McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. Consider the following: In certain areas of the Pacific Northwest, churches cannot construct new buildings or even expand their facilities. An Orange County, Fla., ordinance does not allow for a religious gathering of any kind in a residential area. Thus a small prayer meeting cannot be held in a private living room. Recently, a Vermont couple was denied their request for vanity license plates. The reason, their choice of ROMANS5 and ROMANS8 might be offensive to others.
These are but three examples — the tip of the proverbial iceberg — of religious intolerance currently faced by religious conservatives in America. If a religion possesses exclusive truth and moral absolutes, it is viewed by many with disdain. Conservative Christians, Orthodox Jews and fundamentalists Muslims are all looked upon with equal contempt.
Many who are potential targets of the religious bigotry creeping across America yawn at its reality. Granted, the intolerance is only a mild irritant when compared to the true persecution occurring in other areas of the world. However, left unchallenged this bias could well become government censure of certain politically incorrect religions. Could it be only a matter of time until religious persecution occurs on American soil?
If the seeds of persecution are being sown in the humus of present intolerance, why do so few seem concerned? There are no easy answers, but at least three possibilities exist: Acceptance, Preoccupation and Complacency.
In his book, “A Time for Anger”, Franky Schaeffer states, “In the twentieth century, evangelical Christians in America have naively accepted the role assigned us by an anti-religious, anti-Christian consensus in society. We have been regulated to a cultural backwater, where we are meant to paddle around content in the knowledge that we are merely allowed to exist.” For many religious conservatives, the back of the bus is a comfortable place to be, simply because they have never attempted to sit anywhere else. This going-along to get-along acceptance has preconditioned many to simply put up with intolerance.
Preoccupation keeps some religious conservatives from realizing anything outside of themselves. Thus they don’t even realize the potential for persecution. A business writer once called such an existence “industry incest.” A condition that results from allowing oneself to only be exposed to literature and experts from one’s own field. Some are so focused on doing their own thing (which may indeed be a very good thing) they have failed to notice the breeze of intolerance that has begun to stir.
“The complacency of fools will destroy them,” so wrote Solomon (Proverbs 1:32). The idea the wise king sought to convey was that of a person becoming so successful that he refused to heed any words of warning. Some religious conservatives have never had it better than right now. Intolerance and persecution seem a world away. To them, examples of intolerance are simply isolated incidents, but nothing to be overtly concerned about.
Intolerance of religious conservatives is real. When you hear about it, if you’re not outraged, then you’re simply not paying attention.
Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press.