Every semester for 15 years, I have been privileged to address high school classes as part of a general introduction to various political/radical groups. The seniors in this elective course benefit from being introduced to speakers with a wide range of philosophies and agendas.
I usually speak early in the semester because I urge students to think for themselves, to listen to all the speakers but not to believe anything we say unless it makes sense to them. Much, and maybe most, of what the students hear comes from “experts” who don’t really know any more about the human questions they address than do the students.
I ask, “If experts know so much, why don’t they ever agree?” I suggest they don’t agree because they are not really trying to solve the issue but simply want you to join their side and support their position.
In recent years, I have found myself being followed in order of presentation by a very conservative, right wing, religious-oriented speaker whom I’ll call Coach. As soon as I suggest that we experts speak with no more authority than the students, the class is confronted by a self-appointed evangelist who speaks, he would have you believe, with the authority of God. In this Codgertation, I will try to show the emptiness of that position.
Coach claims America is a Theocracy – a Christian Theocracy. Sorry. Not so. It is a secular country under the Constitution and the rule of law.
Mike Pence claims to be a Christian first, then a conservative, and then a Republican; but if he holds elective office, I believe he must be an American first, following the nation’s laws, regardless of what he personally believes to be God’s rules. If he finds a conflict he can resign his elected position and follow his conscience as a private citizen.
Moreover, if this is a Christian country, which Christianity are we talking about? The Founders knew the danger of an established, official religion; they knew the conflicts Europe had endured; they knew the “holy” wars among Christians that ravaged Europe to determine whose Christianity was the real Christianity; they knew that European “Christians” who fled persecution at the hands of other “Christians” came to the New World and immediately began persecuting other “Christians” (the “wrong-thinking” ones). That’s why they established Freedom of Religion, so everyone could believe whatever they wanted and practice (or not practice) any religion they might choose, without being bothered.
The United States of America is not a theocracy; it protects the theology and the practice of all religions and philosophies, while neither establishing an official favorite nor bothering unpopular beliefs. Coach claims 80 percent of us are Christians who apparently think like he does and are getting “pushed around” by 3 percent who he apparently believes are gay.
Well, all Christians (and churches) don’t believe as Coach does; many have a positive, accepting relationship with gays. And Coach’s whining about being pushed around opens another matter. Coach thinks that not letting him and his like-minded “Christians” discriminate against others is persecution. Coach says, “The homosexuals have seized marriage.” What nonsense. No one is required to marry anyone of the same gender. Coach doesn’t have to worry about whether he’ll marry a man.
It’s like snake-handling. Have some Christians (following Biblical example) seized snake handling? Is Coach in danger of having to handle snakes? Should Muslims and atheists feel they are being pushed around by a small percentage of Christian snake people? In a free country, gays can marry and churches can practice snake handling. BUT no one can force you into gay marriage or snake handling against your wishes.
In America, good Americans respect Christians’ right to handle snakes and gays’ right to marry. It’s people like coach who pick and choose which Americans should get “pushed around.” And if anyone complains about his pecking order, they are supposedly going against God (not just Coach). You know, God doesn’t like gays; it’s in the Bible.
Which opens another topic. There are all sorts of things in the Bible that coach doesn’t follow; for example, the Bible says we must kill homosexuals and mouthy children. Even Coach doesn’t support that. So, if we don’t need to follow all of the Bible’s ancient rules, what gives Coach the right to pick the rules we do have to follow? If God hates gays, doesn’t he want mouthy children stoned too? Are mouthy children “pushing us around”?
In a free country, Coach has the right to say whatever he wants, but we would be foolish to believe that what he says has any support from the deity.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal