Religious freedom means I had every right to pray while attending public school and wear my (painfully) corny shirts while proudly strutting around with my Bible to showcase my extreme holiness (which entirely missed the point of the Gospel, but I digress). It also means Muslim students have an equal right to pray in school, wear hijabs, host Quran study groups and read their holy texts in their quiet times. It means Jewish students can do the same. As can Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and all others.
The truth exposes. It places things out in the open. From there, we can respond and move on. The opposite almost always grows into something uncontrollable, as our quest to hide the truth leads to piles of increasingly larger lies piled on top of lies that all threaten to destroy our house of cards and expose our hypocrisy.
So instead of looking at his words as statements of America’s inherent greatness and taking a whitewashed view of his life to essentially deify him (and the other founders), let us take his words for what they really are: a challenge.
In all situations, consider how you would want it to happen if the roles were reversed. That’s what Jesus told us to do. I promise even the slightest consideration of this premise in our daily lives will radically transform our attitudes and actions toward the world around us. It will force us to acknowledge their humanity, their feelings, their pain. And it will force us to acknowledge our role in causing it. Maybe then we’ll actually be able to engage the world the way Jesus did.
Jesus sought these people out. In some cases they came to him, in others they merely cried out to him, and in several he literally pursued them. The savior of the world, God incarnate, went out of his way to affirm the humanity of these people. His empathy for them reflected his knowledge that they bear the image of God. His actions were those of someone pursuing a lost loved one.
We have a responsibility, both as a key contributor to many of the biggest issues in our world today (including climate change) and as the self-professed greatest country in the world, to lead. Leading requires self-reflection, an ability to recognize our shortcomings and work to improve them. Shirking responsibility is not part of the job.
When religious liberty becomes an effort by Christians to treat other people poorly, refusing service or care, those Christians actually abandon the core premise of their professed faith. Jesus called us to love our neighbors. His entire life is a demonstration of including anyone who comes, with no exception, meeting their needs, and treating them with genuine love and support.