Most things on the news at this time are deeply serious. As we move rapidly toward the different political conventions and then to the presidential election the first part of November, the attention of people turn more and more to the candidates and what they believe on different matters. There are people on either side of the political fight which are so deeply attached to one side of the issues that any thing said by the opposite side or their candidate is gauged as foolish, ridiculous and stupid. At the same time their candidate may turn around and declare with enthusiasm the exact same thing and it will sound like a prophetic utterance from the very hallowed halls of wisdom. All of us need to be open enough to what is really being said that we listen intently to what the person actually says instead of taking half truths and down right lies to attack the one whom we oppose.
The political views spilled out and ran over the edges of the bucket holding them this week as different people made comments about the statement made by the man who launched Chic-fil-a. He declared something that he believed and as far as anything I’ve read made no effort to force anyone else to agree with him on the matter. The same man made a decision back when he started his business that since he wanted to have Sundays off to worship and serve God he would not open his restaurants on Sundays to allow those who worked for him the same privilege that he claimed for himself. He didn’t pass out a declaration to all other business owners that if they really believed in God and wanted to do right they ought to follow his lead and close their operations on Sundays as well. Instead he made a personal choice and applied it to his life and his business.
I like chic-fil-a’s chicken and enjoy going there to eat on occasion. But if the chicken wasn’t good what he believes about marriage or being closed on Sundays wouldn’t convince me at all to go there to eat. The truth is we don’t know a whole lot about what the owners of most businesses believe. We know instead whether or not the product they sell is good or useful for us. I appreciate what the man said on the subject of family and marriage. But it seems to me that it is crazy for cities and mayors to be declaring that they don’t want Chic-fil-a to open a store in their city because the owner doesn’t have the same views they do on the family. It seems to me that we have shades of Hitlerism when we start saying we won’t trade with someone because of their beliefs on some matter. I love to eat at two different Chinese establishments in this city. But I’m quite certain their religious beliefs and perhaps their moral beliefs differ greatly from mine. But they have great food. I never even thought about asking them what their beliefs were on such matters before going there to eat. Think of businesses you frequent for your different needs. How many of them are owned by Jews who don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ and certainly not that he is our savior. Have you ever traded with someone who was a Muslim? I suspect that most of us have whether we knew it or not. I believe their religion is off base, but it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to trade with them for something that I needed or wanted.
Part of what makes this country great is the ability of people to disagree strongly on matters and still defend the right of others to disagree and speak out for what they believe. Think of the nations that are ready to hang a person who rejects their religious beliefs. Often that disagreement is over some insignificant matter while they both believe in the same basic ideas of God and His will for us. I like the thought of this being a Christian nation. But if we mean that such a statement requires that people who believe differently aren’t welcome in this country we have deeply misunderstood the principles on which this nation stands. Part of the greatness of the nation is that two people can disagree or two groups of people can disagree on matters and enthusiastically try to persuade the other to agree with us, but not to try to force them to agree with us. It is by studying, understanding and persuading that the minds of people are changed. When people are forced to believe one way or another to save their lives, their true beliefs don’t change at all. They simply go along to spare their lives and fortunes.
I think I believe in my Lord to the degree that if one said I had to renounce that belief or be killed in some brutal way, that I would take my stand with Jesus and face the consequences. But none of us can be certain that we would react in such a way when we haven’t been faced with such choices. Too often we end up denying our Lord just because we fear someone will think less of us because of what we believe. Martin Luther’s sentiment still inspires me and thousands of others. “Here I stand. God help me. I can do no otherwise.” If you believe differently from me, let’s talk about it. Let’s compare our beliefs with what God says in His word. I would hope that if either of us are able to demonstrate to the other that they are wrong on some matter, that either of us would change in a moments time to be right.
When it comes to our presidential candidates, I don’t agree with either one of them in their religious views. While I know some things about what the religions they espouse stands for, I don’t know much at all about what either one of them believe personally on religious or spiritual matters. My vote won’t be based on their religious beliefs. It will be based on their integrity, their dream for this nation and their beliefs in freedom for all, not just the ones who agree with them.