Monday, October 03, 2005

The Free Exercise Thereof

I am a Christian. Admittedly, I am not a good Christian, and I am not particuarly religious. But religion and Christianity, in spite of what many people think, are not synonymous.

One can usually tell if someone is Christian by their use or misuse of the two terms. Generally, when someone uses the generic term, "religion" in place of the more accurate term "Christianity", it is because they don't understand the difference. Someone who doesn't know the difference is usually not a Christian.

I am offended when someone who claims to be a Christian defends the efforts of those who seek to eradicate Christianity and the free exercise thereof from America under the guise of protecting free speech.

Common sense tells us that our right to free speech ends when that same right infringes on the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of others, for instance, the oft stated example of shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is no fire.

That is essentially what happens when the government is allowed to strip Christians of their right to freely exercise their religion.

Conversely, the same can arguably be said about those who would thrust their beliefs upon others. Therefore, the Christian must be mindful of where the proverbial line is drawn, and try to avoid crossing.

What these "free speech" advocates don't understand, in my opinion, is that Christians are mandated by God Himself to "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel".

Those who seek to prevent Christians from carrying out that mandate are denying us the 1st amendment right to the free exercise of religion. And at the same time they are seeking to deny us our right to free speech. Jesus did not tell us to preach the gospel everywhere except where the government says we can't. He said "All the world".

That includes government buildings.

Christians are taught that God is the ultimate authority, an authority that even overrides the government.

At this point, someone will invariably bring up the admonition, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's..." I don't have a good answer for that, but I know that Jesus didn't mean they shouldn't preach the gospel just because Rome didn't want them to. Even a cursory examination of the New Testament shows the early Christians defying Rome in order to spread the faith.

So when the ACLU or anyone else says I can't worship as I see fit in any place I see fit, they abridge my right to free exercise of my religion.

And, the way I see it, my right to free speech as well.

I understand the dilemma that it places upon the government. By adhering to the first amendment without regard to any particular group or religion (in the true sense of the word), government violates the very rights they seek to protect.

There are Christian organizations that are actively defending their right to exercise their religion according to their understanding of the first amendment. There are, likewise, non-Christian organizations that are actively seeking to take that right away according to their understanding of the first amendment.

So what should be the tie breaker?

My opinion is that government should seek to understand that Christians are under a higher authority, and because that is a major tenet of their faith, any attempt to abridge their right to the free exercise of that religion is unconstitutional.

After all, Christians don't tie anyone down and force them to listen to us. Anyone who is offended by the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is always free to move themselves out of earshot, and if the Christian who is doing the offending attempts to follow that person, for the purpose of annoying,then the Christian is indeed violating the first amendment.

I believe that Christians should defend their right to practice their religion. We are taught to "turn the other cheek" but that doesn't mean we are supposed to be doormats for any person or group who attempts to shove conflicting ideas down our throats.

No one is saying that the government has the right to tell anyone that they have to worship any religion. We are simply saying the governemnet doesn't have the right to tell us we can't.

As the great Irish philosopher Edmund Burke put it, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

I do not intend to do nothing. I will continue to speak out against injustice in defense of my right to the free exercise of my religion and my right to free speech, even within the hallowed halls of Congress up to and including the White House, if necessary.

I have that right.

44 comments:

Lone Ranger said...

I just wish we could install cameras at the gates of Hell, just like the cameras installed on roller coasters, to catch the surprised looks of people who suddenly realize they were wrong their entire lives. We could then publish those pictures to show these people what's in store for them at the end of their life.

There was a time in my lifetime when Americans weren't that stupid. There was a time in my lifetime when truly great Americans knew that rights descended from God and that no group had the right to take them from us and no government could grant them to us.

Here's one great American who knew the truth and wasn't afraid to express it.

“In this day of gathering storm, as the moral deterioration of political power spreads it growing infection, it is essential that every spiritual force be mobilized to defend and preserve the religious base upon which this nation was founded. For it is that base which has been the motivating impulse to our moral and national growth. History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual reawakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.” – General Douglas MacArthur, December 12, 1951

Erudite Redneck said...

Re, "My opinion is that government should seek to understand that Christians are under a higher authority, and because that is a major tenet of their faith, any attempt to abridge their right to the free exercise of that religion is unconstitutional."

This is so outrageous it makes my head hurt. EVERY religion and faith can make the same claim. I ask again: Do you want the same deference for Islam? For the Taliban? For Hindus? Or do you want the government to maintain a hands-off stance, to protect the free exercise of all religion?

Because if you really believe what you wrote here, then you really do wnat Christianity established as THE religion/official faith in this country. You honestly DO want a theocracy.

And you are precisely the reason the First Amendment is in place. Thank God.


Lone R., I wish the love I had in my heart equaled one-tenth of the hate you seem to have in yours. Anyone who chuckles at the notion of anyone going to hell can't be taken very seriously as a representative of a God who mysteriously sacrificed himself to keep that very thing from happening.

--ER

Erudite Redneck said...

Also, I can't help but be suspect of anyone who uses phrases like "people who claim to be Christians" so frequently.

"Claim" to be. Mark, you "claim" to be a Christian. I "claim" to be a Christian.

Don't you see how you put yourself out to be an authority? I dare say you are an authority on only one thing: Your own faith journey.

You don't know anything about mine that I haven't told you -- and neither of us knows anything about anybody else's unless we've been told.

"Claim" to be a Christian! Mighty arrogant, dude.

--ER

Jaymeister said...

I think Pandora's Box has just been opened. I'm just going to sit back with a bowl of popcorn...

Liam said...

That’s an interesting post Mark. I’m curious about which issues/decisions prompted it, (you seem to have a grouse with the ACLU?) but here are my thoughts anyway…
Anyone who believes that ‘religion’ and ‘Christianity’ are synonymous should be denied their right to vote; they have clearly had either no, or a very limited, education and aren’t qualified to take part in democratic discourse.

You will know from my previous comments on your posts that I don’t believe that the posting of religious texts or iconography is acceptable in government buildings when the government is supposed to be ‘areligous’ (if there is such a word.) But I suspect that that isn’t the thrust of your post. I am quite happy that the guarantees of freedom of speech permit individuals and non-governmental organisations to preach their religion (whatever it may be) in government buildings so long as they do not infringe the rights of those to whom they are preaching.

And that’s where it gets tricky and becomes a judgement call on a case-by-case basis.

I am a bit worried though about your assertions concerning the mandate from God. The Christian God is the ultimate authority for Christians – but as you implicitly pointed out in your opening, the Christian God is not the only deity in circulation. If you assert that a mandate from God allows people to ignore the laws of the land then anarchy will ensue.

The government is required to provide basic protection for the rights of all of its citizens and, as with all things involving human interaction, that involves some amount of compromise by the parties involved. In some cases that will mean that a Christian’s right to worship as they choose may need to be curtailed for the good of the population as a whole, just as I am sure you would agree that the rights of a fanatical Muslim suicide bomber to worship as he or she chooses (i.e. by blowing up innocents) need to be curtailed for the greater good of society.

By all means use every democratic process to ensure your right to worship as you choose, but at the same time recognise that you may not always be granted that right and the decision will have nothing to do with trying to eradicate Christianity.

[Oh and actually, I think Lone Ranger might be half right – if there were cameras at the gates of Hell it would, firstly, prove that the place exists, so unfounded leaps of faith would no longer be required and, secondly, an examination of the pictures would probably indicate which religion’s Hell it was and so give the rest of us a clue which actually is the ‘one true religion’ that so many claim to be…]

Erudite Redneck said...

Liam, I have reason to believe this post was prompted by the past few posts over at my place. (I could be wrong). Please come join us at http://eruditeredneck.blogspot.com
:-)

--ER

jgaoehals14962 said...

Mark,
I love your post and understanding of the mandates we have been given by God. We can expect persecutions when we seek to live out our faith, and we should rejoice when that takes place because we know we are suffering for the name of Christ. He said there would be blessings for such...

ER,
I don't undersand how you get to a theocracy base on what Mark wrote... more explanation would be helpful.

Also, Christ told us we would know a tree by its fruit, therefore, if someone does claim to be a Christian yet does not exhibit the fruit of a Christian, then they are not Christians. Paul told us to excommunicate the man from the body. We are to judge within the body of Christ. Therefore if you are making a claim that you are a Christian, but not living as one, then those within the body are forced to ask the question: are you really?

Not that doubt your faith brother, but I write to remind you that we are to police the body of Christ, for its holiness (See Matthew 18:15-18, Matthew 5, 1 Corinithians 5).

Liam,
I think you are making a bit of a strecth comparing suicide bombers to those who are trying to "preach." One leads to the destruction of life and is murder, the other leads to true life and salvation (yes, I know you reject that claim, but since it is true, I will make it anyway.) Jesus is the living water, and anyone drinks from His will, will never thirst, because eternal life is found there.
God bless

Mark said...

ER, you ask, "Do you want the same deference for Islam? For the Taliban? For Hindus?"

The answer is Yes, as long as their rights do not infringe upon the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Extreme fundamentalists such as suidide Bombers who kill innocent men, women, and children infringe upon other's right to life, and so do Athiests and anyone else that believes it is a right to kill unborn babies through abortion and brain damaged adults through starvation/dehydration.

Their rights end when they take away other's rights.

Mark said...

Simply preaching the gospel is a far cry from killing people in the misguided belief that God wants anyone to take innocent human lives.

Toad734 said...

"Common sense tells us that our right to free speech ends when that same right infringes on the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of others, for instance, the oft stated example of shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is no fire."

I agree with the statement but disagree with your meaning. By saying others rights end when yours become infringed on, now you know where we are coming from. Muslims, Atheists, Mormons, Jews etc don't want to hear your prayers to Jesus at every football came, courthouse, school room etc., nor do they want to walk into a court of law and feel they are being judged based on Christian laws, by Christians instead of US laws by US judges enforcing US law.

For everything you want done in the name of Christianity, replace that with Islam and if you wouldn't agree with that then you know it is unconstitutional.

If you had no problem with the 5 pillars of Islam hanging over you in Judgment in the court of law, if you don't mind stopping 5 times a day so Muslims can pray towards Mecca, if you don't mind adding "One nation under Allah" in the pledge, or adding "In Allah we Trust" on our money then you may have a point. After all, you can always remove yourself from the prayers and the football games; I cannot remove myself from a courtroom that has Jesus Loves Me written on their walls. Or what ever it is they are fighting for these days.

In other words go to any church you like, pray at that church or in your home any time you like, obey the 10 commandments all you want, you are free to do that. That is the freedom the Constitution provides you; not preaching and forcing your faith onto others.

Mormons faith tells them they can have more than one wife but they don't force you to marry 2 women, nor does our government allow them to do that. Rastafarians are allowed to smoke weed in their religion but it is still illegal. Some Muslims think its ok to kill anyone who isn't a Muslim; does that mean the we now have to allow all these groups to freely practice all aspects of their religion? No. As with the Muslims killing “infidels” that is just one interpretation of their text; just as you are interpreting Christianity differently than I or others would. Just because you think Jesus didn’t mean for you to be a doormat, or you think he didn’t really mean for you to turn the other cheek, doesn’t mean you a right. Just because you believe it’s Christians responsibility to convert everyone doesn’t mean that is the case. Your Christianity is different than other peoples Christianity so how do you allow everyone equal access to their version of it in a public or publicly funded setting? These prayers at football games; are they going to be Catholic prayers, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran or Baptist? Are they going to be in Greek, Latin, Spanish or English? Can Jews and Muslims and Hindus then all get a turn at praying after you? Do you have to sit through everyone’s prayer for 6 hours before a game?

I have an idea; let’s skip the middle man; if you want prayers at football games or schools or in courthouses then say a prayer in your car before you go in. That way everyone wins; you get to practice your religion and we get to avoid it. Why do you have to cram it down everyone’s throat?

Besides, it’s a sin to pray in public, Jesus says so:
Matthew 6:5: And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6: But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7: But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8: Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.


If you disobey Jesus you will burn in Hell.

Toad734 said...

Mark:

As far as your responses are concerned:

It interferes with my right to happiness and my right to privacy to have to go anywhere but a Church to hear a sermon or a prayer, or to be reminded about how I am going to Hell if I don't live by the 10 Commandments (which Christians aren't even required to do)or by what Jesus tells me to do. In other words not only does it lend itself to the endorsement of a religion by our government which is unconstitutional but it infringes on my constitutional rights.

Poison Pero said...

I'm religious, though not a Christian (nor Jew, Muslim, etc).....And have no problem with the Christian nature of this country.

On the contrary, I think the Judeo-Christian influences are what have made this such a great country.
--------------
That said, like Jaymeister, I'm sitting this one out............Can't wait to see Press go off. The tenor of his replies is starting to build up already.

Just don't be giving away my title as the "Rightiest of the Right Wing Righties".

Lone Ranger said...

thepress, once again you're being goofy. Why take offense at my opinion that you're on a bobsled to hell when you don't even believe in hell. Please stop the phony outrage that the left so loves. It's so transparent that it's become comical.

William said...

Friends, please do not allow an atheistic agenda to compel the efforts of Christians to subside. No one complains about the Hare Krishnas who are equally if not more adamant about their conversion efforts as Christians. Should this be allowed? Absolutely!

Christians are seen as intolerant bigots due to their exclusivity. But, no one complains about Islam's exlusivity, or even the Hare Krishna's.

It always appears that in America we have the Law vs. Christians.

And thepress, don't be overzealous. No one is asking for a theocracy. We're just asking for civil liberties - you know...the things that the ACLU are supposed to protect.

Liam said...

Mark/Pastor, I wasn’t actually comparing preaching with suicide bombing. The latter was intended as an example of ‘God-mandated’ behaviour which I knew would be unacceptable to all your readers. I guess it serves me right for trying to rush off a thoughtful comment during my lunch hour. Toad has since made the essence of my point somewhat more eloquently, albeit at a slightly higher temperature.

E.R., an Erudite Redneck?? Now that I have to see! ;o) [Although, alas, I have a heavy week this week, so don’t expect me to weigh in on many posts!]

Michael said...

Toad, how do my prayers offend you? If seeing the name of Jesus Christ in print is so offensive, why would you be on this blog? When I pray for someone, it is out of love (Yes, I do pray for you), not intended to offend anyone. Loved the post Mark.

Xena76 said...

Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the rights of Muslims, Hindus etc. are already being protected in this country. Far more so that the rights of Christians. My students must be allowed to leave class any time they want to so that they can go face east to pray. I am not joking, I am perfectly serious. Several "Christian" holidays have been taken out of the schools and new education has taken its place where I am required to teach religions I do not believe in and feel could actually do harm to some of my students. Where are my rights here? I am in no way permitted to teach Christianity, even alongside other religions, for fear someone might be offended. What about my offense? I am not permitted to discuss the beliefs of my religion around religious holidays, but am required to include the discussion of others in my curriculum in the name of "multi-culturalism". It is not that Christians are about to be discriminated against, they already are.

Oh, and Toad, if you are a Christian, you don't go to hell for making a mistake.

tugboatcapn said...

PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CAN WE FIND A NEW TOPIC TO ARGUE ABOUT??!!

I am sick to death of hearing from the other side how the Constitution does not apply to me and people like me.

Mark, they are WRONG.
The Constitution protects Religion, EVEN OURS.

EVEN MINE!!

GIVE IT UP, ALREADY!!

EVERYBODY!!

tugboatcapn said...

I've had it.

I'll see you guys in a few days.

Have fun.

Erudite Redneck said...

Lone Ranger, ha! Bite my Baptist butt. You will not get me with bait that lame.

Until about 1979-1980, my thinking on on all of this was considered mainstream Baptist. Right out of the Baptist Faith and Message.

Mark, here's an example of why your I'm-so-pure-I-won't-delete-personal-attacks-horsecrap will wind you up with nothing but an Amen Chorus here if you're not careful.

Lone, let me put it in redneck: You don't know shit. Not about me. And apparently not about God's grace. I wouldn't wish hell on you like you do others, because it's ... well, it's wrong.

I do wish you this: Serving and cleaning up at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Skin of your teeth, buddy. Skin. Of. Your. Teeth.

--ER

tugboatcapn said...

No, I can't stay out of this...

ER, you don't know Lone Ranger, either.

You don't know if he wishes Hell on anybody, or not.

He made an outrageous statement to make a point. (Not that any of the rest of us are guilty of THAT...)

JUDGE NOT THAT YOU BE NOT JUDGED.

tugboatcapn said...

This is how WARS get started...

Erudite Redneck said...

Tug, this is what the man said:

"Why take offense at my opinion that you're on a bobsled to hell when you don't even believe in hell. Please stop the phony outrage that the left so loves. It's so transparent that it's become comical."

This IS how wars get started: By some pretender to faith in a masquerade for purely partisan purposes.

I'd better leave now before I sin in my heart further.

--ER

Mark said...

Ok, Ok, the point of my blog post is this:

There are organizations (ACLU, Americans for Separation of Church and State etc.)that try to say Christianity should not be practiced anywhere except the home and the church, which is contrary to Jesus' teaching, that we "Go into all the world."

If Christians do that, we are violating our allegiance to God, Who takes precedence over the State.

One "cannot serve two masters, either he will hate one and love the other or love one and hate the other."

Bible believing Christians know that God is the ultimate authority, therefore, any law that makes it illegal to freely practice Christianity creates a moral dilemma, which no Christian who sincerely wishes to follow Christ can accept. Whether the constitution tells me I can worship God according to my beliefs or if it doesn't, I am supposed to follow Christ.

There is no need for anyone who comments here to be abusive or insulting to each other. It is a volatile issue and one which I feel very strongly about, but we can all still discuss it civily and respectfully, as I hope you have all noticed that I do.

Translation: No more name calling and insults. No one here has any right to question the faith of anyone else. That is the responsiblity of God, not man. He will seperate the wheat from the chaff.

Mark said...

Oh and Toad, there is only one unpardonable sin, and that is the sin of rejecting Christ, but fortunately for all of us, you have until your last living minute to repent and be forgiven to escape Hell. I would strongly suggest you do that sometime before you die.

tugboatcapn said...

The voice of reason.

Thank you Mark.

I apologize for losing my cool.

tugboatcapn said...

Now.

How about them Falcons??

Mark said...

Don't EVEN mention the Chiefs. I don't want to endure anymore abuse tonight. LOL

Mark said...

Ha! I can't stop! I'm addicted!

ER, you said, "I do wish you this: Serving and cleaning up at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb."

I know you weren't addressing me but here is what I say to that:

Better to serve in Heaven than to reign in Hell.

tugboatcapn said...

At least you aren't a Vikings fan...

Erudite Redneck said...

Both of my sets of Cowboys (O-State and Dallas) got whompled. ... Forgot to read the fine print to see how my old high school fared. ... At leas my Central Oklahoma Bronchos won their homecoming.

Got one more thing to say: HOOK 'Em Horns!

--ER

Erudite Redneck said...

I know none of y'al care but:

http://www.ousucks.com/

:-)

--ER

Goat said...

God is great
God is good'
Though my right to stand is good so is the one who has misunderstood.
That said learn how to debate an idiot with questions by turning their questions against them.The Press would be eaten alive at some of the boards and blogs I post to.Questions not replys are the best wat to burn a troll.I am called Goat Gruff for a reason as a survivor of many such attacks by liberal dish rags on varios sites.Hey Mark,I bet we have seen these same folks under other names at other sites.They have the right to spout all they want,we also have the right to make them appear as the fools they are. Oh, and great post. I run The Barnyard, Mark has me on his side bar.

Mark said...

ThePress, or ER, as I call him, is a respected friend of mine. We rarely see eye to eye, but we are respectful to each other and I would ask all others to be the same way. Thank you.

Fitch said...

Unfortunately, God in his nonexistence, chose to give me free will, and an absolute intolerance for being given ultimatums, one of the primary reasons I will never accept Christianity is that it claims to be correct. Believe, or else. When given such an option, I always choose, "or else." I will never accept ANY religion that claims to be the correct one, even if I did ease up on being so certain that there's no "God" to begin with.

Toad734 said...

Michael:

Your prayers don't offend me when they are said in your church or in your house to yourself.

They offend me when it’s in my face in public in front of me.

What you are saying could be used as an argument for 2 gay guys who want to have ass sex in public. You have the option of not watching don't you? Or maybe that is a private thing that is no one else’s business and should be confined to the privacy of ones home.

Mark:

I think I'll manage not repenting. What you don't understand is that only religious people who believe in God can be sinners. It's the same difference between alcoholics and drunks; drunks don't have to go to all those meetings.

By the way the Colts are 4-0

Erudite Redneck said...

Re, "The Press would be eaten alive at some of the boards and blogs I post to."

I suppose that's the reason I don't post to those blogs and boards. I wish neither to eat alive, nor to be eaten alive. That ain't discussion or even debate. It's crap.

And thanks, Mark.

--ER

Erudite Redneck said...

I'm sure there's a logical fallacy in here somewhere, if not more than one:

"only religious people who believe in God can be sinners."

Somebody else look it up, 'k?

--ER

Erudite Redneck said...

I'm sure there's a logical fallacy in here somewhere, if not more than one:

"only religious people who believe in God can be sinners."

Somebody else look it up, 'k?

--ER

Erudite Redneck said...

Re, "only religious people who believe in God can be sinners."

Idn't that like sayin' only cows that are in the rancher's pasture can be cows?

--ER

Poison Pero said...

Mark Maness said...
Oh and Toad, there is only one unpardonable sin, and that is the sin of rejecting Christ, but fortunately for all of us, you have until your last living minute to repent and be forgiven to escape Hell. I would strongly suggest you do that sometime before you die.
-------------
Wrong, my friend......There are many other unpardonable sins.

You know exactly where I'm going here.

rich bachelor said...

Like the sin of thinking one's own self so unimpeachable that it speaks for God, for instance?

Mark said...

No Pero, there is only that one. Anything else can be forgiven.

Mark said...

Rich,if you are referring to me, I never once said I am the voice of God. I only repeat what God or Jesis themselves have said. You don't like it? Take it up with God.

Just because one happens to disagree with God, doesn't mean He is wrong, and if you really think He is, you are being many more times arrogant than I have ever been.

It would mean that you are setting yourself up as more of an authority on God than God Himself.