What If Christians Imposed Their Morality On Others?

 

517668242_02b0512b78I was pondering this question the other day, after hearing that old chestnut about how Christians are trying to impose their will on the rest of us (as if the religious left, scientific atheists, secularists, materialists, pagans, and agnostics stand passively on the sidelines, while the great cultural and ethical debates rage).

So, what could we expect to see if Christians imposed their morality on others? Well, duh, it’s not like it’s a big mystery or something. We are standing on the shoulders of hundreds of years of western, Christian, democratic history. You don’t have to speculate. You also don’t have to wonder how the imposition of Christian morality would stack up against the imposition of socialism, atheism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, paganism or progressivism on society, since there are plenty of those states or governments around to examine, many of which have been functioning for a good long time!

Under a dominant western Christian culture, I would expect to see liberals and progressives, scientific atheists and agnostics, as well as a good number of pagans and adherants to other streams of spirituality, along with Christians, at the highest places in government, educational institutions, and social welfare agencies. At the same time, robust women’s, gay, and minority movements would be thriving, imposing their values on the majority through the media, the arts, government policy and the academy. That’s because, historically and contemporarily, Christianity has proven to be very tolerant of others in promoting justice and fairness. Of course, I’m sure some would be quick to point to the relative few examples of Christian intolerance or bigotry down through time, but that would be — well, that would just be silly. The fact is, the levels of diverstity and tolerance enjoyed throughout Europe, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and others who have adopted western ideals is light years beyond Russia, China, the Middle East and repressive nations in the Pacific Rim.

So, back to the “what if” scenario: In western nations built on Christian notions of fairness and tolerence, Christians would be alternately vilified or lampooned in the dominant media and pop culture, yet slavery would be abolished, while it flourishes in Muslim societies and Africa. Every sort of sexual practice and gender confusion would be allowed or even celebrated, while homosexuality is once more being considered a capital crime in socialist Russia, as it was until 1996. Gays, pornographers, and others would be brutally treated in atheist China and majority Buddhist nations. And, what about censorship of the internet and the press? The scientific atheist utopias are the biggest offenders. When it comes to the environment and fouling one’s own nest, I’d say the atheists, pagans and Buddhists win hands down.

No, the fact is that, when it comes to imposing values, morality, and ideology on others, Christians are probably the last people in the world we should be fearing. When you look at the propaganda poster at the top of the post, I think you need to ask yourself why all those pagan, Buddhist, Islamic, and atheist utopians are walking away from their lands and out into the rest of the world with clenched fists and AK-47s. It doesn’t appear as if they are ready to engage in a dialogue… they don’t seem to be rooting for their favorite on American Idol… and, I doubt if they are heading to their local community college to sign up for Anthropology 27 Gender, Sex and Culture.

22 Comments

  1. Nikki said:

    I do fear you. You are a very scary man with an unreasonable political agenda that benefits only those who think like you. He he. Being so close minded to everything around you, I think you are intolerant and very scary. The way you pray for people and humble yourself in your sins. Down right offensive!!!

    On a serious note…

    I like your post!

    April 9, 2007
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  2. pietyhill said:

    I love our pluralistic nation… that’s one of the positives of our western Christian culture, where tolerance has always been a virtuous ideal, even when many fell short of that ideal. We really are spoiled here… we can’t understand how a Rwanda or Balkans take place at this point in history. Where else could pluralism have arisen and been celebrated except in Europe or the Americas?

    Nikki–yes, I’m on the offensive. By the way, did you see my comment about Eric on my last post?

    April 9, 2007
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  3. It’s just funny how timely this post of yours actually is…

    April 10, 2007
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  4. Nikki said:

    He is one dreamy guy. Why do you think I married him??? My kids love to listen to the Smoothies in the car. It reminds me of my youth. Who’d a thought I would marry that studly looking bass player?

    April 10, 2007
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  5. I want to ask the question: Were Christian principles of morality present when “separation of church and state” was coined?

    April 10, 2007
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  6. I’m sorry.
    Does the wall of separation reflect moral principles? In other words, can we still be Christians with Christian morals and not expect or *require* everyone to have Christian morals?

    April 11, 2007
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  7. pietyhill said:

    Does the wall of separation reflect moral principles? In other words, can we still be Christians with Christian morals and not expect or *require* everyone to have Christian morals?

    Your original question was about the “separation of church and state” and I look at that the same way I look at other concepts… what it meant, when the phrase was coined. Jefferson was not an evangelical Christian and he wrote those words to assure the Danbury Baptists that he would see to it that the government, his administration, would honor the establishment clause in the first ammendment — the Baptists would not be compelled to violate their conscience by requiring them to submit to the regulation of a national church. He also told them that the government would not inhibit their right to worship as they please and participate in social duties. Here’s the specific part of the text:

    Gentlemen,-The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association give me the highest satisfaction. . . . Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem.

    You will note that President Jefferson agrees with the Baptists in his belief “that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God” and he closes with a promise to pray for the Baptists.

    So, I think it would be safe to say that the concept “reflects moral principles,” since both Jefferson and the Baptists appeal to natural laws and natural rights, emanating from God (Jefferson’s deist concept and the Baptist’s trinitarian God).

    I’m a Christian and I certainly don’t expect or require everyone to have Christian morals. It’s hard enough to convince Christians that they should act “Christianly” and that’s certainly the picture the Bible paints of man’s condition.

    As to legislating morality or advocating Christian morals, well the US Consitution lays out a compromise sort of arrangement in which every citizen is free to bring their morals, their notion of an ideal society to the table and seek to effect laws that reflect those views. So, anyone who casts a vote is imposing or seeking to “require” everyone to conform to their morality, be it Christian, atheist, agnostic, marxist, socialist, green, capitalist, pedophile, Jewish, Muslim… everything but Amish or anarchist, I suppose. The only way Christians could “require” others to conform to Christian morality in the US is the same as the atheist, Jew, agnostic, gay… get the most votes!!! So, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a theocracy to come into power any time soon.

    In a totalitarian regime, the morality of the dictator is imposed. In a pure democracy, the morality of the majority is imposed. In a representative republic, the morality of the majority is imposed via representation, unless (as in our case here in the US) the representatives blow off their constituents and impose what they think is best. To sum up… any talk under the US system of “imposing morality” on others, as if someone can do so without working through the process, is silly. In the US, we are always having someone else’s morality imposed upon us and we are required to violate our conscience to some degree. But, the Constitution and Bill of Rights give us some limits… better limits than many other nations on the planet.

    April 11, 2007
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  8. rocinante said:

    Good stuff. Thanks, Sadie for pointing the way here.

    Those who seek to impose their morality on others, by law or by arms, have pictures of Joshua, not Jefferson in their dens. Pluralism was not the byword as God ordered him to kill every man, woman, child, ox, and goat of the conquered.

    When did become ok with God that pluralism become not only tolerated, but celebrated (he asked somewhat rhetorically)?

    April 11, 2007
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  9. said:

    When did it become ok with God that pluralism was not only tolerated, but celebrated (he asked again somewhat rhetorically, but less tortured gramatically)?

    April 11, 2007
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  10. said:

    …less tortured, but still in sorry shape.

    April 11, 2007
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  11. said:

    Bo said…
    Why did God order everything to be slaughtered… why was He completely intolerant of any others in Caanan and why did He order Joshua to do the deed… And, why now, is God okay with pluralism and why are Christians to be tolerant? Why theocracy then, but not now? And, when you arrive at the answer to that question — can, should or shouldn’t Christians be involved in civil government. If not, why not? If so, to what degree? Finally, the big question I would ask a Christian… Why isn’t God having you guys wipe everyone else out now and how do you know He won’t ask you to do it one more time, like He did with Joshua and the others?

    May I try answering that question?
    I’ll make it simple.
    Could the cross have anything to do with it?
    Mercy, Grace, Love…
    I mean, if Christians are to be like Jesus to the world–if we are to *SHOW* Christ by being an example–how is “Joshua’s deeds” any kind of a response?
    Doesn’t the Lord say he will provide the wrath if we provide the love? Aren’t we merely given the simple task of showing the world Christianity by being Christians? Do we not spread the gospel to the nations by providing love, mercy, grace to the needs of the least of these?
    Are we not called to be poor in spirit since we are rich in faith?
    I see nothing after the cross that points to reclaiming America for Christ.

    April 12, 2007
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  12. pietyhill said:

    Hi Sadie:

    That’s a good answer, I think.

    Being a Christian involves many tasks, some not so simple. For example, I’m a husband, a father, a pastor, a Postmaster, a citizen under authority… then, there are the optional things I do… hobbies, interests and such. We not only show Christ, but we have a message to deliver. We also engage in apologetics. Sometimes, when others would seek to silence us as they did Peter, John, Paul… well, all of them. Then, like Paul, we appeal to Caesar and work within the system. There’s a lot there.

    I was thinking of answers that were more sweeping, more comprehensive but yours is good and would satisfy a reasonable skeptic. Unreasonable skeptics are impossible to satisfy. They have questions to have questions.

    I listened to a good debate today between Richard Dawkins and Alister McGrath. Dawkins made a lot of good points… He gave me a few satisfactory answers. It’s a shame, but I rarely meet or read or hear of a skeptic who will be so fair. I always seem to be exposed to the fundamentalist atheists and skeptics.

    I don’t understand your last statement, though. I didn’t mention anything in my post about “reclaiming America for Christ.”

    April 12, 2007
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  13. said:

    I think it’s interesting that Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua.

    Why did God order everything to be slaughtered… why was He completely intolerant of any others in Caanan and why did He order Joshua to do the deed…

    God was very tolerant with the nations of Caanan. In Gen. 15, God told Abraham that the full measure of their (the Amorites/Caananites) sin had not yet been reached. God would tolerate them for another 430 years before using Joshua to destroy them.

    Why Joshua?

    I don’t know. Pestilence, natural disaster, or great balls of fire (a la Sodom and Gomorrah) could have sufficed.

    And, why now, is God okay with pluralism and why are Christians to be tolerant?

    After reading and hearing so much from skeptics I think I’d actually started to think, as they do, that God was wrathful from one end of the OT to the other. That’s not the case of course. God did not commence an unprecedented program of mercy at Calvary (or maybe it’s more proper to say God was not merciless before Calvary), but He has shown mercy on whom He chooses to show mercy from Eden on.

    The Church, the true Israel, is now in a period like the 430 years between Abraham and Joshua—in but not of the world around us, increasing our numbers; separate from the world by virtue of our place in the Kingdom of God, and called to be set apart by obedience to God.

    But Joshua is in the wings, awaiting the order to do the deed.

    April 12, 2007
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  14. pietyhill said:

    Right on… the theocracy begins with the return of Joshua, the Lamb — then, we will not only see the glory of God pass by, but established:

    I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

    Until that time, I don’t want to see a theocracy… anyone’s theocracy. My Baha’i friends dream about the time when peace and freedom will flow from the Universal House of Justice in Haifa. Their dream is my nightmare, because there will be fallible humans at the helm. It would also turn out to be their nightmare, too.

    Yes, I agree that “it’s more proper to say God was not merciless before Calvary.” I like that. I don’t like to hear Christians being so defensive… an apologetic does not need to sound so defensive and, while being gentle and respectful, it can and must be be pointed at times… after all, WWJD? Well, we know what He would do:

    Matthew 15:2 – 28 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

    Yes, in the world but not of the world. I’m grateful to be in that part of the world where I can appeal to the magistrate when hostiles attempt to silence and coerce my family, my friends and others and where I have the liberty to proclaim the gospel now, while it’s still daylight.

    April 13, 2007
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  15. rocinante said:

    …while it’s still daylight.

    While reading background for these postings I was hit with how tolerant God is, and how deeply evil societies become before God judges apocalyptically. The Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Nations of Caanan—even Jerusalem in 70AD. I fear for the coming generations.

    I read that archeologists have discovered that Caananite parents had a custom of sacrificing a child and burying the body in the walls of a new house in order to obtain a “blessing” for themselves. Such were the practices that precipitated their judgement. How dark will be the evil that precipitates the judgement of the entire world and end time itself?

    Thanks for this post and your replies. I have a renewed passion to take to those around me—not the law which can only convict—but the gospel which is the only thing that can save to those around me.

    Should we impose Christian morality on others? Only if we don’t care that they face God clothed only in their (or our) morality.

    April 13, 2007
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  16. said:

    It’s a shame, but I rarely meet or read or hear of a skeptic who will be so fair. I always seem to be exposed to the fundamentalist atheists and skeptics.

    I don’t understand your last statement, though. I didn’t mention anything in my post about “reclaiming America for Christ.”

    Sorry about the last bit. Dominionism has been on my plate these last few days.
    It’s bleeding into my thought life–it’s a perplexing concept.
    I always seem to be faced with the fundie atheist too–except on my own blog–they don’t come around to my turf too much–I usually run into them on their turf/their atheist clubs. All they do there is strengthen their convictions against God and critisize those that oppose them. Oh, and they make fun of what they don’t understand–can you tell I have become jaded? Took about 3 months.

    Should we impose Christian morality on others? Only if we don’t care that they face God clothed only in their (or our) morality.

    *goosebumps*

    Cool line–but what if they think that’s enough despite our efforts?

    April 13, 2007
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  17. rocinante said:

    what if they think that’s enough despite our efforts?

    I think you know the answer to that…and why our best efforts are only potential catalysts. (How often do we give our best efforts?)

    I was thinking this morning how great it is that you’ve built a loyal friendship at your blog with a group of outspoken atheists, despite that fact that you tell the truth to the best of your ability at every oportunity. I hope you realize how unique you are in that you present the Christianity to some people who would have nothing to do with it coming from anybody else. If they did not have some openness to what you are saying—or at least respect for you, which is the prerequisite for openness—they’d have moved on to another victim long ago.

    You’re a lifeline.

    April 13, 2007
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  18. rocinante said:

    …the Christianity…?

    Oh, how I need the preview option!

    April 13, 2007
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  19. said:

    Rocinante–
    Thank you.
    Please keep coming back to my blog–sometimes, people like you are MY lifeline.

    April 14, 2007
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  20. That’s the post I tried to write many times and failed. The drafts were either too offensive, or too dull. I couldn’t get it right. You beat me to it.

    One of these days, I’ll get around to finishing it. You’ve given me the inspiration. However, I might have to steal a few of your ideas. I’ll give credit where it’s due of course.

    April 14, 2007
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  21. pietyhill said:

    I’m glad you liked it, sir. I look forward to your entry… I’ll keep an eye out.

    P.S. Looks like we may be down in SF next week… I’ll drop you a line if we’re on.

    April 14, 2007
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