22 August 2022  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

I’m confused about the “Christians” who are celebrating the right of the government to decide what a woman can do with her body: isn’t this ruling a dangerous precedent of the mixing of religious views with government enforcement? Aren’t people concerned with what other rights will be taken away in the future? Why isn’t our denomination’s religious liberty department proclaiming the dangers of what is effectively a partnership between government and churches?

Signed, Confused and Concerned

Dear Confused, 

You are not the first to notice this discrepancy. We want to keep the government out of our religion—except when we want it to get involved in enforcing what we disapprove of. Many church people believe in having a small government except in cases of morality. Things like abortion, gay marriage, pornography, and anything else they see as aberrant, they want the government to outlaw. 

Ironically, they are against social programs for helping people whose lives have been ruined or made especially difficult by drugs, poverty, abuse, single motherhood, etc. They say (I’m not sure if they really believe it) that people who live upright and moral lives do not struggle with things like that. 

They are wrong, of course. We could write essays—books, in fact—about generational poverty, trauma, biology, abuse, and many other reasons why people get trapped in such unfortunate circumstances. Almost none of these things has to do with deliberately choosing to live immorally—but that doesn’t seem to matter to those who are determined to judge and punish behaviors they believe themselves to be safe from. 

When these kinds of questions come up I like to think about how Jesus treated people who were acting “immorally.” Jesus interacted with adulterers, prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, Samaritans, and many others that were harshly judged by the societies of their day. And in every case he treated these people with kindness, empathy, love, and support. 

On the other hand, the harshest words Jesus had for anybody in the Bible were the most religious people: those who used religion to oppress, judge, and harm others. 

It would do the church good to revisit the example of Jesus, and examine the way the systems of the church and the hearts of some of its leaders have wandered away from that example. 

Aunt Sevvy

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