I’ve posted a fair amount here of late about religious freedom and the HSS contraception mandate. The reason I’ve done so is that religious freedom is essential not only to a civil society but to human flourishing. Let me explain please.
Yes I can be wrong in my apprehension and appraisal of what God would have for me. But my errors are mine to make not anyone else’s. Freedom of conscience is a right that, like all rights, presupposes an obligation not simply to acknowledge the Creator but to offer worship and thanksgiving to the Creator. I must be free of the coercive power of the State in matters of religion because only I can offer God thanksgiving and worship. My responsibility to God is in as unalienable as my right to religious freedom. Neither can be taken from me by others, nor can I give them to another to exercise on my behalf.
Yes we can pray for each other but not in each other’s place.
More broadly the moral obligation to God has political and social implications. My right and responsibility to acknowledge, thank and worship God makes relative and secondary precisely those aspects of my life that I would make primary: Power and Prestige. I am not God and neither is my neighbor. Much less is even the most just of governments God. Rather we all stand under the judgment of God.
Now however our religious rights and responsibilities are under attack. While it is comforting to limit the threat to the Federal government or the popular culture, the attack is first foremost rooted in the human heart. And by human heart, I mean my own heart.
Does this mean that Christians should, or at least can, remain indifferent to the political and social questions? God forbid any think this!
But as I said in an earlier post, my response to these political and cultural questions need to be rooted in a fundamental humility. I must know, accept and act upon the truth that I am a creature. As such I am both limited in what I know even as I am dependent upon God and neighbor for all the good things in my life.
And for all this I must thank God, I must be grateful.
Historically the central act of Christian worship is the Eucharist, the act of Thanksgiving. When as an Orthodox Christian I celebrate the Eucharist I stand before God the Father and together with the whole Church and in the Name of Jesus Christ I not offer my life to God as a rational and unbloody sacrifice. And the Father in His great love of mankind not only accepts my offering but gives me back my life now transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the life of Jesus Christ.
Yes there are many people, even many Christians, who don’t believe this. But their lack of belief no more invalidates the Eucharist then my sin invalidates God’s love for me.
As an American my freedom not to simply worship God but to shape my life the belief that vivifies that worship is central. For all our faults it is (if I may be so bold) American’s gift to the world. And it is worth defending.