Religious Freedom: I Do Not Think That Phrase Means What You Think It Means

My emotions and feelings reached a tipping point this morning.
It wasn’t one singular thing that did it; I think it had just been building up over the past few weeks, and this morning I’m feeling compelled to write about it.

First, to recap for those of you who are just tuning in:

At the beginning of last week, in a surprise move, World Vision, who is one of the largest Christian humanitarian organizations dedicated to sponsoring and supporting children in impoverished areas of the world, announced that they would no longer take an organizational stance on the issue of same-sex marriages, and would instead permit the employment of gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages in their U.S. offices. This move thrilled many progressive Christians, and outraged many fundamentalist, evangelical Christians. As a result, a vast majority of those threatened to withdraw their sponsorship dollars from World Vision for a move that they argued clashed with their biblical understanding and was unbefitting of a Christian organization.
You can read more about World Vision’s initial announcement here: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/world-vision

The very next day, under mounting pressure from conservative Christians, through enraged phone calls, blog posts, and announcements, and amidst tens of thousands of dollars in withdrawn sponsorships, World Vision reversed it’s stance. Some may consider World Vision’s actions as bowing to pressure, but I tend to believe that they were simply trying to stop the bleeding, attempting to salvage the sponsorships they did have in order to continue in their mission of aiding children in desperate need.
Read more about World Vision’s reversal here: http://reluctantxtian.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/a-response-to-world-vision-bullies-or-on-the-backs-of-children/
And here: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/world-vision-update

An atrocious fact I read this morning was that World Vision reported that over 10,000 sponsorships had been cancelled in the wake of their announcement. TEN THOUSAND. Some have called to reinstate their sponsorships, but the vast majority did not. This is a travesty. How dare you that call yourself a Christian let your misplaced sense of righteousness compel you to withhold vital dollars of support from children that will die without them. Disgusting…

Another ongoing topic of discourse has been Hobby Lobby’s fight against the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, arguing that contraception and pregnancy prevention education are in conflict with their Christian ideologies. As a for-profit company, Hobby Lobby has a duty to its employees to provide affordable healthcare coverage, and couching one’s political beliefs under the guise of religious freedom is not only ludicrous, it’s irresponsible.
More about the Hobby Lobby controversy can be found in this Bloomberg op-ed: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-04-03/hobby-lobby-case-does-god-hate-obamacare

This week, the CEO of Mozilla, the tech company that make the internet browser Firefox, resigned his two week-old post. Brendan Eich stepped down amid protests by many of Mozilla’s employees over contributions that Eich made in 2008 to a campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California. In this case, progressive ideologies overpowered a more conservative stance, and in the end, I feel like we all lost. Progressive minds can not claim to stand for tolerance, while at the same time reacting with intolerance toward those that think differently.
You can read more about Mozilla in this blog from the New York Times: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/eich-steps-down-as-mozilla-chief/

The Mozilla controversy prompted this tweet from the Executive VP of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor, Phillip Bethancourt: 
It’s been retweeted hundreds of times, including from a highly-influential North Texas megachurch pastor. He raises an thoughtful point, but the larger question for me is: Is it a good thing that one’s religious and political beliefs are taking a more central role in corporate America?

My answer to this question is ‘Yes,’ with one very important caveat: For Christians, the ethic that is rooted in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth is one of caring for and loving people. Above all else, the Christian life shows ultimate concern for people. This means that an interpretation of the biblical narrative that denies civil rights and liberties to anyone on the basis of sexual orientation, that denies basic healthcare to anyone because of religious idealism, or that punishes the most vulnerable in our world so that you can make a point is misguided bullshit.

You must understand this difference. Christianity does not equal patriotism. Freedom of religion means that you, as a citizen of the United States, are free to worship whichever God you please, in whatever manner you care to. It does not mean that you are free to further oppress and marginalize others who disagree with your beliefs.

Even Inigo Montoya is puzzled by your claims.

There are some days that identifying as a Christian feels wonderful and affirming to me, and I am proud to identify as such. But those days are becoming fewer and fewer, and most often I find myself cringing at the things that are happening in the name of Christ and saying, “No, no…I’m not with them. I do not know these Christians.”

3 thoughts on “Religious Freedom: I Do Not Think That Phrase Means What You Think It Means

  1. myatheistlife says:

    In one paragraph you think that the charity is stopping the bleeding, but somehow that is not what Mozilla did?

    If the corporate leader has worked hard to ensure that you, an employee, continue to be denied rights, how is it wrong to complain about that?

    • wcmichaelis says:

      I think that claiming to believe in and stand for tolerance, and, at the same time, be unable to separate one’s competence in running a company from their personal convictions is anything but tolerant.

      That said, in the very next paragraph I write that if the beliefs and practices that Christians interpret from the biblical narrative denies basic civil rights and liberties to anyone, it is misguided and wrong.

      • myatheistlife says:

        So you think he is misguided and wrong but that people should not worry about this as his employees? Despite any god belief he was socially wrong and worked to harm the very people in his employ. He did not separate work and religion. A good boss does not work to deprive employees of their rights, for any reason. A bad boss is best removed from their post for the betterment of the entire company. It makes him unfit to be the boss.

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