Monday, June 20, 2005

Religious Conversion Cannot Be Legislated

Over the last decade or so, fundamentalist Christians have spent inordinate amounts of time and resources trying to alter federal and state laws to better conform to their so-called religious beliefs. I suppose the purpose behind this extraordinary effort is to try to craft a society that more closely embodies the kind of world they think their god desires.

For me, however, this effort undermines the basic tenets of Christian thought. Jesus did not seek to win hearts and, thereby, converts via the tip of a sword or spear. Jesus didn't back people up against the wall and say, "Do things my way or else I'm going to hurt you". Jesus never traveled to Rome to lobby for a change in Roman law.

Instead of concerning himself with these sorts of worldly mechanisms, he sought to change people's hearts, one-at-a-time. Instead of utilizing the force of the state, he tried to appeal to people's minds and souls that what he was saying and preaching rang true.

This is the essence of conversion, to try convince someone else that they should view things from an altogether different perspective.

True conversion never occurs by force -- You can't force a person to believe anything. A true convert comes to accept a different perspective ONLY when they voluntarily see "the light".

What happens to most of us when someone tries to force something upon us? Generally, our first response is to become defensive. It doesn't matter how worthy the idea or concept might be -- our initial reaction is to reject it out of hand. Sometimes, we may not only reject it but openly fight against it (even when fighting it it might prove ultimately to be against our own best interests)!

Yet, despite the fact Jesus never tried to win converts through any form of force AND most people become defensive when something is forced onto them, this is the precise strategy being employed by the Religious Right. It almost seems as if Christian fundamentalists are saying to their chosen leader, "Who needs your example? What do you know? We know what we're doing."

Let's consider the current efforts to define legally what marriage constitutes. From a conservative Christian perspective, the act of marriage can only take place between one man and one woman. By working fervently to make this religious definition a secular legal definition, fundamentalists are FORCING their belief on everyone else.

By forcing this definition on all, they are greatly lessening their opportunity to convince others of the correctness of their definition and, thus, they unwittingly are lessening the pool of potential converts.

As discussed in the previous entry, if you are a true believer in your faith, the one thing you certainly desire is to be in the position to convert as many people as possible to your religious truth. And it's very difficult to convert people to your way of thinking if you ram your ideas down their throat!

This is one of the reasons I think that religion needs to divorce itself from the civil union process. Since our government is supposed to represent all citizens -- Christian and non-Christian alike -- the granting of civil unions between consenting adults should be a general civic function.

If people then wish to solemnize their union in the form of a religiously-recognized marriage, they can go to a church to have a priest, reverend, pastor, rabbi or whatever preside over a religious ceremony. Those churches that define marriage as being between 1 man and 1 woman would not be forced to sanctify the vows of a gay or lesbian couple.

This would allow religious institutions to observe their own creeds and beliefs, while allowing people from all different persuasions the legal right to form civil unions.

Most importantly, it would provide conservative Christians with the opportunity to try to convince others that their definition is correct, while not forcing that definition on anyone outside of their faith community.


  1. 'It almost seems as if Christian fundamentalists are saying to their chosen leader, "Who needs your example? What do you know? We know what we're doing."'

    I wonder how much this has to do with their conception of their chosen leader, JC. As much as Christianity focuses (in church, anyway) on the resurrection of Christ, I don't see that concept translated into how many Christians relate to JC. The question asked so many times is "What would Jesus do?" Maybe a better question would be "What is Jesus doing RIGHT NOW in my life and in the world?" If you truly believe in a resurrected Christ and his influence in the world today, then don't you have an obligation to treat him as an active leader instead of a dead one?

    Ooof. Too much thinking before coffee.

  2. Andi,
    That's a good point for Christians to keep in mind. As a Taoist, I don't accept the notion that anybody gets resurrected. In my book, Jesus was a great human who died about 2,000 years ago.


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