Monday, June 27, 2005


The repeated attempts by (mostly right-wing) Christians in the US to impose their texts, symbols and traditions on others through the legal system are deeply damaging to all involved. Trying to force your religious convictions on fellow citizens in this way is an example of the deeply engrained 'Christendom' mindset -- the idea that 'we' are not only right, but have the right to impose our right on all who are wrong.

Advocates of democracy, human rights and the separation (in legal terms) between church and state are well able to make the case against such things on those grounds. And naturally I echo most of what they say. But I would add a theological rationale. Imposing faith corrupts it, as the Mennonite quoted in the Ekklesia story about the latest Supreme Court rulings rightly implies.

A key category for Christian authenticity is witness, martyria. This is the process by which the world re-understood in relation to the God we encounter in Jesus Christ is attested to not by force, but by its opposite -- acted out love in community.

Love does not seek to control, compel or manipulate. Quite the opposite. It seeks to invite, relate and (where necessary) to contend on the basis of our equality before God. To do otherwise in the name of the Gospel is to issue a counter-witness. And martyria in the New Testament let us never forget, is testimony in the form of a love that is willing to embrace suffering for the other. Imposition, by contrast, is to make the other suffer, and thus to violate the pattern of Christ.

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