Is it just a case of "Politics As Usual" or is it "Something More"?
In a CNN article this morning entitled "Sharpton accused of 'Bigotry' after remark on faith", it's stated that Sharpton made a statement during a debate about Rommney saying "As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don't worry about that; that's a temporary situation,", to which Romney's spokesman Kevin Madden responded by saying "It is terribly disheartening and disappointing to hear Reverend Sharpton offer such appalling comments about a fellow American's faith," and "America is a nation of many faiths and common values, and bigotry toward anyone because of their beliefs is unacceptable." Romney is also quoted as saying "...That's a great thing about this country. We don't decide who's going to be in office based on what church they go to."
Here's my question, (Sharpton's reputation, antics, and methodology in making his point aside), is Sharpton's statement really bigotry? Put another way, does the freedom of religion and freedom for each person to express his or her religion mean that anyone who speaks against another's faith is necessarily a bigot?
While my observations are from an eccleisiastical rather than political point of interest, and while I have no interest in supporting one candidate over another or even to speak against a particular candidate, but rather simply to address three issues raised by a particular candidate and his his camp, particularly (1) Whether freedom of religion is the same as saying that anyone who speaks to the invalidity of a particular religion or to a particular person's views participates in bigotry, (2) Whether religion is to have NO PART in the consideration and/or selection of a particular political candidate; and (3) Whether being an American means that one must place nationality over religion; ... I make the following observations and comments:
I. Freedom of Religion and Bigotry (Illustrated in politics)
It's interesting to me that if a political candidate were to differ from another on ANY other issue than religion (i.e., their birthplace, their background, their experience, their financial status, their being a Washington bureaucrat vs. a local/state politician, their political views (such as their believing one way about the war vs. another, or believing and holding views on one position on global warming vs. another, etc.) then he/she is free to do so, even speaking to what they believe to be their opponent's false beliefs, and do so with the sharpest of words, and not be called a bigot; ...BUT, if one speaks what they believe not only to be the truth but also the political environment, especially when one speaks from a position that sides with Christianity against another faith, then one is labelled a BIGOT.
Is this just political maneuvering, or is it an example of bigotry (prejudice and intolerance) against anyone who espouses Christianity and makes positive assertions concerning the belief system of others? Just as Romney has the right to worship, hold and express his beliefs, is the same not true of those who espouse Christian beliefs? Could the response from Romney's spokesman not be considered bigotry against Christianity or Sharpton and his beliefs? Here's the point, is the possession of freedom of religion (the freedom to worship and express one's religion) the same as suggesting the freedom of one's religion from any consideration or evaluation from others, particularly when considered in other than the context of religion (and freedom of religion)?
Is one necessarily a bigot if they disagree with the views of another? Is one necessarily a bigot if they disagree with the faith of another? Is one necessarily a bigot if they affirm their belief concerning the invalidity of another's faith and does so respectfully (note - I don't disagree that Sharpton could have handled this matter more sensitively, etc.) Is one necessarily a bigot if one speaks to another's faith as a detriment given the present political climate? Or, is it that anytime a person speaking from a Christian perspective makes reference to the false nature of the beliefs and belief systems of others, they are labeled a bigot?" The fact of the matter is that in our society, Christians have accepted the lie of political correctness that suggests that freedom of religion demands that while at the same time we provide and defend the freedom of every individual to worship and express their beliefs that we also agree to never speak to or provide an evaluation of the beliefs of others in any context whether dealing with the subject of freedom of religion or not. The truth is that not all religions are the same, and while only the Holy Spirit is the Lord of the conscience and while each is to possess the right to choose their own religion, ... to fail to acknowledge that religions are different and that religions come with different beliefs, practices, persuasions, etc., is to fail not only to come to grips with a significant truth (one America is learning the hard way with some propenents of Islam), but to fail to live up to the Scriptural call to speak truth concerning all matters, to distinguish and exalt Christ in all of life, and to demolish false teaching and strongholds wherever they are found.
While one can speak openly concerning one's beliefs that another person is wrong and holds false beliefs, why is it that when it comes to religion, and particularly Christian vs. others, then one is immediately labelled a bigot if one holds to the Christian position or expresses their views concerning the false beliefs of a person who holds to a different religion. Note, this is not to say that each person should not be able to hold and express their own beliefs, nor is it to suggest that anyone should speak unrespectfully to or about a person concerning their beliefs (note: I did not hear Sharpton make his statement and do not know his tone), but at the same time, is it intolerance to suggest that the beliefs of another are false (if indeed they are) or is it intolerant to suggest that when one suggests or declares the views of another to be false that one is not entitled to their own beliefs (and expression thereof, especially if one is willing to assume the consequences of their statements). My point is this, anytime a person speaks Christian truth or from a Christian persuasion, society is quick to label them as being intolerant (but isn't it intolerant of others to do so?).
2. Religion ... and Selection of a Political Candidate
While it's true that one's religion is not the only factor one should consider when selecting a president, Romney's camp in stating that "... We don't decide who's going to be in office based on what church they go to", while true on one level, tends to suggest that what religion a person holds, what foundation they operate from, and what values they hold should not be a factor AT ALL in selection of a political candidate (president or otherwise).
Is this really the case? Would it not make a difference to the direction, policy, and leadership of our country if the person being selected for the presidency were a strong atheist, or a white supremacist, or Islamic extremist?
Note, I'm not suggesting that one's religious position is the only consideration, but to deny it even AS a consideration is something completely different! (Does freedom of religion mean the same thing as "All religions are the same and are to be considered on equal footing"? I don't think so. That's not to suggest than one's religion should qualify or disqualify a person from running for or holding office; however, that is different from suggesting that when considering a person for office, their religion and religious beliefs should not be taken into consideration (AT ALL). Does not the Scripture say that "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."?
I also make the point that while we can simply set religion off on its side as a 'hands off' zone ... so as to deny religion as a factor (or ANY factor)in any public discouse, debate, or decisions, and in so doing play into the agenda of the secularists, and the hands of those who seek to remove any vestige of Christianity from the public life, the better solution is to acknowledge that while one possesses the freedom to worship and express their beliefs as they choose (within reasonable limits) that failure to acknowledge that religion plays any part in who a person is or the beliefs they hold or their qualification (at least as one factor among all the others as a matter of consideration) for office is to act unwisely and deny the truth, and that to buy into the lie that not only is one's belief not to be a central and significant issue (regardless of who the person is or what religion they hold to) but not to be a consideration AT ALL is to only invite trouble and problems down the road.
3. Patriotism and Faith
Are not the priorities suggestive when the spokesman asserts what Sharpton said concerning "another AMERICAN'S FAITH." Is it that one's being an American takes precedence and importance over one's faith, or is it ultimately the other way around? While I'm as patriotic as any American, the one whose nationality takes precedence over their faith has not much of a faith to speak of.