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Religious bigotry has no place in America

Posted By Paul Gleiser On December 14, 2007 @ 9:23 am In Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Beginning last week, as the headlines included coverage of Mitt Romney’s speech regarding his Mormonism, I received the following e-mail from a man named Frank.

He said, “I will no longer be listening to your station between the hours of 8 and 11 AM. I was not aware that Glenn Beck was a Mormon.”

Here is how I answered Frank.

I waited 24 hours to answer your e-mail so that I would not overreact to it.

You are free to listen or not listen as it suits you. KTBB is not an instrument of Soviet Russia and you cannot and will not be force-fed in any way. That is just one of the many freedoms that we all enjoy that too many of us too often take for granted.

I am assuming from your e-mail that, prior to learning of Glenn Beck’s religious affiliation, you listened to his program. Judging from the fact that I do not have any e-mails or other communication from you objecting to things that have been said on Glenn Beck’s program, I am going to also assume that you were not offended by anything he said (at least not sufficiently to complain about it).

If all of that is true, it seems that you are rejecting Glenn Beck not for what he says or the way he can be observed to behave, but simply because of his religious belief.

How sad.

A lot of people have died so that you can believe what you believe and Glenn Beck can believe what he believes and I can believe what I believe (I’m a lifelong Methodist) and yet the three of us can live in the same country, share the same freedoms, watch the same fireworks on the Fourth of July and enjoy the same protections from the coercive forces of government that once plagued nearly every living human on earth.

Allowing (for just this brief moment for I am not a theologian) the argument that Mormon isn’t a Christian faith, it is important to recognize that we are a nation that was founded by Christians and in which Christians still comprise the majority — but we are not a Christian nation. Article VI of the Constitution specifically prohibits any religious test in order to hold any elected office.

Charles Krauthamer wrote an excellent piece in National Review that does a vastly superior job of expressing my thoughts on the relevancy of any single religious belief in the public square in this country. He said,

“The God of the Founders, the God on the coinage, the God for whom Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day is the ineffable, ecumenical, nonsectarian Providence of the American civil religion whose relation to this blessed land is without appeal to any particular testament or ritual. Every mention of God in every inaugural address in American history refers to the deity in this kind of all-embracing, universal, nondenominational way. I suspect that neither Jefferson’s Providence nor Washington’s Great Author nor Lincoln’s Almighty would look kindly on the exploitation of religious differences for political gain. It is un-American.”

I, personally, do not share the Mormonism of Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney, the Judaism of Joe Lieberman nor the Roman Catholicism of Rudy Giuliani. I am proud to share with all of them, however, the freedom to believe as I believe as they believe what they believe — while keeping the things we all believe — uppermost in my discourse.

And that ended my e-mail response. But I’ve thought about it some more. Frank, the fact that we’re even having this discussion should be uplifting to you. It is to me.

I’ve traveled through Europe and seen I don’t know how many empty churches. I’ve seen parish priests in Italy setting up souvenir stands in their ancient churches-now-museums in order to raise the money to continue to minister to the rapidly dwindling flock. Europe is now, for all intents and purposes, secular. Churches that were built to accommodate hundreds or even thousands now will see a couple of dozen worshipers at a Sunday mass. The tourists come and take pictures, even as the mass is celebrated. But the parishioners? They are very few.

Europe is not the better for its secularity. We wouldn’t be either.

Differing over how to worship God or how He is made manifest in the world is to acknowledge His existence. That’s a good thing. The recognition of God, while avoiding the inevitable strife of trying to nail down a single dogma concerning Him, is what set this nation apart from Europe when it was young. That ecumenicalism continues to set the United States in stark contrast to zealots that would impose a single view of God on everyone on earth under pain of death.

You can have it one of three ways, Frank. You can live in a society that broadly acknowledges God while embracing religious difference under an umbrella of ecumenical brotherhood. You can live in a society that tolerates one, and only one, acceptable means of worshiping God. Or you can live in a society that has no place for God at all.

You pick, Frank.


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