Jesus isn’t illegal in the United States (though He certainly is in many countries), and you might even find it difficult to imagine that Jesus could ever become illegal here in United States. We built this nation on freedom and have always been particularly concerned for religious freedom. So apart from a radical reconstruction of our nation’s ideals, principles, and laws, one may find it inconceivable that Jesus be made illegal.
Conceive again. It is my contention that the exalted ideals of tolerance and diversity, together with an unassailable pluralism, provide the foundation for a culture where Christianity might easily be made illegal. This is a big claim. It needs a lot of clarifying, defining, and evincing. There are some ways in which Jesus already is illegal. So I want to spend a few posts clarifying, defining, and evincing. In this post I will explain how tolerance, diversity, and pluralism might combine, in theory, to produce discrimination against Christianity. Then I will cite some real life examples.
Imagine this: you believe that tolerance and diversity are very, very important. Without them we will simply fall back into the dark ages of crusades and inquisitions. To prevent this we need to be sure to allow all viewpoints to have a voice; we must never look down on someone else’s view. Moreover, you believe that all religions are true, or that all roads lead to God, or that the religious situation is much like a bunch of blind people before an elephant. One guy grabs the trunk and says, “It’s like a rope—long, somewhat soft, but strong.” Another blind man feels the broad side of the elephant and contends that it’s like a wall made of warm, smooth, flesh like material. Another feels the foot and says it is round and very, very hard on the bottom. Well, you say, they are all correct…much like the religions of the world. Nobody is wrong, everyone is right. This is pluralism. It provides a foundation for the tolerance and diversity. There is no reason to look down on any religious view because, according to pluralism, it is just as true as any other religious view. Indeed, the fact that all religious views are true gives ample reason for diversity.
But some Christians say that Jesus is the only way to salvation (cf. John 3:36; John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Call them fundamentalists, or evangelicals, or whatever you like; the point is that they think that all religions but Christianity are false. These types of Christians, it seems, are intolerant and opposed to diversity. They ignorantly (or perhaps malevolently) maintain that Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, and all other religious believers are wrong and are going to hell. Indeed, they are even bold enough to, at times, say these things out loud. If they only knew that all religions are true (pluralism) then they would be tolerant and open to diversity. But they don’t know and they’re not.
Many people believe this way. Perhaps a few changes are in order and things could be said a little differently, but I think it is a fair picture of the views of tens of millions of Americans. The problem is this: if you think this way, you may also think that these Christians must be stopped. Their beliefs engender intolerance. They say and do things that are offensive, hurtful, and divisive. They cannot be allowed to discriminate and speak with hate. It is not good for them, the people around them, or the country as a whole. So stop them.
And some have done just that. At Vanderbilt University, the Christian organizations on campus have been banned from “discrimination” (you can read an article here). This means that they are not allowed to exclude anyone from membership or leadership based on that person’s belief. So if a Buddhist wanted to be a leader of a Christian club, the club has no right to exclude that person based on his or her beliefs. This, of course, violates the fundamental principles and practices of Christianity. But it does not matter—ensuring diversity and tolerance is more important.
One might also look to the hate speech laws of Canada (article here). From what I understand of these laws, if I were to affirm the biblical view that homosexuality is a sin, then I would be in violation of the law and subject to punishment. That is, I could be punished for expressing a certain moral belief. Without a doubt many Americans consider these laws (and the actions of Vanderbilt University) most reasonable and just.
A commitment to tolerance, it seems, has produced intolerance. A commitment to diversity has produced uniformity. One must not say that homosexuality is wrong—that view will not be tolerated in the public sphere. So here we are, committed beyond question to tolerance and diversity. Where are we going? Just look to Vanderbilt and Canada.
The question is this: are we going the right way? Only reason will tell. Above all, we must be reasonable, rational, thoughtful, and careful. In the following two posts I will expose the deep irrationality of those committed to the exalted ideals of tolerance, diversity, and pluralism. That is, I will show how they are unreasonable in their beliefs and, thereby, their actions. And I think we can all agree that if our beliefs are shown to be irrational or unreasonable, we ought to change them.