What Does Religious Freedom Really Mean?

Reflection:

There are some Christians who would argue that they are being persecuted, that Christianity is being threatened.  Mostly this claim is being stated in response to the growing acceptance or tolerance of LGBT issues and LGBT equality and those within the LGBT community.  They feel their values are being threatened because same-sex marriage is now the law of the land and seems contradictory to everything they believe in as conservative Christians.  They feel that for having Christian heritage or Christian beliefs that do not approve of or condone same-sex marriage or gay rights or LGBT equality, they are under attack or will be characterized as bigots or hate mongers.

So what’s the deal?  What’s the truth of the matter?  What is actually being threatened here?

Well… it is fine and dandy to be Christian and to have strong, passionate beliefs in regards to how you wish to conduct your own life and personal, intimate loving relationships– but the moment you impose your preferences and personal beliefs upon others or claim there needs to be public policy based on religious law to determine how others who do not share your preferences or religious beliefs lives, is where the line must be drawn.

Religious freedom is the right to practice your religion of choice and to believe what you will in regards to faith, religion, belief systems, philosophies, metaphysics, etc.  It enables you to feel free to live according to your religious convictions without fear of government intervention or government persecution.  It is not however, a permission slip that enables you to hold everyone around you under your belief system or judge and execute or violate their personal freedoms under your belief system at the expense of their belief system.

Freedom of religion expressly forbids placing any one belief system as more superior than any other.  It also forbids the recognition of a government sponsored national religion– to prevent government breaching its authority over personal belief systems and religious traditions and institutions.

So how is Christianity actually being threatened by the LGBT community?  Truth is, they feel threatened because the very existence of the LGBT community presents a long-standing conundrum to well-established beliefs and traditions based on the Judeo-Christian culture that dates back to the 1st century and before.  By its very existence, the present-day LGBT community questions and presents answers for a population of humanity that has been overlooked and unrecognized Biblically with any level of accuracy.  What is provided, is a reflection of cultures and peoples that are specifically locked to specific regions and times far too distant from where we stand now.  It would not be fair or accurate to call the homosexuality of Egypt or Canaan of 1 C.E. or 3,000 B.C.E the same as homosexuality by today’s 21st century American cultural standards, for example.

If the Bible isn’t the sole authority on all aspects of life, then what is it?  That very question shakes the foundation of firmly held belief systems.

The LGBT community is not preventing Christians from being Christian or attending church, owning Bibles, having heterosexual relationships and marriages (or divorces, second or third or fourth heterosexual marriages…).  The LGBT community simply holds people of any faith accountable for their actions and their stances on social justice.  The LGBT community seeks equal access and equality and respect as human beings.  They have as much right to be in committed, monogamous, loving, dedicated, mutually consented adult mature relationships as any other person.  That’s their same-sex marriage agenda.  It is not a religious war or a religious issue so much as it is a civil rights issue.

Christians can still have their definition of marriage– one man + one woman = Christian marriage.  But it is not acceptable to deny two men or two women seeking to affirm their committed relationships the opportunity to symbolize their relationship’s long-term commitment by denying them the means of matrimony.  Christians do not have to sanction it– but they cannot impose their will to deny matrimony or civil union or same-sex marriage.

The notion that a religion can monopolize a word or meaning of a word is ludicrous.  The notion that somehow one religion gets it right while everyone else gets it wrong shows more arrogance than confidence in one’s faith.

I go back to a point I made several times before in previous posts.  There is room enough for everyone in religion– you just have to be willing to make room, open those doors, offer those seats at the table of communion, and have open hearts as well as open minds.  Any religion that wants to divide people between “Us” and “Them” or “Our kind” and “Other kind” is not really working to unify humanity or working for the best interests of all of God’s wondrous, beautiful creations.

Be Christian!  Be proud to be Christian!  (If that’s your calling…) But you’re not a Christian if you’re not striving to follow Christ’s example.  You can find Jesus… but it means more if you follow Jesus as well.  Remember.  Love thy neighbor.  Love thy enemy.  Love thy God.  Love. Love. Love.  All you need is love.  Your moral compass is determined by love for others as well as for God and self.  You don’t have to love homosexuality or transgender expression… no one is asking you to compromise your personal feelings.  But your personal feelings should not dictate or rule over the way others live and love.  If all you see in LGBT people is stuff that disgusts you… then simply look elsewhere or try harder to look for the silver lining.  I think the more you meet the LGBT community and get to know them for who they are as people– real people, not celebrities or media stereotypes or myths– you’ll see more love in their hearts than hatred.

My two cents and drachmas!  Peace!!

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About Rachel Conlin McLeod

Transgender activist, Christian at First Baptist Church in Willimantic, Connecticut. B.A. in History and Social Sciences, B.A. in Sociology Freelance writer, tutor, research assistant Loves hockey, ballet, women's gymnastics, and Bible studies.
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