Monday , April 23, 2012 - 2:54 PM
A few days ago I accompanied 130 or so Scouts and their leaders on a six-mile zig-zaggy gallivant around the Ogden city center. We paused a dozen or so times at various faith communities. Some places had saint or biblical names like Saint Joseph's (Catholic), Elim (Lutheran), or Brith Shalom (synagogue). Some were numbered like 1st Church of Christ, Scientist or 1st Presbyterian. Others were more descriptive or contemporary like East Stake, Hope Resurrected, New Zion, or C.L.U.B.B. Jesus.
The point of this springtime urban hike was to introduce the participants to various faith traditions by having their representatives give brief interpretations of one of the Ten Commandments as it related to the Boy Scout Oath and Law.
An interfaith Ten Commandment hike is an interesting project to put together because the pericope in Exodus 20:1-17 actually lists 15 imperatives, not 10. We call them the Ten Words, the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments because other places in the Law of Moses says there's 10. The result is that various traditions sort the list differently (the Mormons use the Protestant list).
Part of my job on this hike project was to provide study materials so that we didn't duplicate or skip one of the "Big Ten."
The clergy and lay representatives of the various faith communities all did an excellent job explaining both the commandment and how it connected to the values of Scouting. As you might expect, they also had an opportunity to talk about their congregation's ministries. And time after time they described how they served the community around them.
In fact, the Boy Scout district executive for the Ogden area, Mike Jenkins, summed it up saying, "We just want people to be good friends and neighbors who work together to build a great community."
Which brings us to the etcetera.
The etcetera takes the form of this year's Department of Health and Human Services' pea-brained mandate requiring that religious organizations violate their consciences and provide health plans that cover abortion, contraception, and sterilization.
The resulting firestorm of protest came from across the religious spectrum, Jews, Baptists, Catholics, evangelicals, all condemned the HHS mandate as an infringement on religious freedom. The Obama administration quickly backed down part of the way, but added the chilling response, "People are still free to worship as they wish." That "free to worship" line has been used by the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state as they attempted to impose spin control on the firestorm.
You cannot limit religious freedom to what happens for an hour on Sunday morning.
Here's the deal.
When my Boss lived among us full of grace the truth he made it crystal clear how judgment was going to be handled. People would be judged as simply and clearly as sheep and goats are separated.
Well, even most city slickers can tell the difference between sheep and goats.
The basis of the separation, the judgment, would be -- did you:
Give food to the hungry?
Give drink to the thirsty?
Give shelter to the homeless?
Clothe the naked?
Visit the sick?
Visit those in prison?
Please note that "worship" is not on the list. And, if you didn't try to work on the list, then you can go to H-E-double toothpicks.
As I hiked around Ogden with 130 fellow Scouts and their adult leaders I heard religious leader after leader describe how they were working on the list.
Now, some religious outreach ministries are huge, like hospital chains. And the federal government gets involved because of the inevitable socialized benefits that cover some of the costs. But the bozo rationale for dictating employee benefits goes something like, "If we give you our money, you have to do what we say." Well, here's a news flash. It's not federal money, it's our money that we're getting back from the feds!
The Constitution says you and I are guaranteed freedom of religion, not freedom of worship. Ardent religious expression by healthy faith communities always includes a huge outreach component that works on Jesus' list, plus adoption agencies, publications, justice ministries, schools, I could go on and on.
This administration's use of reassuring phrases like "freedom of worship" is an evil con.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not just worship. Healthy religious activity always includes working to transform the community into a safer and healthier place for all God's children, creating a great community.
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