Persecution: Where is the Line Drawn?

I have a number of people from my high school on my Facebook list of friends.  Mostly because, well, while I may no longer be the same person I was back then, I do like knowing what some of them are doing now.  And, just because I’m no longer Christian, it doesn’t mean that I have no interest in them.

You see, I went to a boarding parochial high school called Martin Luther Preparatory School. This was a school run by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).  So, many of my friends from that period are still quite strongly Christian (and some of them are even ministers of the WELS).  And, as I still respect individual Christians, I try my best to treat them with the same courtesy as I treat every other human in this world.

That being said, there are times when those same people post news pieces regarding the “persecution of the Christian faith.” Some of these posts are truly times when a Christian, or group of Christians, are being persecuted.  Other times, sadly, they are defining (or the article is defining) a certain situation as being persecution.

Most recently, there was a post about a minister named Olaf Latzel in Germany, who has been sanctioned for his words, and his stance in regards to other faiths.

If Germany did NOT have a “state religion” (which, at this point, is more a legal fiction than anything else), I would agree that this minister’s experience is persecution.  HOWEVER, if one looks at the historical basis of the role of religion and the state in German government, you will see that he is not technically being persecuted.

The issue is that in German law, there is both stated statutes and legal precedent for religious pluralism in their society as a social norm.  The reason that developed is that Germany – among many of the other nations of Europe – experienced over 120 years of bitter war after the Reformation, between differing variations of Christianity.  These bloody religious wars decimated Europe, and left pretty much a bad taste in EVERYONE’S mouths for the fight over “who is right and who is wrong.”

This minister, however, is claiming that the ecumenical tradition in Germany is perennialism.  The situation comes about because Germany has expanded it’s ecumenical tradition to include non-Christian religions as well as the plethora of Christian denominations.

One does not need to believe that “all paths are one path” in order to be able to treat other people with a modicum of courtesy and  respect.  One can believe fervently in one particular faith, while leaving the matter of someone else’s faith to be between them and the Divine.

The reason he’s being accused of hate speech is because he is spreading hate. The excuse that “someone doesn’t believe as I do” has been used for CENTURIES to justify burning, murder, stoning, systematic genocide, and other assorted atrocities.

Yes, perennialism (or the philosophy that all religions are functionally the same) is a doctrine that ANY monotheist would balk at.  Not just Christianity, but the other religions of “the book” (i.e. Islam and Judaism).  But that does not mean that as a minister he should (or any other minister should) use that to encourage his flock to treat those of any other religion badly.

He forgets the adage of “hate the sin, love the sinner.”  The origin of this view is not the Bible, but it is from St. Augustine (a saint that even those of the Reformed variants of Christianity consider to have been a great theologian).  It is based off of Mark 12:31 (Love your neighbor as yourself).

As I have stated before, I learned the lesson of that Bible verse as a young child, and it has only been repeatedly reinforced by my parents’, my sister’s, and my eldest nephew’s attitude towards others.  If someone’s lifestyle brands them a sinner, that does not stop my family from loving them.  It simply means that they do not approve of that person’s lifestyle.  They will never approve of my faith as a Neo-Pagan, but they still unconditionally love me and support me when I need them.  And I will never ask them to approve of my choices either.

Why Choose the Lesser Evil?I live my life the way they taught me.  I don’t care what your religion is, as long as you are not an abusive asshole or try to use your faith to justify destroying me.  Your faith, your religion, is between you and the Divine – it is none of my concern.  And my faith is none of your concern either, as when I die I will still be facing the Divine no matter what religion is “right.”

And as long as Cthulhu isn’t the real face of the Divine, I’m pretty much OK with that.

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