Monday, July 28, 2008

Religious Freedom and Values

This past week-end at a friend's house, my husband and I watched an Arabic TV show on Islam. After watching this program, we turned to Fox news and watched "Honor Killings", where two American teenagers were murdered by their father within America's borders. In light of certain "tolerance" messages that I've recently recieved via e-mail, I am becoming more and more disturbed.

Religious freedom was a value America was founded on. Today, we find ourselves stressed to find a solution when it comes to religious freedoms. Immigration used to mean that the new Americans assimilated and became part of the "melting pot". Today, America has many segregated niches within her borders.

What does this mean when it comes to religious freedom? On one hand our nation's laws have been tolerant toward religious expression, it has been the wall between Church and State. Tolerance has been valued on the basis of reason, because experience has taught us that without it, we stand to loose much more than just religious freedom.

But, today's climate breeds a contradiction in terms to our religious tolerance. Islamic fundamentalists are not tolerant to religious freedoms or to laws that protect religious freedom. So, if our courts "take up the cause" of determining what defines religious intolerance, then are we not at the doors of a State determining or evaluating a religion's "right" to exist? Will we be tempted to create sanctioned "state religions"?

In light of the "honor" killings, we cannot look the other way when it comes to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", can we? Make no mistake about it, fundamentalist religions do not tolerate diversity. Religion, in this sense, is conformity to certain standards that are measurable. And these standards justify many "heart sins" as well as overt killings in the name of "god". The values we hold for the individual are despised by these types of religious interpretations. Written texts are literal and are implemented in the name of "god". It is based on a shame and honor culture that uses fear, intimidation, humiliation and any other "justified" means to implement a standardized culture upon humans. It is not humane because the concern is for "god" and not Man.

The question for America is: should we trust the Islamic "moderates", who promise to educate the "peasants" about moderation? Will education in the usual sense make a difference for those who have been "brain-washed" (in a cultic sense)? And how does America in the meantime "do" foreign policy when it comes to rogue nations? Do we still believe that all desire to be "free" as individuals? And do the Churches within America's borders believe that the individual is a valued "image-bearer", who have certain inalienable rights or do American churches have a "group identity"? Isn't part of our American Christian experiment our diversity in viewpoints? And isn't diversity where our denominations define our religion? Isn't faith really about being human, instead of the dogma and doctrines of the Church of the past?

No comments: