Quakers and Evangelicals
As a universalist Quaker, with strong political activist views, I suffer constant ambivalence between my cherished Quaker leanings and my conviction that Christian evangelicals pose a serious threat to freedom in contemporary America. As a Quaker I believe that every person, and every church, is and should remain free to practice any and all religious ideas and customs - - so long as they pose no threat to the freedom or welfare of others.
But therein lies the rub! Christan evanngelicals believe the Bible is literally true, that accepting the Bible and Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, and that they have an obligation to preach that precept to all. I have no objection up to that point: that is their right. But many evangelicals (like their counterparts in Islam) believe they have a further moral duty to establish their views through State sanction - - regardless of the offense this may give to the millions of believers in other faiths, and of non-believers. That seems to me to cross a line into a theocratic rule over society, something I believe is inimical to the very foundation of American democracy and to our Constitution. I feel a powerful obligation to oppose this effort by evangelicals to establish a Bible-based reign in our country, or anywhere else, for that matter.
There has been a resurgence in recent years by evangelcal efforts to:
- - replace the teaching of the Darwinian concept of evolution with versions of
creationism in public schools
- - punish same-sex relationships by denying them any of the many benefits of
marriage or civil union
- - deny a woman's right to choose to abort a pregnancy
- - prevent or restrict the use of family plannng methods and techniques, both
in America and abroad
- - hold Christian prayer sessions in schools and other public institutions
- - place Christian symbols, such as the Ten Commandments. on display in public
- - and in various other ways to emphasize their assertion that the United States is a
Both Constitutionally and historically the Unted States is emphatically not a Christian nation, and demographically it becomes less so every year. Trying to impose Christianity on the population subverts the very founding principals of freedom to worship and insuring that there is no state religion.
This political agenda that is beng so energetically pursued by evangelicals, with overt encouragement and support from the currently dominant wing of the Republican Party, thus demands a strong political response from non-evangelicals. As a Quaker I believe that this political response must not be tinged with hate or anger, that there must be civil dialogue between the opposing camps, and that we who oppose the evangelical campaign must take care not to marginalize or alienate the evangelical movement.
Yet I see no room for real compromise. Evangelicals must be helped to understand that America is in no way a Christian country, and that non-Christian freedoms to live according to the tenets of their faith must be protected as zealously as evangelicals protect theirs.