The Necessity of Religious Freedom in a Democracy

Clayton Christensen, a professor at the Harvard School of Business, had the following to say about the incredible and vital necessity of religious freedom here in America:

Here’s the transcript:

Sometime ago, I had a conversation with a Marxist-Communist from China. He was coming to the end of a religious freedomFulbright Fellowship here in Boston. But I asked him if he had learned anything that was surprising or unexpected.

Without any hesitation, he said, “Yeah. I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of Democracy. The reason why Democracy works,” he said, “is not because the government was designed to oversee what everybody does, but rather Democracy works because most people, most of the time, voluntarily choose to obey the law. In your past, most Americans attended a church or synagog every week, and they were taught there by people who they respected.”

My friend went on to say that “Americans follow these rules because they had come to believe that they weren’t just accountable to society, they were accountable to God.”

My Chinese friend heightened a vague but nagging concern I’ve harbored inside, that as religion loses its influence over the lives of Americans, what will happen to our Democracy? Where are the institutions that are going to teach the next generation of Americans that they, too, need to voluntarily choose to obey the laws?

If you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.

His observations bring up two related thoughts:

First, a number of recent studies in the field of criminal justice, often involving pairing video situations with polygraph and multiple-choice options have shown that many acts of violent crime involve criminals doing what they honestly believe to be the most appropriate response given the situation.  They know “the man” doesn’t like it, but they feel little remorse, and often significant satisfaction, about making choices and taking action along criminal lines.

Second, entire generations of Americans have been brought up outside the church.  This is now running into two, sometimes three generations deep.  Whether they’re “stuck” in the welfare system, protesting against Wall Street, rioting in Ferguson, or routinely engaged in criminal activity in American cities, many of them honestly believe they’re doing the right thing.  This has become their very heavily-entrenched world view.

Based on these two thoughts, I am reminded of a couple of occasions in the Bible where God told the Israelites to either take over a land occupied by an evil people or defend themselves against the attacks of an evil people.  In those situations, he treated them pretty much like he treated Sodom and Gomorrah, and instructed the Israelites to “kill them all, down to the last man, woman, and child.”

Did he say this because hated those with reprobate minds?  No.  How then could a righteous God kill entire civilizations?

Two reasons:  First, they were beyond redemption.  While there may have been some among them who were redeemable, God alone knew who they were and would deal with them appropriately at the bema seat.  Second, he wanted to protect his people, keep them from being brought down by the infiltration of an evil society and corrupted from within.

Our God isn’t merely righteous.  Above all else, he is holy.  He doesn’t cause the downfall of entire nations.  The people within those nations do it to themselves, by turning away from holy, righteous and loving principles of behavior which greatly enrich society as a whole.  When evil people embrace evil, they corrupt themselves and everyone around them.

In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, not one individual was righteous.  In the cases of other civilizations, only God knew if anyone was worthy of redemption.  If so, you can rest assured he took care of them.

All of the above, however, is why I have few qualms about capital punishment for clearly unrepentant or unrehabilitated repeat perpetrators of violent crime.

Let them swing.  Might serve as a reminder that the wages of sin is death.