By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Michael Flynn, a retired Army major general and former national security director for Donald Trump, recently told a receptive audience of conservative Christians that “If we are one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion.” Flynn was advocating the end of religious freedom, protected in the Constitution he was sworn to support and defend.
Flynn echoed Emperor Constantine, undoubtedly a favorite of Trump, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century. It took 14 centuries and a revolution to end Christianity as a state supported religion in America; but there are those today like Flynn who would like to reestablish Christianity as America’s only religion.
What’s especially troubling is that the same “Christians” who favor ending religious freedom in America talk openly about using their guns to defeat what they call tyranny. They are echoing Trump when he encouraged the January 6 assault on Capitol Hill. Americans are living in dangerous times; and they have created their own danger to freedom and democracy.
Religion is especially dangerous to liberty when believers advocate their religion as the one true faith. Jesus was a Jew who never taught that God favored one religion over others. The idea that Christianity is the only way to salvation and that those of other religions are condemned to hell has been promoted by a church committed to the power of popularity.
Christianity is not the only religion that claims to be the one true faith and denies the freedom of religion. So does Islam, as evidenced by the prevalence of apostacy and blasphemy laws in Islamic nations; and American Christians also once had blasphemy and apostasy laws. Ironically, religion has been the biggest obstacle to the freedoms of religion and speech.
Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers made the freedoms of religion and speech first among those in our Bill of Rights. Today militant Christians are challenging the concepts of freedom in the Constitution with a distorted interpretation of the First and Second Amendments that provides unlimited rights to bear arms to enforce their nihilistic libertarian views of freedom.
Muslims have similar religious and political conflicts. While radical Islamists continue to kill and terrorize those who do not share their radical beliefs, most Muslims, like most Jews and Christians, respect those of other religions. They share the greatest commandment to love God and their neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as they love themselves.
In pluralistic democracies, religions must promote both religious freedom and religious reconciliation. Religions that fail to do so will lose their legitimacy and wither and die; and if they are a majority in a democracy, it will also wither and die. That will happen in America if its Christians don’t reject the distorted forms of Christianity that elected Donald Trump. American democracy cannot survive another election debacle like that of 2016.
CNN reported that Michael Flynn’s call for “one religion” in the U..S. garnered swift condemnation, especially from military leaders. LTG Mark Hertliong (Ret) said, “His words are disgusting.” See https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/michael-flynn-s-call-for-one-religion-in-the-us-garners-swift-condemnation/ar-AAQJpjk?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531.
Michael Gerson’s opined that Trump supporters’ logic of political violence should alarm us all, noting that “since the morally murky days of the Revolution, the American story has been marked by political violence at regular intervals; ...Americans have often been tempted to express their anger and achieve their goals outside the boundaries of the constitutional order. The peaceful conduct of politics is not a natural state; it is a social achievement. Maintaining it requires positive moral effort.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/15/trump-supporters-political-violence-deadly/?utm_.
Wikipedia provides historical background on Constantine the Great and Christianity. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_the_Great_and_Christianity.
or a related commentary on The Freedoms of Religion and Speech: Where Human Rights Begin, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/05/the-freedoms-of-religion-and-speech.html.