“Don’t just tell me the rights you want for yourself, tell me what rights you are willing to defend for others.”

Much Ado About Religious Liberty—Doug Muder, The Weekly Sift

Non-Christians, or even Christians from unpopular denominations, bump up against this kind of difficulty all the time — and get no sympathy from Baptists or Catholics: The Hindu steakhouse waitress can quit, but she can’t insist on keeping her job without serving cow flesh. A Jehovah’s Witness EMT can’t refuse to give blood transfusions, and a Christian Scientist nurse can’t get away with just praying for her patients.

People from less popular faiths routinely pay taxes to support things they disapprove of: Pacifist Quakers finance wars, vegetarians pay meat inspectors, orthodox Jews provide food stamps so that people can buy bacon, and so on. The most extreme case is that of atheists, who are forced to carry around (and even distribute to others) pieces of paper saying “In God We Trust”. Imagine the outcry if Christians had to use money that proclaimed “God is dead”.

In short, Christian conservatives imagine that they’re persecuted, but in fact they want special rights.

But conservative Christians might well ask what I want out of them. It’s a fair question, and the answer is simple: I want them to state a definition of religious freedom that is not tied to their specific doctrines or issues (like same-sex marriage or abortion); that applies equally to everyone; and that they would be willing to defend not just as it applies to Christians they agree with, but also to Christians they think are heretics, to Muslims, Hindus, New Agers, atheists, and everyone else.

Lincoln said, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.” That’s the attitude I’m looking for: Don’t just tell me the rights you want for yourself, tell me what rights you are willing to defend for others.

1 Like