Religious freedom in this country seems to have taken a turn. Maybe a new definition is in order. Religious freedom: mention religion and you’re free to find a new job.
Examples of this can be found in situations where Jesus or Islam have been mentioned. The mention of both have resulted in some form of job loss. As far as mentioning Jesus, several years ago I pointed out that a Chaplain suspended for sharing the Gospel. And this year a Chaplain in the N.C. House of Representatives was fired for praying in Jesus name.
What about Islam? This is where the issue of freedom has turned a bit. Or maybe a lot!
Just yesterday Brian Stelter writing for the NY Times reported that NPR Fires Analyst Over Comments on Muslims. That analyst is Juan Williams. Stelter quotes Williams from his appearance on The O’Reilly Factor which was kindling for the firing.
“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
What did Williams do wrong? Stelter continues:
NPR said in its statement that the remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
Ironically enough, Williams offers his opinions for a living. Or, at least he did. I’m sure he will find gainful employment fairly quickly. But is this firing, since Williams is very known, going to set a sort of precedence among media organizations?
Maybe this is not legislatively a freedom of religion issue, but I have asked along these lines if Islam is special. Yet this is certainly a cultural issue of religious freedom. Have we reached a point where it is easier to fire those of different ideologies rather than dialogue about them? It does not seem that Williams will get a chance to prove his case to the NPR audience. Hopefully, he will have another avenue through which to state his case and reply to the NPR bosses.
The larger issue is the cultural one. Will there come a time when one is not allowed to make any negative observation about Islam? A cartoonist recently went into hiding and changed her identity due to a cartoon she drew of Muhammed. And that is here in America. Yes, America! Will there be a day when I won’t be able to write this blog post? I certainly hope not.
As a Christian American, I’m concerned for these types of actions in this country. I know the gospel is the only way to overcome these scenarios. It is the only way to overcome Islamic favoritism and extremists. The gospel overcomes through the Christian’s personal life, as a community (the church), and within communities and cities as it is shared and reflected in our lives.
That said, I can still be frustrated about the attack on freedoms in this country. Religious repression in this country might drive the church universal into a deeper relationship with Christ. I don’t know, but I do know that we are still free to fight for such freedoms. It is certainly a Christian’s right to use such laws just as the Apostle Paul did in his time.
I know America is not perfect. And it’s not always comfortable to see what awful things such freedom produces. I.e. there have been some awful “artistic” works featuring Jesus. How should Christian’s respond? By relying on the gospel. What does relying on the gospel look like in light of Islam? I think I might have tweeted it:
Unlike some Muslims, Christians don’t need to kill those who insult Christ because it’s a sign they’re already dead.