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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Religious Tolerance? Guidelines for Christian behavior

In a previous post, I indicated that I believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.

OK. So how should I act if I believe that?

1) I should love those who are not of my own faith, or of any faith. I should truly love them, unselfishly, and not just because I am trying to rack up some sort of score as winning others, but as detailed in 1 Corinthians 13, where Christ-like love is presented. That kind of love is a love that expects no reward. There is no excuse for persecution, or for ramming my beliefs down someone else's throat. In fact, I find good Biblical evidence that such behavior is not at all what Christ had in mind.

Am I always going to achieve that sort of love? I'm afraid not, but, God helping me, and me allowing God to help me, I can, at least some of the time, and should aim for it all the time.

2) I should try to represent Christ to the world, hoping that others will see some of Him in me, and be attracted to Him.

3) I should help those who are working to evangelize others toward belief in my own faith, by means consistent with the first two points above. (Sometimes called missionaries or evangelists.)

4) Related to 1) above, I should not attempt to have Christianity forced on others by my government. This applies, for one thing, to students in the public schools.
However, if Christianity is invited into those schools, in a way not inconsistent with the U. S. Constitution, I can help to present Christ, for example to after-school clubs attended with parental permission on a voluntary basis.

5) Again, related to 1), I should not oppose non-proselytizing behavior in public by those of other faiths, such as wearing of clothes or hair styles consistent with their particular religious beliefs, in public schools, or in the public in general, but I should expect that, say, wearing a shirt with a Bible reference would also be tolerated.

6) I should not expect laws specially favoring Christianity (or any other religion), in the U. S., where I am a citizen. I should not work to keep, in the law, tax exemptions for Christian churches, or Christian religious holidays, and other such special treatment, unless the law is equally helpful to those of other religions.

7) I should expect my government to work for religious freedom in other countries, in non-coercive ways. Such religious freedom should be for Christians, and also for those of other religions.

8) There seems to have been a tendency, in the past, to impose Christianity on a country or region by the sword, and expect all under that government to at least pretend to be Christians. This was deplorable, and should be, insofar as possible, repudiated. The current equivalent, in some Muslim countries, is also deplorable, and should be repudiated.
There are, occasionally, people who do this on a much smaller scale, forcing pliable individuals into some cult or other. That, too, is deplorable.

9) I've never experienced it, but the Christianity I follow should work well as a minority religion. In fact, it probably works better as a minority religion, rather than as one that operates as a majority. (By this, I mean that Christians don't have to be in the majority for Christianity to be a vital way of life. Christians were a small minority, in the beginning, they are now, in many parts of the world, and, depending on who's counting, they may be in North American at the present. We have gotten ourselves tangled up with government, sometimes, in cases where we were in the majority.)

Thanks for reading.


Rob Rumfelt said...

Point #9 needs some clarification, I think. Are you refering to Christianity in general, or just to your denomination? I think Jesus' great commission contradicts Christianity ever being a "minority" religion. Denominations and/or sects are a different matter altogether


Martin LaBar said...

I simply mean that Christianity can work well in situations where Christians, as a whole, are in the minority in the local population, or the nation, as was true in the beginning, and is true now in many parts of the earth, maybe, depending on who's counting, in the US. We have sometimes had problems when [supposed] Christians have been in the majority, getting ourselves conflated with government, and vice versa.

Thanks for your comment, Rob Rumfelt.

Rob Rumfelt said...

Thanks for the clarification! That makes more sense.

Martin LaBar said...

You are welcome.

Rob Rumfelt said...

Slightly off-topic, but still within the realm of tolerance, what do you think of the current controversy with P.Z. Myers and the stunt he pulled using a communion wafer?

Shouldn't tolerance be a 2-way street?

Martin LaBar said...

Yes, it should, but Christians should set the standard, even if others don't.

Rob Rumfelt said...

You're absolutely correct, sir. But people like Myers frighten me.

Ted Voth Jr said...

"tax exemptions for Christian churches"
The Church in the US has crippled herself for dealing seriously with homelessness, poverty, and the other great systemic problems of our greedy, ruthless society by accepting the tax exemption. She is de facto 'established' by that, whatever the 1st Amendment says: part of the world, whatever Jesus said about the nonworldliness of his Kingdom. She should forsake the exemption and depend solely on Jesus for her support. Paul says 'he who preaches the Gospel should live by the the Gospel.'

Martin LaBar said...

I think I agree with you, Ted Voth Jr, although I haven't thought a lot about it. Thanks for your comment.

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