National Newspaper Week 2019: Think First

Freedom of religion is a standard of American culture. But as our country has become more secular, there is a growing opinion that religion might best be pushed outside the public square, or perhaps there is a uniform religious view that we can all agree to. These are the very ideas from which the First Amendment protects us.

Some will argue that because we live in such a pluralistic society, we should all keep our spiritual opinions to ourselves. This is an ironic statement. The belief that says, “Religious opinions should be private,” is a religious opinion. It can’t be proven scientifically.

Others will argue that because we live in such a pluralistic society, everyone must agree that all religions are the same. Again, this is a faulty idea. If it’s wrong to say that one religion is right, why isn’t it wrong to say one way of thinking about religion is right?

Ultimately, we can’t avoid having religious opinions. Everybody has faith in things they can’t prove. Everyone is trying to get other people to believe what they believe because they think it would lead to a better world. We all do this, and the First Amendment protects our right to do it. We are all protected by the First Amendment whether we realize it or not.

With this right comes a responsibility. I suggest there are three possible ways to practice our freedom. I can hide my faith for fear of offending someone. I can speak out about my faith in offensive ways. Or, I can learn how to share my faith in ways that create peace and civility.

The latter is the responsibility that comes with religious freedom. I must not hide the deepest convictions of my heart, but I must respect yours. True tolerance respects diversity; it does not drive religion underground, nor does it impose a singular politically correct viewpoint. As a Christian, this means that I am to become more and more like my savior who saw God’s image in all people. It means I am to grow in love, patience, kindness, tolerance and generosity.

I’m grateful to live in a country where I am free to practice my faith as a citizen of God’s kingdom. By practicing my faith, I am a better U.S. citizen.

Mike Coglan is pastor of Community Covenant Church in Kearney and a member of the Kearney Ministerial Alliance. This column was submitted in honor of one of the five freedoms, freedom of religion, afforded to Americans under the First Amendment. Those five freedoms were the focus of this year’s National Newspaper Week.

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