April 4, 2009

Public Christianity

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 5-8

It is with this in mind that I read about Christian dismay at the Iowa marriage ruling (as I looked at their response to the similar ruling from California) and the very public worries of some so-called Christians that they will no longer be able to demonstrate public intolerance of homosexuality. Pardon me while I shed absolutely no tears for this so-called loss of religious freedom. When religious teachings diverge from what is legally permissible, nothing stops a religion from advocating that its members refrain from legally permitted conduct. Examples:
  • It is legal to eat pork. However, no one stops Muslims and Jews from refraining from eating pork products. Similarly, it is legal to eat meat of nearly every sort. No one stops Jains from pursuing strictly vegetarian diets.
  • The use of contraception is legal. But the Roman Catholic Church has never deviated from its teachings that the use of contraception is immoral.
  • A pregnant woman may obtain an abortion, within certain ill-defined Constitutional limits, anywhere in the United States. No one has been restricted from advocating their "public Christianity" or their strenuous belief that abortion is murder because of the legality of abortion.
So too will Christians who do not think that gays should be able to marry continue, at all times, to be free to say so and to refrain from recognizing the solemnity of those marriages.

Besides, if these so-called Christians were to truly follow the teachings of the founder of their religion, they would realize that their faith and worship are acts not to be worn on their sleeve, but rather to be done in private because the relationship of a Christian to God is personal and direct -- not one that is expounded in the public square and certainly not one that should be used to hurt other people of any faith.

As for those who insist on making a public spectacle of their piety, well, Jesus certainly got this one right -- they have their reward already.

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