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May 6, 2015

My gosh, am I old!  Old enough to remember that there once was a song entitled “Sincerely.”  Nowadays however there is a political/cultural debate on the word sincerely.  I’ve frequently taken several of my fellow evangelicals to task for what appears to me to be excessive and mean-spirited “culture war” comments and actions.  But, as in all wars, it takes two sides to fight them.  Of late there seems to be a spate of attempts on the part the progressive side of this war to eliminate, or at least limit, expressions of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The New York Times, in a recent favorable article on same sex marriage gave this quote:  “Church leaders must be made to take homosexuality off the sin list.”  Made to?  Just how do you make someone change their beliefs?  While I don’t agree with most of my fellow evangelicals when they say that civil recognition of same sex marriage is a threat to traditional marriage, the existence of the church, and/or the survival of civilization, I do respect and understand the Bible passages that teach that homosexuality is a sin. A polite, even spirited, discussion on the meaning of those verses makes sense; forcing people to agree with you does not.

Hillary Clinton has a similar view on what is needed in our world as this quote shows:  “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed regarding reproductive health care.”  In case you are wondering, “reproductive health care” is a code phrase that means abortion and contraception.  It would have been helpful if she had explained why she, or anyone else, has the right to dictate to others what they must believe but she did not.  On contraception I tend to agree with her in that my understanding of the Bible leaves this subject open but I respect the beliefs of Catholics and a growing number of evangelicals that do not.

These arguments from the left send chills down my spine because they sound too much like some arguments from the right.  They argue for an authority that regulates the beliefs of others, or at least the exercise of them.  No wonder that so many paranoid evangelicals make up worst-case scenarios where we are all herded into concentration camps.

There needs to be room to allow and respect sincerely held religious beliefs.  But those beliefs should never be weaponized.  The recent attack in Garland, Texas is an example of two-side weaponization of beliefs.  First one side deliberately and callously mocks and attacks the sincere beliefs of Muslims the world over.  Then some from the other side decide to kill those who don’t share those beliefs.

Tensions between religious beliefs and civil society will never cease; there will always be adjustments and accommodation.  No belief, however sincere, can be absolute if it impacts others.  There are also stated beliefs that are not sincere, like that strip club that tried to get around zoning laws by calling itself a church.

I guess my rule of thumb is that I never want to use my sincerely held beliefs to wound or insult another; grace just does not let me do it.  It won’t even let me pretend that such wounding is nothing more than collateral damage, not the intent.  I wish that Hillary Clinton and the New York Times shared that opinion.


From → Christianity

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