning the establishment of religion and the free practice thereof. The separation of church and state means that the state would not establish a church, we will have no national religion, no denomination that is the state denomination, like The Church of England. No one would be forced to serve the church by the country.
Now today, we have moved to have freedom of religion, there is an organization promoting the freedom from religion. This is impossible since Christianity has shaped Western society. The whole idea of a weekend, the Gregorian calendar, the university, even democracy has roots in Judeo-Christian heritage. You can't escape religion, and you shouldn't try, even if you don't believe in an organized faith, you have to respect the American right to worship as you choose. You have the right and the freedom to worship Jesus, Mohammad, Budha or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You just do, it's a right. Individuals have a right to express that right in word and deed, as long as it does not infringe on the freedom of another. I can pray for you, I can pray in public, I can read my Bible, I can preach and teach, but I can't force you to read my Bible, pray with me or even listen to me preach. It's a fundamental right of every American.
As Christians (this is a Christian blog, so if you don't want the Christian perspective, you found the wrong place), we need to be aware of where we came from and what our obligation is. We are living in a mission field. America's Christian roots are growing short and the number of those not involved in a church is growing. The number of churches that have left Biblical teaching and embracing popular culture instead of Biblical truth is growing. Many mainline churches are leaving the truth of the Bible for what is popular, either liberal theology or the Word of Faith movement which much of it has turned away from truth in the pursuit of wealth and prestige. To stand on Biblical truth is not as popular and seldom see, unfortunately. We live in a time that American is more openly hostile to Christianity. It's ok to condemn the entire Church because some have acted hatefully, and what use to be considered wrong and immoral is not paraded as "normal". If you stand on Biblical truth and call for things like sex only inside of a marriage relationship between a man and a woman where children are raised in healthy, two-parent households, you will get slapped with all sorts of labels. The culture thinks that's an outdated idea, I think truth is truth.
The culture may be against us, but there is something we have done a poor job at and we need to double down on. Religious freedom, not for us, but for others. I hear too many Christians saying that Muslims need to abandon their faith. I see posts all the time that Muslim women need to abandon the hijab. We cannot expect the world to give us religious freedom and attempt to subvert the religious freedom on another. It's true that some in the Muslim world don't believe that we should have religious freedom, that we should convert to Islam or pay the consequences. That doesn't matter, they are not the standard. The atheist who thinks that Christians should be locked into mental institutions, the Muslim that thinks Christians should be beheaded, the liberal who thinks we are to keep silent and fall in line, none of them are the standard. We need to stand for truth and for the freedom that we have.
Here is my thought. First, we need to support the rights of the Islamic community, the Jewish Community, the Buddhist community and others that are not Christian to freely exercise their religious freedom. We don't need to join them, we don't need to participate, we can tell them about Jesus and pray for their salvation (we can and we should), but we need to respect their freedom in America to be Americans and be free. Religious freedom is a fundamental right, and while we can have discussion and debate about truth, at the end of the day we need to respect their rights.
If we are going to make an impact in our society, we will need to do it with love, respect and understanding. We need to share our faith, respect others and love them like Christ did. We can speak the truth without attempting to suppress the freedom of others. In this country, you can be Christian, Muslim, Atheist, straight, gay, transgender and even claim all of the above at any given time. We don't need to figure it out or understand it, but we need to show respect and love and understanding. Remember, we are sent to preach the truth, not destroy the unbeliever, that isn't what Jesus teaches, regardless of what any one else does. Our standard calls us to respect.
Dan Barnes is passionate about helping people connect with a ministry that really brings them closer to God, and do it successfully. You can follow him at http://jdanbarnes.blogspot.com/