I’m sure you’ve heard, on at least a few occasions, that if one particular political party is elected to the presidency of our country our religious freedoms will be taken away. Lock, stock, and barrel. I find myself constantly conversing with the television these days and asking (admittedly sometimes yelling!) “WHO’S religious freedom are you talking about? Mine too?” The truth that I know is that genuine religious freedom is the right each of us has to make our own moral decisions about our lives. Religious freedom is also the right to not have others’ beliefs forced upon us. Sure doesn’t seem as if the truth I know is what some politicians have in mind. And as an atheist I might actually agree that if one particular party (or specific candidate) is elected to the presidency my religious freedom will be taken away! To say I’m feeling a little anxious about all of this would be an understatement.
Woven together with religious freedom are social issues like reproductive healthcare; an issue that intersects with yet other issues like poverty, immigration, education, and even our increasingly fragile environment. But we can’t even begin to talk about justice and freedom without considering oppression. It’s oppression that is tied directly to religious freedom. I abide by author Iris Marion Young’s description found in her book Five Faces of Oppression:“… oppression is when people reduce the potential for other people to be fully human. People should be free to pursue life plans in their own way. Oppressive forces seek to diminish those plans and thus those people as well.” Oppressive forces. Hmmmm.
Consider the American revolution (especially since another political candidate likes to talk about the need for a revolution) and the fiercest of those revolutionaries. They were religious dissenters! John Adams is said to have viewed the American Revolution as war with the established church. In fact, I read somewhere that the most remarkable thing about the American Revolution is that while passionate religion was at the core, it wound up giving us freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Now that’s the truth I’m talking about!
Today, in 2016, we don’t face the threat of an established church. At least I don’t think so. But we do face an ongoing and brutal struggle with those who treat freedom of religion as the opportunity to impose their religious tenets on the rest of us. Again, “WHO’S religious freedom are you talking about?”.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed by the nauseating political rhetoric and frustrating situation that I find our country in, I think about what it is that I can do aside from wringing my hands and yelling at the television. I can use my voice, my source of power, to continue questioning the status quo and take a stand against oppressive forces that seek to diminish a person’s potential. I can do it through organizational efforts, emails, letters, and conversations. I’ll do it for the Hispanic grandmother who brings her 14 year old granddaughter to the women’s clinic in New Jersey, and does her best to shield her from the protestors who try to block the entrance to the clinic and yell “you’re a murderer and you’re gonna burn in hell”. I’ll do it for my LGBTQ sisters and brothers still fighting, even after it seems so much progress has been made, for equality. I’ll do it for the immigrant children crossing borders with their desperate families and those crossing alone. I’ll do it for all those who are oppressed and all those who would be treated as less than worthy.
Religious liberty for all means for ALL , including this atheist right here. Make no mistake, the very future of our freedom, and the destiny of our nation, is at stake. Now I know it’s not Sunday, but hey, you may be able to take the preacher out of the pulpit but do not expect to take the passion of the pulpit out of the preacher!
Shalom, Salaam, Amen, Blessed Be, and to each and all, Namaste.
I had hoped to post once a week, and did for a short time. Unfortunately, my doctorate research and other obligations have taken priority over the blog. BUT, I will return soon! Some postings may be articles I've written for publication, messages I've delivered in congregational settings, or excerpts from papers written in my doctoral classes.