Religious Freedom for Me, But Not for Thee? Have Evangelicals Turned from Defending Islam and Muslims in the Bush Era to Discriminating Against Them in the Trump Era?
By Ken K. Gourdin
I think this item from The Atlantic is interesting (this and all other links last accessed April 12, 2017): https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/04/when-conservatives-oppose-religious-freedom/522567/. To be fair, the prospect of Christians turning against Muslims and against Islam in the Trump era is not solely a problem of evangelicals—although, given evangelical Protestantism’s close alliance with the political right, the high correspondence between support for President Trump and evangelical affiliation, and evangelical Christianity’s sheer number of adherents in the U.S., it is, perhaps, most notable among evangelicals.
The fact of the matter is, defenders of religious freedom must be consistent: They (we) cannot afford to say, in essence, “Religious freedom for me, but not for thee.” If we’re not willing to defend even unpopular religions, that obviates the very raison d’etre of religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution in toto. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney faced a similar problem in his U.S. presidential bids of 2008 and 2012, respectively (though I laud the notable exceptions: see, e.g., http://evangelicalsformitt.org/).
Given the ongoing secular and legal assault on religious freedom, the time is rapidly approaching when divisions among people of faith such as those described in The Atlantic piece will be seriously counterproductive. It is time for the devout to realize that what we have in common and what unifies us is far more important than any differences which divide us.
Chances are very good that those who are antipathetic toward religion in general are not likely to be any better disposed toward evangelicals than they are toward Muslims. Thus, it is time for the devout (of all religious stripes) to unite behind the principle (speaking metaphorically and not literally, since, in a literal sense, such enmity is antithetical to the Christian ethic, as well as to that of other faith traditions) that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”