Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances…First Amendment of the United States Constitution
We all want religious freedom, right? Of course we do. But we may now be getting more than we once bargained for or ever anticipated possible.
The times, they are a changin’. The Judeo-Christian-based moral consensus that once undergirded the country and culture’s public philosophy, as well as once dominant Christian denominations, is diversifying, declining, or maybe disappearing.
No longer does “religious” mean “Christian” in the broad sense of the term. Now it means any form of devotion to any form of faith in anything.
America is an increasingly religiously pluralistic nation. Recent case in point: Mayor Michael Hancock, newly elected chief executive of the city of Denver, was blessed by five different religious leaders during his inauguration ceremonies Monday, July 18. Among the religious figures was Grace Gillette, a Native American of the Denver Power-Wow Committee, who waved eagle feathers and chanted over the mayor.
I am a proponent of the First Amendment and religious freedom. I am a proponent of an individual’s right to worship as he or she chooses. I am not anti-Native American or for that matter anti- any ethnic or racial group. This does not prevent me, however, from respectfully disagreeing with the Mayor’s decision to ask a Native American shaman to bless him during his inauguration.
Native American religious beliefs do not typically acknowledge Jesus Christ, the Word of God, or Christian teachings. Some traditional Native American beliefs are monotheistic, focusing upon the “Great Spirit,” some are pantheistic, seeing god in all of nature and imputing to nature animate and divine characteristics and powers. Not all Native Americans embrace these traditional religions, perhaps not even most. But some do. I wish them no ill, but I respectfully disagree with their beliefs.
I do not believe that waving feathers and chanting over someone blesses them in any way other than via well wishes of the person waving the feathers. Asking a Native American to bless his mayoral inauguration and coming term was more about politics, multiculturalism, and political correctness than it was about connecting with the Sovereign God of the Universe.
However, though I disagree with the choice I understand that the First Amendment extends to the Mayor the right to make this choice. I also recognize the development of other non-Christian religions in America and the likelihood more odd experiences like this Indian blessing and possibly more tensions will occur in the future.
An average of one new mosque is built every week—now as many as 2,000 in the States. More individuals are demanding their “spirituality” be recognized or at least permitted on university campuses no matter how bizarre. In 2010, for example, an official Wiccan stone prayer circle was installed at the Air Force Academy. All of these developments have been challenged and will continue to be.
The First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion is a precious right. But as America becomes even more religiously pluralistic, more friction between fundamentally disagreeing groups is going to occur. I hope we will find a meaningful balance allowing peace and social interaction to occur amongst them all. The alternative is a more than scary breakdown in America’s social fabric resulting in a religiously balkanized, combative, and weakened society like India. No offense to India, but this is a future the United States does not want to contemplate, much less embrace.
How then does a Christian learn to hold and advance his or her views in a post-Christian nation?
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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