President Obama has recently taken flak from the Right over his requirement that employer-funded insurance plans cover contraception. The top Republicans running for president have cast this as an issue of religious freedom.
I’m all for religious freedom. I would quite literally be dead without it. However, I wonder whether Romney and Santorum see the irony in their position, for the Bible is consistently against religious freedom.
Back when God was directly in charge of the nation of Israel (even before there were kings), here is how he chose to run things, according to the Bible (Deuteronomy 13:6-10):
If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” … Show them no pity. … You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death…
Let that sink in. If your own child even whispers a suggestion to worship other gods, you are to stone him to death without pity. That’s how the God of Romney and Santorum ran things when he was in charge, according to the Bible.
Things are not much better in the supposedly kinder and gentler New Testament. The apostle Paul called down God’s curse (“May they go to hell,” basically) on all who would preach contrary to his message (Galatians 1:8-9):
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Lest we think that this is a harmless figure of speech, consider that Paul also said that if you take communion “unworthily” God might strike you with sickness or even death (1 Corinthians 11:27-30):
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. …those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
Let’s all work for religious freedom. For the Religious Right, the first step in that struggle must be to disavow passages like these.
The second step might be to apologize for the burnings-at-the-stake and other atrocities that their forebears carried out under the influence of passages like the one from Deuteronomy.
As a third step, if they’re really serious about religious freedom, the Religious Right could lead the way to removing blasphemy laws from the books. In my state of Massachusetts, Chapter 272, Section36 is still on the books:
Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, His creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.
Those steps would communicate loud and clear that the Religious Right really are concerned about religious freedom, and not just about getting their own way. They would also show a humility that would do a lot to foster dialog with the more secular part of the political spectrum.