Is it possible for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other religions to live together in peace or must we always have conflict? Some Christians call for America to return to its Christian roots. The request assumes that America has exclusively Christian roots, but that is not the case. Native Americans had a totally different religion long before any Europeans arrived. African slaves had a variety of religions very different from their European slave masters. Even Europeans were not all Christian. Some had no religion.
Do we really want a return to European-style Christianity? Let us not forget that European kings and queens imposed upon their populace a particular brand of Christianity and those of a different persuasion, even Christian, were persecuted. So, when people tell me that they want a Christian republic, I am concerned that a Baptist government may ban my glass of wine, that a Catholic government may ban my Protestant faith, that a Sunday majority government may ban my seventh day Christian friends from worshiping on the day that their faith demands, Saturday or working on a Sunday.
So, even a Christian majority government has dangerous potential to restrict the faith of others of the same faith. Christianity is a world religion. It is even the majority in many countries, but not so much in others. As Christianity grows in any country, there have always been a mixture with other religions in that society. How did ancient Romans keep the peace with those who practiced other religions? The Emperor may have banned other religions, but was that really the church’s preferred solution? Christianity is not about imposition, even though some Christian leaders have practiced just that. Christianity is a voluntary religion, not a dictatorship.
As a devout Christian, I am called to peace with my neighbors, not burning them to the stake or drowning them to prove they are not witches. Persecution, which some in the church supported down through the ages, was a perversion of the faith. So, living in peace with my neighbors means that if my Muslim neighbors’ house burns, I am among the first to come to their aid, and if my Hindu neighbor is out of work, I am among the first to offer some food, and if my Jewish neighbor is in hospital, I am among the first to visit.
How do we create peace between us? How do neighbors of different religions or no religion keep the peace in a manner which makes any society function well? The imposition or dictatorship of religion is not the answer. Sharia law or Puritan law or Moses’ law does not apply to everyone’s faith system. It cannot and must not be imposed. What we need is negotiated law whose purpose it to create peace between all parties. What we need is democracy, not just in theory, or pretense, or veneer, but in reality at every level. That means that we cannot have a Christian government in America, but a pluralistic one that gives every member the greatest opportunity for freedom of choice.