When I talk about not being anti-Christian, and in fact, that it is the exact opposite – I am truly defending mainstream Christianity…it is groups like this one that I am thinking of. The following is a powerful statement from a group of Christians that I am certain are viewed as “not the right kind of Christian”…
California Council of Churches IMPACT has made an alliance with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation that works to guarantee freedom of religion for the men and women in our military.
CCCI has long supported the separation of church and state as an essential guarantee that we all may worship as we choose. We also believe our government and our defense system have one goal – preserving our Constitution. It cannot be the promoter of any religious view at all. If America adopts a dominant theology, how can any of us be free?
None of us can be ignorant of the “culture wars” that exist today that have already resulted in violence. The angry signs and presence of guns at “tea party” rallies is chilling to those of us who believe in mutual respect for one another, even in difference. The upsurge in numbers of open hate groups and acts of violence – even murder – of those with whom some disagree, is deeply worrisome.
Last Friday, April 30, I was asked to speak at an award ceremony for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in Albuquerque, NM. I was accepting an award for author Jeff Sharlet who wrote an amazing book on one facet of religious extremism in America, a group known as the “Fellowship” or “The Family”. He was unable to be present, and I was honored to receive the Thomas Jefferson First Amendment award from MRFF on his behalf. I was also honored to sit with the second recipient, actor Ed Asner, whose work for MRFF and many other civil rights issues is long and distinguished.
What I did not know is that even as I accepted the award and talked about CCC IMPACT, outside the building a man was being arrested for suspicious behavior. He had been cruising back and forth either looking for a way in or waiting for us to emerge. He was found to be armed.
MRFF has been very outspoken against religious proselytizing in and by our military. MRFF is strongly supportive of all faiths, including that of our diverse Christian member denominations, having the right of conscience without coercion inside the military. They oppose the presence, as sanctioned speakers, of those individuals who promulgate disrespect for religious diversity and especially those who preach hate toward another faith. To this end, they recently had gotten a prominent evangelist, whose radical anti-Muslim stance is well-known, dis-invited as the guest speaker for a national event at the Pentagon.
The eruption of hate email toward MRFF was shocking in its violence and threats against MRFF, its founder Mikey Weinstein and his family. The email all carry the assertion that “America is a Christian nation” and that MRFF’s work for religious freedom for all is the work of the devil, anti-Christian, or worse. The Weinstein family has had armed security for years, thanks to this vitriol. It was appalling to me that affirmation of religious freedom for ALL people would engender this kind of wrath.
A number of you have already responded to the upsurge in hate and disruption in our state and nation. You went to Town Hall meetings last summer, cooled the anger, and brought “holy manners” into the fray. You worked to have people listen to one another, respect one another’s fears, and help one another find some kind of understanding. You stilled much of those troubled waters, and for that we thank you more than we can say.
And is that not the work of faith as we believe it, live it, practice it?
While the event in Albuquerque was unnerving, the idea that people can kill those with whom they disagree is deeply chilling. We at California Council of Churches and Church IMPACT work for justice for all people, and that includes people of faith with whom we do not agree. We have a powerful directive to be inclusive of all of God’s people, and the fearful specter of rising violence towards us, towards others in the Abrahamic faiths and all of the world’s great faiths or those who practice no faith – all of this violence and hostility is deeply worrisome.
America was founded on religious freedom as a core principle. That cannot come to an end or none of us shall be free. Freedom of religion is not ever made manifest from the barrel of a gun. Not in Albuquerque. Not in America. Not in the world.
We stand with Military Religious Freedom Foundation and all people of good will. We will not give up our work to see that all people, everywhere, may be kept whole to live their lives by the inner lights of their conscience. We can do no less.
Director of Public Policy
Hard to add to that! Thank you Elizabeth!