Colson gets one right, sorta.December 8, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
I do tend to pick on Chuck Colson, but every now and then he gets one right—or at least, sorta right.
[W]hile the world becomes increasingly scrupulous to all sorts of rights, including the “rights” of animals and even plants (I’m not kidding), it largely ignores the ongoing assault on the most fundamental human right: religious freedom, freedom of conscience.
So while commentators were consumed with the results of California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, they missed what was going at a special assembly of the UN. There, Islamic nations led by Saudi Arabia made progress toward criminalizing blasphemy.
Bit of unconscious irony there: being “consumed” with the results of Proposition Hate is hardly the best example one could find for a world “ignoring the ongoing assault on freedom of conscience.” But he is right to be alarmed by the UN Resolution condemning free speech about religion.
Colson seems particularly concerned with this resolution’s impact on Christianity.
While the declaration urging “respect” for religion, places of worship, and symbols sounds good, Donald Argue and Leonard Leo remind us that appearances are deceiving. These members of the Commission on International Religious Freedom called the declaration a “cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion”—say, like prohibiting conversion from Islam to Christianity.
Given Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting the declaration and the regime’s abysmal record concerning religious freedom, it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. It’s difficult to imagine the Saudis making it easier for individuals to convert to and practice Christianity in their and other Islamic countries.
But while Colson doesn’t mention it, the same could be said for non-Christians seeking freedom of religious conscience in countries with predominantly Christian populations like, oh, say, the USA. One could, for example, take Proposition Hate, or the religious language inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance, or the religious motto inscribed on American currency, or any number of state-supported displays of the Ten Commandments, or nativity scenes, or the so-called “war on Christmas,” and conclude that “it’s difficult to imagine America’s Christians making it easier for individuals to convert to and practice non-Christian beliefs in America.”
Substitute “Christian” for “Saudi” and “evangelical” for “Hindu” in Colson’s observation below:
What Saudi clerics and Hindu activists call “respect” is more properly called “religious persecution.” This confusion is the result of what scholar Thomas Farr describes as the failure “to advance religious freedom in any political or cultural sense” around the world.
Sounds familiar, don’t it? Particularly over the past 8 years or so, but going back a lot longer, we’ve had quite a bit of government sponsorship for the notion that “religious freedom” means freedom to submit to Christ as your Savior whenever you want, and for the notion that “respect for religion” means declaring the Christian faith to be superior to all other belief systems, including reality-based beliefs.
Let’s have a look at some of the best stuff Colson has ever written:
What’s needed, as Farr writes in his new book World of Faith and Freedom, is the message that religious freedom is a “precondition for stable self-government.” Government doesn’t give it; government can’t take it away. It “lies at the heart of human dignity” because it recognizes that there are areas where government has no place intruding.
Beams, motes and eyes, Chuck. Let’s start by repealing Proposition Hate and the other Mandatory Fornication Amendments, and move on from there to a government that is truly religiously neutral and which does not endorse or promote Christianity above all else. Then maybe we can presume to lecture other nations on their shoddy support for religious liberty.
But Colson is right about so-called “respect” laws. They’re mega-bad juju, and we need to speak out against them, while we still can.