Sermon Illustrations

Sermon Illustrations > Tolerance > Today Your Creed Is a Preference
Today Your Creed Is a Preference

(Essay, Time, June 15, 1998), quoted in The Berean Call, August, 1998

As I checked in for an outpatient test at a local hospital last week, the admissions lady...inquired, "What is your religious preference?" I was repeat what Jonah said..."I am a Hebrew, ma'am. And I fear the Lord, the God of Heaven...." But that would surely have got me sent to psychiatry rather than X-ray. So I desisted.

In ancient times, they asked "Who is your God?" A generation ago, they asked your religion. Today your creed is a preference....

According to Chesterton, tolerance is the virtue of people who do not believe in anything....When it is believed that on your religion hangs the fate of your immortal soul, the Inquisition follows easily; when it is believed that religion is a breezy consumer preference, religious tolerance flourishes....After all, we don't persecute people for their taste in cars. Why for their taste in gods?

Oddly, though, in our thoroughly secularized culture, there is one form of religious intolerance that does survive...the disdain bordering on contempt...[for] those for whom religion is not a preference but a conviction....

Every manner of political argument is ruled legitimate in our democratic discourse. But invoke the Bible as grounding for your politics, and the First Amendment police will charge you with breaching the sacred wall separating church and state...Call on Timothy Leary or Chairman Mao, fine. Call on St. Paul, and all hell breaks loose....

Associates of [Hickman] Ewing [Whitewater prosecutor who has been called a "religious fanatic" by some] defend him thus: "His open Christian left at the prosecutorial door." An interesting form of exoneration. Ewing is fit to carry out his judicial duties after all. Why? Because he allows none of his Christian faith to corrupt his working life. Charles Krauthammer, "Will it be coffee, tea or He? Religion was once a conviction. Now it is a taste"