There is important work to be done after Paris, as we grieve lives lost and terror multiplied there.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was not written with a religion like Islam in mind. I am confident similar things could be said of other nations’ codes and constitutions.
Possibly the most crucial work to be done in political ethics today, therefore, is to define what constitutional freedom of religion means in the case of a religion that recognizes no constitution but its own, regards no freedom worthwhile except to live under its own highly restrictive law, and reacts violently against civil and military institutions built to protect freedom.
One of the more important things secularists could do in these days would be to cease fear-mongering over some supposed terroristic equivalence between Christianity and Islam. The difference in death toll speaks for itself. So does Western Christianity’s centuries-long history of relying on persuasion rather than legal or violent force to gain new adherents, not to mention our long, uniform reliance on democratic processes to advocate for social change. “Theocracy” may seem like a great rallying cry against conservative Christian social views, but it obscures real differences between religion that works within democracy and religion that seeks to replace it. Failure to distinguish between the two attitudes will undoubtedly end up hampering efforts to support democracy, which means that in the end, the “theocracy” cry will undercut its own drive for individual freedoms.
We Christians, meanwhile, need to look to the example of our predecessors who have stood for freedom and for the truth and life of Christ, even to the point of death. This has nothing to do with certain Muslims’ readiness to die and to kill for the sake of their prophet’s reputation. We have a Savior who was willing to be humiliated on our behalf, so that humble followers of his way could be raised up with him in his final exaltation.
Still the way of freedom requires some of us being willing to give our all. He has promised us life everlasting. Do we believe him? We may soon need to decide.
Update January 15: my thoughts on this have developed some since I wrote it. Please see the comments, esp. #2 and #23.
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