The religious sect that arrived in this country four-hundred years ago was not seeking religious freedom.That’s a myth. Instead its members sought a theocracy, a rule by God or church, their God or church. And their God was an angry, demanding, and vengeful one who, in the words of one preeminent Puritan scholar and minister, viewed man as comparable to a spider being dangled over a flame.
It was a century and a half later when religious freedom gained traction, and it did so through the efforts of people like Franklin and Paine. They were not atheists; in fact they were not godless at all, but they did place more emphasis on man’s freedom of choice and his ability to make his own life better. Since then, since the subsequent American Revolution, we have at least paid lip service to religious freedom. Admittedly it has not always gone smoothly—discrimination is part of our history too—but the theory has always been there. Until now.
Trump’s Muslim Ban can easily be construed as the first step toward creating a national religion and making that old Puritan dream a reality—a country where everyone would share the same faith, or if not the same faith, at least any faith whose supreme being is named God and not something else like Buddha, or Yahweh, or Jehovah, or Krishna, or Allah. Here in the 21st century we’re probably too sophisticated for witch trials, but if my main god has a different name, I’m not feeling too comfortable right now.
Most of Congress is Christian—92%. It’s understandable that they would lean heavily toward Christianity. But members of Congress were elected to serve not just one religious group but to guarantee religious freedom for all Americans, regardless of country of origin. That these so-called Christians would abdicate that responsibility is baffling, but unless they speak out against the Muslim Ban and all other discriminatory acts, that’s exactly what they’re doing. It’s not very…well…Christian?
After a spate of hate crimes immediately following the election of Trump, activity has diminished. But don’t be misled: the frequency and severity of these crime remain well above pre-election levels. Trump’s insistence on demonizing Muslims by word, action, and statute will only make matters worse; and his rhetoric—along with that of his mentors—is certain to sanction more hatred.