Apparently, religious freedom is under attack in America. I guess my head must be in the sand as I do not recall my right to practice my religion being infringed upon at all. My place of worship is still open, and we gather each Sunday morning at 10:00. We do not have to pass through armed guards or others shooting at us. I can pray wherever I like, inside or outside of my church. I was recently asked to pray at the start of a meeting for a local civic group, so I am not sure how and where religious freedom is under attack. Perhaps it is under attack because you cannot force your beliefs on me or you wish to be able to discriminate against me, or others, based upon your religion. Now that could be a problem.
Now I am a progressive theologian and believe that folks should be able to really so whatever they like as long as what they want to do does not infringe on what I want to do. I believe that is the fundamental definition of freedom. My right to practice my religion ends if I am trying to force you to think the way I do.
Last week I preached on the Sermon on the Mount. This is a remarkable passage of the coming together and the transformation of the law. The law of Moses was written on dead tablets made of stone. Jesus came, as he clearly states in the passage from Matthew that he has come to fulfill the law and by doing so the law becomes written on our hearts and thus becomes alive. The word of God is replaced by the Word of God. Jesus is the living example of the Word of God, and it is now his example that we are to follow not simply the law written on cold dead tablets that have disappeared.
So this brings me to Letter of St. James. James is often overlooked in the canon of scripture, and I think that is mainly because it is an in your face letter showing us the way to live. In the second chapter, James writes about the sin of partiality. We are to treat everyone the same regardless of where they come from or what their lifestyle is. This means we have an obligation, not to force someone to believe the way we do, but to help and assist them. Read the words:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place, “while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
We are to show mercy to everyone. Notice that there is no mention of one’s safety or security we are to assist everyone. Show no partiality.
Americans have more freedoms than most people in the world and to hear my fellow Christians speak about how their faith is under attack while watching citizens in Syria and other places just make them look foolish. Your right to deny someone something based on your religion is not a right, discrimination is against the laws of the land and the laws of God.