Threats to some churches a threat to all churches

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Anyone who uses a Bible scripture to condone violent threats against churches clearly needs to study the New Testament and the United States Constitution.

Last week, several Presbyterian churches in the Southeast Missouri region received anonymous threats.

The letter, typed in all caps with numerous misspellings and citing scripture from Leviticus, said any church that accepts homosexuality should be burned to the ground.

"The above action could happen to any church that preforms [sic] this action ... you have been warned churches"

We hope and pray that the person who wrote this letter has a change of heart, and will find peace. We also hope the letter writer is found and prosecuted.

There is no room for such threats and actions against churches in the United States of America.

Many Christians believe practicing homosexuality is a sin, and there is a huge societal debate about whether the marriage of gay couples should be allowed. The issue is a tricky one, one that is intertwined with religious freedoms but also the rights and benefits authorized by the government, a government that allows for the freedom of religion, and also the freedom from it.

But regardless of one's feelings on gay marriage, threats such as the one received by area churches are repugnant to both religious and American institutions.

First, it's an insult to Christianity. The Bible teaches that Christ came to Earth to atone for all sinners. Jesus, the Bible teaches, took the burden of sin on the cross for everyone. Scripture says each person may find eternal life through Christ. Jesus repeatedly reached out to sinners. He loved. He taught to embrace your enemies. Love, love, love. It is Jesus' theme. The author or authors of such a letter are living the opposite of Jesus' example. Even if one does believe that homosexuality is a sin, Jesus would never condone threats such as this. And the letter writer is acting as God himself. If you believe the Bible, you believe God, not man, holds judgment over spiritual matters. Moreover, the threats are using physical measures to try to change spiritual beliefs. While other leaders of his day were executing children for fear of losing power, the scriptures say that Jesus offered an open door to salvation. Jesus rolled out a welcome mat; he did not teach that the way to grow the church was to burn down the buildings where others worshipped.

Second, the threat is wholly un-American and a threat to our country's principles. No one who uses a threat to burn down a house of worship can believe in the concept of freedom. The same First Amendment that protects Baptists and Catholics also protects Muslims and Scientologists. By living and being a citizen in this country we have to understand a simple equation. Freedom of religion must apply to all, or it is applied to none. Freedom does not bend to the fickle majority or even a lone vigilante. Freedom must stand at all times. The second that an American uses the threat of force to acquire the submission of others is the moment that he fractures our nation's most basic foundation. Presbyterians have the right to worship as they choose and without fear.

This person wrote words of bravado backed by religious delusions. There was nothing spiritual behind it. Only anger, bitterness and hate.

Indeed, this is not an act of God's will. It is not an act of courage or bravery or righteousness.

Let's call it for what it is.

It is an act of terrorism.

(Editor's Note: this was originally published in the Sunday, March 29, issue of the Southeast Missourian, Cape girardeau, MO)