I am baffled as to why so many western Christians feel like they should dictate laws according to their religious beliefs. Well, I’m not really baffled…
As a Christian, I do not force my religion on someone who has not freely chosen it. Let me give you a biblical example to back that up. Luke 18 tells the story of the rich young ruler. He asks God what he must do to inherit eternal life. Blah blah blah he kept all the commandments and did all the right things. Then Jesus asked him to sell all he had, give it to the poor and come follow him. The rich young ruler left sad. And Jesus let him leave. He didn’t chase after him saying,”NO! Come back here and do as I say!”. He let him leave. So why do Christians run after ‘heathens’ and tell them what to do? Is that biblical? I’d suggest not. It seems to be totally unfair, and definitely unbiblical to apply Christians ‘rules’ to people who haven’t chosen Christianity. As a Christian, I don’t want anyone telling me to do things that conflict with my beliefs. I didn’t choose Islam, so I don’t want a Muslim telling me to abide by their religious beliefs. Therefore, I shouldn’t do the same to them.
I heard someone say the other day that Julia Gillard was someone we shouldn’t vote for because she’s an atheist and she lives with her partner, which is unbiblical. If you disagree with her politics, sure, don’t vote for her, but don’t not vote for her because she’s an atheist. She is living according to the moral code she believes to be correct. She lives with integrity (meaning she lives according to what she believes is right. What you think of her politics is a different matter). She hasn’t chosen Christianity, therefore I don’t think the standards of Christianity should be applied to her. It’s not fair and it’s not right. She can still make decisions based on ideas and beliefs that are in line with Christian values without having to call it that. If we are all made in the image of God (and we are), then there will undoubtedly be parts of everyone that reflect God and his values, whether we label it that way or not. The writers of the Bible are often quoting non-Jewish/Christian poets and philosophers because they are talking about the things of God, they just aren’t calling it ‘God’.
In the same way, there are things that are done in the name of God that I disagree with. Just because someone does something in the name of God, doesn’t make it right or good. If I see a Christian political party and don’t vote for them, does that make me a bad Christian? Not at all. I just disagree with the way they are interpreting the Bible and putting it into practice. There are policies Tony Abbott has that I disagree with, even though he says they are based on Christian values and that they line up with his beliefs. That doesn’t make me unchristian.
So you disagree with someone? Ok, live by the standards you believe in. That is all God requires of you. Micah 6:8:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
That is what God requires of us. Not to harass those you disagree with and make them abide by Christian standards. Once again, use Jesus as your model. He never did it.
Having said that, of course it is a positive and Godly thing to promote God’s values in the world. Sometimes it is a matter of life and death that we do! We ought to lobby for those things we believe in, such as justice for the poor and marginalised, compassion in our dealings with everyone, justice for victims of crime, care for God’s creation, etc. Where I think we ought to draw the line is legislating those things which are specific to Christianity which others have not freely chosen.
This is clearly a topic with many grey areas. I am not pretending it is black and white. It certainly isn’t. There are many things that are not simply the choice of one person, one person’s actions can affect others greatly, and these are things we must be careful of. But I think perhaps western Christianity goes too far at times in demanding that people who have not Chosen Christianity, follow its rules. I do not see a biblical mandate for this at all. In fact, I see quite the opposite.