That report prompted my Bishop -- John Taylor -- to write this:
An astonishing spectacle, when you think about it. A powerful Christian politician telling a group of young American elites, recipients of four-year degrees, that they’re actually victims. ... Privileged people playing the victim to increase their political leverage has become an epidemic. But it’s literally the last thing a Christian should do.Bravo. Amen. Alleluia!
There is an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you’re disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are.
To take that a step further, there is a difference between feeling persecuted because you don’t get to impose your beliefs on other people and being persecuted because other people both have and use their power to burn down your houses and murder your children.
And claiming the former makes you only a victim of your own unexamined privilege ... and of absolutely no use to actual victims who desperately need you to live out that liberate the captive, let the oppressed go free thing Jesus and Isaiah talked about.
History — both modern and ancient — is tragically full of examples of times and places where religious discrimination has been the source of persecution, death and destruction. The perversion of religion into a weapon of mass destruction is antithetical to the core beliefs of all the world’s great religions. And yet none of those religions have escaped the sad reality that human beings — given the power to do so — will use God as an excuse to inflict pain and suffering on other human beings.
Our forefathers knew that. And they brought that knowledge — that wisdom — into our Bill of Rights with a First Amendment that begins: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...”
The First Amendment both prevents the government of the United States from privileging one religion over another and protects each and every one of us — as American citizens — to believe whatever we choose — or choose not — to believe about what God thinks, approves of or blesses. It is what protects our democracy from becoming a theocracy.
And, as we watch with sadness and horror the nightly news stories of religious wars and sectarian violence, this guarantee of religious freedom is something Americans of all religions — and no religion — should rejoice and be glad in. It is not something to be taken lightly -- and it is not something to be distorted and weaponized against other Americans ... which is precisely what is happening as the fight for the Equality Act heats up.
Hot on the heels of Mike Pence's effort to convince a stadium full of Liberty University graduates they are victims because not everyone agrees with their theology, today the CBN headline screamed "Warning: Christians Will Be 'Forced to Violate Their Beliefs' if Equality Act Passes" and Pat Robertson called it " a devastating blow to religious freedom and to the sanctity of America."
One more time:
The First Amendment protects your right as an American to the free exercise of your religion. It does not protect your right to use your religion as an excuse to discriminate against other Americans. And the Equality Act will make that clear: once and for all.
And in the days and weeks ahead it is going to be especially important for people of faith to raise their voices in support of the Equality Act to neutralize the rabid rhetoric of Mike Pence, Pat Robertson and the rest of the Religious Right who continue to confuse their right to believe whatever they choose with their right to impose those beliefs on the rest of us.
Because there is an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you’re disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are. And it is time to end the epidemic of privileged people playing the victim to increase their political leverage. Make some noise!