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What Would Jesus Not Do?


Guest Gary Lenaire
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Guest Gary Lenaire

I was a devout Christian for 15 years. During that time I thought that it required a lot of courage to preach the Gospel. Faith, we were taught, will cause "evil doers" to persecute you. We were told that wicked people may seek to kill you, oppress you, and deny your rights to be a believer. The Bible says that even the so-called Christ himself was killed for his beliefs. As a result of all of this, Christians learn early that they need to "defend" the gospel by standing firm against the fiery arrows of the enemy.

 

Looking back at it, being a Christian didn't require much courage at all. Oh sure, if I had been a missionary in a hostile country then some courage (and lack of common sense) might come into play. In the United States, real courage is not required to stand up for your particular religion, whatever that religion might be. Religious freedom is protected in America. Protection from whom? Today, many believers think that religious protection is there to simply fend off the wily atheists who might "steal theirs rights" to be Christians. The real protection, however, is not from the threat of non-believers.

 

The catalyst of religious protection in America was a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut whose rights were being infringed because they were not part of the Congregationalist (Christian) establishment in that state. They were concerned about religious liberty in the new nation and wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson dated October 7, 1801 asking for protection. It was Christians negating the rights of other Christians that started the real issue of Separation of Church and State in America! King George and the Church of England were masters of persecution using state-ruled Christianity to oppress its citizens. Those attributes carried themselves across the ocean into the American colonies. The history of religion being mandated by governments is a bloody one. Thomas Jefferson and the other wise fathers of America knew that and created the Wall of Separation of Church and State. Not to simply protect the freedom to worship but to protect believers from the oppression of other believers! This ensured that religion could be practiced freely without being mandated or legislated by the government. This is widely misunderstood today by many Christians. I cannot emphasize that enough.

 

When I was a Christian, the only real opposition to my religious public statements came from other Christians! I published Christian music in over 40 countries and preached in seven of them. I never once was picketed, publicly opposed, or ridiculed by non-believers. It was the Christians who did those things. I received countless letters from Christians complaining that my hair was too long, my music was too heavy, or that my lyrics were not in the correct "Christian" format. Some of the concerts I played were picketed by Christians who opposed Christian Rock music. Meanwhile, inside the theater, I was on stage encouraging the kids of their community to stay in school and stay away from drugs! Go figure.

 

The real opposition that religious people face from non-believers is on the topics of government, science, and education, as it should be. This is why atheists, agnostics, and secularists NEVER bothered me when I was a preacher. They acknowledged my freedom of speech and my religious liberty. I wasn't trying to legislate Christian morality, mandate public school prayer, or eliminate evolution from science books. I was simply doing what the biblical Jesus commanded: evangelize the world by way of Christian living and preaching, and NOT by way of government mandates and Christian ethics legislation. The biblical Jesus and Apostles made it abundantly clear that the gospel is not spread though government revolution but by religious living and teaching. Mainstream Christianity in America today seems to have gotten that backward. Ironic, isn't it?

 

"A government of the people, by the people, and for the people." -Abraham Lincoln

 

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I was a devout Christian for 15 years.

 

Answer prayers? Forget it.

Appear to you to affirm your faith? Fuckin forget it, you don't have enough faith.

Increase your anxiety,guilt,worthless feelings through religion. You bet.

Is there a god? I doubt it.

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Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists is interesting because it shows that when a church is a minority one, such as the Baptists were back then, they are all for complete separation of church and state; and some of the many dozens of Baptist denominations still maintain that position. But when the Southern Baptists became the largest, and most evangelical, Protestant church, then they don't want that separation so much any more.

 

This could come in useful when talking to a Southern Baptist, long shot though it would be.

 

All those refugees escaping European religious suppression seemed to gravitate to a religious bigotry of their own if they could get away with it, and many, especially the Presbyterians, did. The Quakers, and the non-denominational Masons (at that time), should be noted as apparent exceptions.

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