What with provisions of the Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court’s ruling that laws permitting gay marriage are constitutional, there has been a great deal of carrying on from various Christian groups and individuals claiming that their free exercise of religion has been inhibited.
This grumbling and carping reveals two things: misunderstanding of the Constitution and Christianity’s long-standing strain of intolerance.
The Supreme Court decision covers civil marriage; no church is going to be compelled to bless those unions. Outside the church, various merchants have complained that selling their overpriced floral arrangements and garish cakes to gay people will violate their religious principles. But they are engaged in secular commerce, governed by public-accommodation laws. In “It violates my beliefs to sell to gays,” substitute blacks or Jews for gays and see how that smells.
But what is more interesting is an unstated but omnipresent distress at losing cultural dominance. Though the United States was established as a secular republic, mention of God being notably absent from the Constitution, the nation has always been culturally Christian. It was originally overwhelmingly Protestant, uneasy with Roman Catholic immigrants. But Catholics were ultimately allowed into the tent, and even Jews have been accepted by certain Evangelicals with curious eschatological views. But the explosive growth in the population of nominal Christians who are non-observant, of non-Christians, and of just plain non-believers threatens that dominance.
History shows that Christians, rather than observing the injunction in the Virginia Bill of Rights to “practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other,” are given to intolerance. The earliest history of the church includes a squabble between the followers of Paul and those of James of Jerusalem that the Book of Acts attempts to paper over. And when the Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, Christians immediately fell to persecuting one another, so enthusiastically that Constantine called the Council of Nicea in an attempt to quiet the uproar.
On our shores, the Puritans, once relieved of the disabilities imposed on them by the established Church of England, fell to denouncing and banishing those of their own number, such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams, who deviated from strict Calvinist orthodoxy.
Click here to read full article: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2013-07-05/news/bal-faith-hope-and-tolerance-20130705_1_memorial-day-weekend-christians-episcopal
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