This past weekend, approximately 10,000 people gathered in Columbia at the South Carolina State House to participate in a Stand with God/Pro-Family rally whose keynote speakers included pastors, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The rally was in direct protest to the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation and was, because of several impassioned speeches, also a rallying cry for Christians to take back their country and stop its supposed moral degradation.
As I scrolled through the Tweets and news stories of this event, I experienced deep, visceral horror that made me cold and nauseous. I was especially disturbed by Governor Perry’s remarks, which called for “Christian soldiers” to march to Washington, D.C. and “turn over the tables of the money changers,” and likened him to Jesus Christ. I was further disturbed by Senator Cruz imploring pastors to “Stand up and preach!” as though they were not doing so constantly as a part of their jobs. And I was disturbed by the notion that people would think that our nation is a Christian nation in which only certain kinds of Christians are able to live in it with impunity.
While it would be easier to claim that we are a Christian nation and all our citizens have to be a certain type of Christian, it is neither reasonable nor accurate. Our Constitution guarantees that we can both worship what/how we choose and that it will not respect any one specific religion. Public organizations are not allowed to force people to take religious oaths to become employees, and separation of church and state is a fundamental and important part of our society. This separation ensures that people can believe what they want, that no one religion will gain an unfair advantage, and that we as a country can be welcoming to as many different people as possible. It helps create that melting pot that we are all so proud of being.
When I see rallies like this and such religiously dependent speeches from Presidential hopefuls, I genuinely do fear for my country. This rally tells me that there are thousands of people in this country who are so angry at other people having the same rights as them that they will take to the streets. This rally tells me that there are unscrupulous political leaders out there who will actually try to foment rebellion in order to get elected to office. And it tells me that thousands of people believe they have the right to dictate how others live.
I do not want to deny someone else their religion. Religion can be a wonderful thing. It can provide comfort in times of distress and structure and meaning in an otherwise chaotic life. That is wonderful. But this instrument of comfort should not be used as a weapon to deny others their comfort. It should not be wielded as a sword, hacking away at what other people need – religion, family, marriage, jobs, security – all because those people are different. Why is that so hard for people to understand?
* For a good article discussing the feelings behind the rally, click here.