The issue of religious liberty has become a dangerous, snarled web of bamboozlement
The issue of religious liberty was somewhat more easily settled in earlier America by the fact that this country had its character stamped by a certain kind of Protestantism: Puritans who believed the Anglicans had not purified the English state church of its Roman Catholic contagion.
While there were a good number of Anglicans in early America, and also a fair number of Catholics, America’s religious character came to be dominated and hence defined by a Puritan, Scripture-based Christianity that rejected both an established state church (i.e., the Anglican Church) and a fundamentally sacramental, hierarchical church whose locus of authority was beyond America’s borders (to wit, the Roman Catholic Church).
The general homogeneity of religious opinion allowed the question of religious liberty to be, if not smoothly settled, at least manageable politically, especially since this religious consensus was fused with a deep sense of patriotism. For nearly two centuries (counting from the arrival of the pilgrims) religious liberty was defined by the prominence of this shared view, and those who didn’t share it completely, shared enough of it to get along in the public square.
I’m leaving out a lot. A whole lot. But we may return to the finer points in a later part of this series, but what I’ve said is sufficient to compare with our present, much different situation.
There are two religions that have shattered this consensus in America—not Anglicanism and Catholicism, but radical secularism and radical Islam.
Secularism is not defined by the absence of any religious belief (as secularists often claim), but by the deepest animosity to Christianity of any kind. It is not interested in sharing public space with Christians, but in eliminating Christians from public space.
Secularism’s drive to remove Christianity has been extremely successful, not only in the United States, but in Mexico, Canada, any nearly every European country. The West is currently dominated by the secular worldview, a worldview that functions as—and in fact truly is—a religion, with its own creed and multiple political and social organs for enforcing orthodoxy.
Now Christians—all Christians—are crying for religious liberty amidst real persecution, and the situation is one defined by very clever and effective bamboozlers.
A sign of the bamboozlement that vexes us is that secularists themselves claim that atheism is a religion, and therefore that atheism should be equally protected under religious liberty. Thus, they push out Christian nativity scenes from the public square, even while pushing in secular nativity displays (such as the one in the Wisconsin State Capitol building a few years back, featuring Thomas Jefferson and the Roman fertility goddess Venus, doting over a girl lying in a manger). Or, they threaten to begin public meetings with a satanic prayer in order to drive out even the slimmest of theist prayers (as in atheist blogger Steve Chaz’s recent antics in Florida).
Christians are vexed and seemingly trapped because they have been hoodwinked by secularists into accepting a self-defeating (“self,” here, meaning “Christian”) view of both the separation of church and state, and religious liberty, wherein “separation” means the establishment of secularism as a kind of state church, and “religious liberty” means the freedom to believe anything (except, as it turns out, Christianity).
And that brings us to a second religion that is shattering the original religious consensus in America, radical Islam. Since radical secularism has historically defined itself against Christianity as its main enemy, it has welcomed Islam as a friend in its venture to remove Christianity from its privileged cultural position. The assumption that Islam would be grateful to be included and hence remain under the aegis of secular political liberalism has turned out to be politically disastrous in America and Europe. Wherever Islam dominates, either by demography or fear, Sharia law removes the religious liberty of Christians and the influence of secularism.
So, Christians are faced with a very baffling situation now, and not just in America. Can religious liberty mean that any belief must be protected, even the beliefs (like radical secularism and radical Islam) that actively aim for the extermination of Christianity?
We’ll be looking at this baffling situation in more detail in this ongoing series focused on religious liberty.