At his Restoring Honor rally at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday, Glenn Beck said, “America today begins to turn back to God.” That scares me. It’s because people who say America should “turn back to God” usually don’t like the way I turn to God.
I know this because of something that happened at my Toastmasters club 11 years ago. A club member gave a speech that closed with a line similar to Beck’s: “Turn back to God, America.” Not long after that speech, she told another member that it was a shame that a good person like me is going to hell. She said I’m eternally damned because I’m Jewish and didn’t accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
I’m not accusing Glenn Beck as being a racist or anti-semite. People like the one from my Toastmaster club would probably say he’s going to hell too because he’s a Mormon. (If so, we can carpool.) But if America is to turn back to God, we should get a choice in how we do the turning.
For example, what if someone wanted to turn to God through Islam? A number of Americans do. Every day, I see women in hijabs working at cash registers, shopping at Costco with their families, and going about their business with like any other American. Clearly, they believe in their faith so strongly that they would dress as they feel they should. Why can’t they turn to God like that?
The First Amendment was written by those who still had fresh memories of government imposing its religion on its citizens and sanctioning the persecution and slaughter of those who didn’t join the state church. In the past 100 years, we’ve seen a number of genocides (both before and after the Holocaust) of different religious and ethnic groups. These were carried out by states who wanted to impose conformity and their values on their citizens.
I believe religion is a good thing. I agree that renewing our faith in our country and each other is the first step towards national renewal. What I don’t accept are those who try to tell me how to have a relationship with God and demonize those who don’t worship the same way they do.