Freedom Without Responsibility

To whom much is given, of him much is expected.

Or as that famous philosopher Spider-Man put it, with great power comes great responsibility.

Both statements are just ways of saying that actions have consequences, which means we are morally responsible for what we do.

In our modern world, it seems that we often don’t look any farther than the tips of our own noses to see what our own actions can bring about, what we would be responsible for.

This thought occurred to me while reading a string of stories making the news this week.

In Libya, the government has officially declared its constitution will be based on Shariah law, and all agencies and citizens are expected to comply with it. This is the government that the United States helped install during President Obama’s support of the manufactured “Arab Spring.”

This decision is bad news for the many Christians still living in Libya. Even under a moderate interpretation of Shariah, Christians are second-class citizens who must pay heavy taxes for the right to practice their beliefs. In real applications, Christians living under Shariah are regularly harassed, bullied, beaten, robbed, raped and murdered by Muslims with the government’s blessing. Under Moammar Gadhafi — the “bad guy” we helped overthrow — Coptic Christians were free to follow their faith. No more.

In Afghanistan, a country we’ve essentially abandoned to its own devices after fighting terrorists there for a decade, a girl believed to be between 8 and 10 years old made news when she ran away from home and turned herself in to the authorities after her brother and his friend forced her to don a bomb-laced vest and tried to make her swim across a river and blow up a police checkpoint.

When she couldn’t make it across the river, her brother took her back home, and her father beat her. She told authorities that her male relatives coerced her into wearing the bomb by accusing her of “illicit relations” with police — strongly implying that she was being raped at home. Her family, of course, work for the Taliban, which we’ve allowed to return to power as our troops have left Afghanistan.

In California last month, a young child at a West Covina elementary school was prevented from passing out candy canes to his classmates because he had attached tags to the candy explaining the legend of how the first candy canes were made to symbolize the life of Jesus Christ.

The teacher reportedly told the boy, “Jesus is not allowed in school” and confiscated the candies, which were later returned, with school officials saying the boy could not distribute them on campus. They told him he could pass them out off campus, as if they were doing him a favor. Now, lawyers are getting involved because of that pesky First Amendment, and the little boy is learning about religious persecution by being on the receiving end of it.

In New York, a newly elected public official took it upon himself to make fun of Christianity and other non-atheist religions this week. Christopher Schaeffer was sworn in as a member of the Pomfret Town Council while wearing a colander on his head. Schaeffer did this because he is an atheist who claims to be a member of the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” which if you’re not familiar with it is a tired, running gag at atheist conferences and speaking engagements.

SatanicStatueIt may or may not have been invented by Richard Dawkins, and the standard line goes something like “I can’t disprove God, any more than I can disprove Allah, Ganesh, Thor, Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” The point is supposed to be that religion is make-believe, but the “non-religion” of atheism is intellectually superior, not to mention more mature — as evidenced by the council member with the colander on his head. Schaeffer has just shown his disrespect for about 95 percent of his constituency, yet he expects to be taken seriously, one presumes.

Over in Oklahoma City, Satanists (real ones, not the Saturday matinee type) want to erect a statue of Satan (again, real) in the state capitol, where a Ten Commandments monument was installed using private funds in 2012. The statue would feature a goat-headed Satan, the figure sometimes called Baphomet, surrounded by smiling, gullible children, presumably handed over to Satan by their equally gullible parents. The statue will be designed so that people may sit in Satan’s lap.

The Satanists, who have been mocking and subverting Christianity much longer than the atheists have, see an opening in a court ruling that allows privately funded religious displays on publicly owned land. They join bids by the Flying Spaghetti Monster atheists, an animal rights group and Nevada Hindus to erect statues in the Capitol. If the people of Oklahoma want to keep this from turning into a religious free-for-all, they need to simply modify the law so that no monument design in the Capitol can be intended to make fun of another religion or be primarily funded by non-residents of the state. It’s clear, though, that all of this activity is intended as an attack on Christianity and a Legislature that has the chutzpah to allow a Ten Commandments display.

On their website, the Satanists say Satanism “seeks to separate Religion from Superstition by acknowledging religious belief as a metaphorical framework with which we construct a narrative context for our goals and works. … Satan stands as the ultimate icon for the selfless revolt against tyranny, free & rational inquiry, and the responsible pursuit of happiness.” Sounds a lot like atheism with a goat’s head. …

We think too little about consequences of our actions. What are the consequences of teaching children to be self-absorbed “rationalists”? What are the consequences of telling a child his religion isn’t welcome in school? What are the consequences of allowing to flourish a religion that regards children as bomb-making materials or regards Christians as subhuman? What are the consequences of being too “tolerant,” or of going the other direction and banning things just because a majority doesn’t happen to believe them or a minority is too vocal and irritating?

Somewhere in the answers to those questions lies the wisdom to discern evil and the strength to fight it while preserving freedom.