Sunday, November 28, 2004

Your Church Can Do Whatever It Wants (or, Why We Don’t Need a Constitutional Amendment)

There are an estimated 1,200 different Christian faiths in North America today. These faiths differ on their beliefs about communion, the pope, women, confession, Joseph Smith, conversion, sexuality, salvation, marriage, homosexuality, the Sabbath, birth control, tithing, saints, Tribulation, baptism, Purgatory, the beginning of life, prayer, and the list goes on.

I want your church to be able to make whatever decision regarding these sensitive issues that it comes to in prayer, discussion, and thoughtful consideration, and I want mine to be able to do the same. Take, for example, the fairly recent fissure in the
Episcopalian Church over the ordainment of actively homosexual ministers or the ELCA’s Study on Sexuality (which explores blessing same-sex unions and ordaining homosexual ministers). Churches will continue to explore these issues and come to decisions, and their congregants will continue to make decisions about where they will worship moving forward.

And I think this is great: This is the essence of freedom of religion! I hope and pray that this issue will not rupture my church, but I much prefer making this decision in-house and in prayer with fellow believers than having the decision handed to me by the federal government. We must realize that these are two different things!!

We must realize that no one is talking about forcing your church (or my church) to adopt any theology. Just as the Lutheran Missouri Synod and the Roman Catholic Church (to name a couple) are free to restrict who may take communion in their churches, all of our churches are free to define what they believe is the rite of marriage.

What I ask you to consider is that this boils down to religious opportunism: our president and many in Congress are trying to pass
a federal constitution amendment banning same-sex marriages. This amendment is rooted almost entirely in the religious beliefs of several religious sects. If this view of marriage jibes with your religious views, it may be very tempting to support this amendment. One of the problems with this is that we are setting a dangerous precedent that it is acceptable for our government to create and pass laws based on religious beliefs – and you may not share the faith and/or beliefs of the next religious coalition formed by in our government!! It is very dangerous to begin passing laws (and constitutional amendments, no less!) based on religion and theology just because you happen to agree with the theology of the person in office right now.

The current obvious issues are same-sex marriage and abortion, but there is no reason why the next issues couldn’t be birth control, the Sabbath, or almost any other issue mentioned at the top. There are reasons why we all belong (or don’t belong) to the churches we attend, and it is much better for us Christians to settle these tough issues as brothers and sister in Christ rather than forcing the rest of the country to live as “symptomatic Christians” (see my previous post), especially when that will mean nothing towards their salvation anyhow.