Germany: where one can be any religion as long as one is atheist in practice.
The heresy in this article is focused around the following sentence by Social Democratic Party Councilor Martin Becker: “Why should religious festivals be celebrated in public?” This brings us back to the mystery religions and Gnostics which flourished during the Pax Romana.
A central focus of both the mystery religions and gnosticism is that there is a secret knowledge about faith that is held back from all non-believers. Scientology is a good modern example of a faith where the truth of their beliefs are slowly revealed over time. Masonry is another, where each degree progressed grants access to more of the organizations beliefs.
Some see all religion in this same way. Faith is a secret matter between God and his believers. From this mindset, it is easy to think there is no reason any religious act should have any component of publicity.
Christianity (as well as Islam and some other faiths) stands in sharp contrast to this. While in the early years of Christianity it was necessary to keep some secrets (such as the Sacrament of the Eucharist) from unbelievers, this was done out of fear of persecution rather than as a necessary component of faith. The command of Jesus was for Catholics to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all that Jesus taught. All of the Church teachings are public, right on the Vatican’s website. While priests are taught more in-depth (roughly 7 years of schooling, similar to a medical doctor), they are not taught anything different from what the laity are taught (again, similar to a doctor).
This transparency of belief is to be lived out in transparency of life (we aren’t dualists, so belief and action are intertwined). Our belief in God is the bedrock of who we are, the core definition of ourselves: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The other aspects of our identities become subsumed into our Christian identity. To not live out ones faith in a public manner would be equivalent to not living out ones gender or race in a public manner. Our belief is expressed in our actions.
It is a bold claim to state Christian belief is as foundational as gender or race, so let’s look deeper at that claim to see why Christians believe it to be the case. We believe we have life as a gift from God. In our sin, we reject God, the source of our life. Therefore, because we cut ourselves off from the source of life in our sins, we deserve the natural consequence of that, which would be death. If one cuts a river off from the spring that feeds it, the river dies — so too with our life, we die if we are cut off from the source of life. Jesus came to fulfill our naturally required death and to therefore restore us to life. By becoming one person with Jesus, he partakes of the death we deserve and we partake in the resurrection has brought about. As St. Augustine wrote, “Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself.” The Christian and Christ are made one.
If we are one with Christ, to conceal that oneness would be similar to concealing other core parts of who we are. Shall we hide wedding rings as we are also made one with our spouses?
That Christianity is such a core aspect of identity exposes one of the dangers in confusing freedom of religion (where one can be any religion or none at all, and express those beliefs openly) and freedom from religion (where one can be any religion or none at all, as long as one only expresses being none at all). We should all have a right to express who we are and how we define ourselves, whether that identity be Christian, German, Gay, or Construction Worker — we should be free to express how we define ourselves. To be forced to conceal our identity out of concern for others opinions is a dangerous precedent to set.