Let’s agree on a few things upfront. For one, Christianity is hardly under siege in America. You can’t be under siege and have your religion’s holy days celebrated as national holidays. That just doesn’t add up. Also, if this clerk refusing to issue licenses to same sex couples was Muslim and refusing to serve women whose hair wasn’t covered because it violated her religious beliefs, announced candidates for US president would not be standing by her side and proclaiming her a hero. Further, most of us do not get to pick and choose those duties of our job that we agree to perform. And finally, should a woman with four marriages and a baby produced by a man who was not the husband she was with at that time, really be the face of Christianity in America today?
What really worries me, though, were the presidential candidates who rallied to her side. Talk about cynical opportunism. Here was a woman refusing to obey the secular law of the land as proclaimed by our highest judicial authority. And here were two men, former Governor Huckabee and current Senator Ted Cruz, who are running to lead our nation and uphold our laws, standing by her side and cheering her for refusing to obey them. What does that say about how they would govern as president? Would they pick and choose the laws they’d obey?
The concept that seems to be deliberately lost by those supporting this woman is that she is being asked to obey secular law, not religious law. And as even Christ said, “Render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar’s and unto God. the things that are God’s.” Certainly she has a right to disagree with the law. Her options as an American include trying to change that law, in much the same way as the laws against miscegenation and segregation were changed. Her options as an elected clerk who swore to uphold the laws of the land are to uphold the law or resign. She doesn’t get to uphold only those laws in which she believes.
All of which brings us back again to those two presidential candidates who stood by her side and supported her refusal to do her job or follow the law she took an oath to obey. Is that really the mindset we want in the Oval Office? And even if there was more than a little cynical free publicity whiff to the hot air emanating from that podium the day she was released from jail, once again the question has to be asked if we went those men representing us to the world.
Many people come to America to escape religious persecution. That’s how the takeover of a continent already populated by some pretty special peoples started. Europeans were fleeing governments that forced them to practice the official religion or suffer horrible consequences. Many chose to come to America to create a society where no one told you who to worship or whether you even had to worship. America eventually emerged as a world leader in religious tolerance.
I can’t help but wonder how we look now to the world as the crowd of Republican presidential candidates vie to out-Christian each other. I exempt Donald Trump from that crowd since he’s been married three times and seems totally unapologetic about cheating on his wife with a mistress and then cheating on that mistress with another mistress. Now that’s the American spirit. But all the other candidates seem determined to stamp a Christian face on a nation that has always prided itself on its religious freedom and diversity.
Before the hate mail starts, let me be clear that I don’t hate Christians anymore than I hate Muslims or Jews. What I do hate is the idea that in America we can only recognize one god. That is not who we are. That is never who we were. And it is certainly not what the men who founded this country wanted us to become.
When the rest of the world looks to us, they should see religious tolerance and acceptance of all faiths. If they don’t, if they see an attempt to create a monolithic Christian state, than we have become no better that any other religious state in the world. We are, and should be, better than that.