Religious Liberty and Christian Witness
Last week the Supreme Court issued a decision that has raised as many questions as it sought to resolve -- probably many more. The decision to allow Hobby Lobby to refuse to offer coverage of certain forms of contraception because they believe that these are abortifaciants and therefore run contrary to their religious beliefs may have opened up Pandora's Box. Like many, I'm of the opinion that what looks like a narrow decision to Samuel Alito will have significant ramifications for the nation, and at the very least lead to tremendous amounts of litigation. We're already seeing attempts by certain Christian groups to challenge the President's order concerning non-discrimination for entities with federal contracts. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked a good question -- where will it end?
In part the issue hangs on the definition of what a person is, and whether corporations have Constitutionally protected rights. Since I'm not a Constitutional lawyer I'm probably not the best person to offer an interpretation on that issue -- though I have my own opinion.
In this post I want to raise a different issue and that has to do with Christian witness. Since I'm active in the public square as a religious leader I believe that it is appropriate for faith communities to get involved in social issues. I don't believe that we should stay in our churches, offer our prayers, and keep our noses out of public business. But, having said that I do believe that we need to be very careful about what focus on. Are we seeking to protect our "rights" at the expense of others, or are we seeking to advocate on behalf of those who have been pushed to the margins by the powers?
In recent years, as Christendom has eroded, and we move into what many consider a post-Christian era, we have seen a number of efforts to essentially turn back the clock. This has been accompanied by a degree of belligerency, as they demand that their "rights" be recognized and affirmed, even if that is at the expense of others. Their advocacy isn't on behalf of the marginalized and excluded, but to protect their position in society. In other words, it's about power.
So, here's my question -- how does this attempt to preserve power and status serve the gospel? In what way is it good news to the poor? What would Jesus say? What would Paul say? In the end, is religious liberty worth pursuing at the expense of the spiritual life of another?