I had written that morning to praise Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones, a pastor. Religion was on my mind.
Jones had spoken out against the erroneous, unconstitutional, un-American, and irreligious premise that America is a Christian nation or that we should behave as “Christian nationalists.”
We are a nation of free religion in which personal religious beliefs create principles that individual voters use to seek to influence a nation separate from any particular religion.
No one has the right to impose religion directly through the government. It is not freedom of religion, as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. It is the hostage religion, which has plagued the world throughout history.
I’ve had a few requests via email or text from members of a retiree class that I lead each week to dedicate class time the next morning to discussing this issue. It was good for me.
I thought I’d start by saying, “Let’s talk a little about religion. Then it occurred to me that this particular class might fall on Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish observances and a solemn day of prayer, fasting, and atonement.
I checked. Yes, Yom Kippur began at dusk on Tuesday and lasted until dusk on Wednesday.
The class is part of a community-funded program and includes contributions from several local major churches or religious groups – Catholics, Episcopalians, Unitarians, Methodists, Presbyterians and Jews.
There are a few Church of Christ members sneaking around, but I’ll protect their identities.
The class is honored with several Jewish attendees, most of whom would be absent that day due to the traditional Yom Kippur morning service.
Could this be an indelicate occasion to speak of the question of a “Christian nation”? Or could it be ideal?
I went with the latter. Our class amounted to a happy culture, punctuated by great energy and laughter, not always against me but sometimes with me.
Conservative Republicans sometimes grumbled, sometimes responded, but then made large matching donations, patted me on the back afterward, and even, in one instance, expressed a precious “I love you, man.”
Some members of the liberal class — and they dominate — sometimes ask in apparent distress what is happening to me, uttering such profanity that I could see myself voting for Asa Hutchinson over Joe Biden for president. (Primarily to support a new Republican Party divorced from Trump and rejecting extremism, whereby practical government could be restored. And, yes, the Democrats have their destructive extremists too. I made it clear that I don’t like them no more.)
The thing I would say to the class is that we are a group that works well because of, not in spite of, our religious differences. These seemed to have no bearing on the political and current issues we were discussing.
We were not a Christian class or a Jewish class; we were many one and some the other. Most of the time, we were the happy class of a grumpy grump, trying to keep our minds alert and informed and our human interactions vibrant.
I took care to write on my class plan a complete thought, to make sure I got it right: “Our class and our country are strengthened by our national alliance and our tolerance and even the celebration of our religious variety .”
Allies in national purpose, diverse and tolerant in religious views – could there be a better recipe for a well-functioning class, a well-functioning nation, and even a well-functioning world?
This makes it all the more regrettable the sizable fake Christian intolerance expressed no more strongly than by the incumbent senator from Conway State, a distant loser in the recent Republican primary race for lieutenant governor.
Yes, I’m talking about Bro. Jason Rapert, creator and muckety-muck of a national association of “Christian legislators”.
I’ll be sharing Rapert’s post verbatim on Twitter in response to my column touting Jones’ classy stance.
Rapert wrote, “Your regurgitation of attacks on Christian history and our nation’s heritage today in your column is quite shocking. Literally, our well-recorded history proves you wrong. You engage in tactics reminiscent of the evil Axis powers during World War 2. You know better.
Simmer on it for a while. This man seems to view advocating for tolerance of differing views of his religion as a fascist tactic.
I would say “well-recorded history”–a fairly clear and infamous story–turns things upside down.
I argue that every sentence in the man’s tweet is seriously wrong, but neither is the last.
I certainly don’t know any better. Don’t you dare accuse me of that.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his Twitter feed @johnbrummett.