Because we have letters to the editor, and I am the editor, I read a lot of commentary about issues as diverse as trapping to taxation.
Few topics, though, have caused folks to sharpen their writing pencils more than the City of Billings' proposed nondiscrimination ordinance. And by now, few folks still remain undecided about it.
As the conversation continues, one letter at a time, I get the benefit of seeing the various sides draw lines and develop arguments. Yet one of the arguments is particularly troublesome.
Writers continue to refer to America as "a Christian nation."
While it's true that America is 78 percent Christian, according to a recent Pew study, to say that we are a Christian nation and therefore must somehow factor religion into our laws would seem to be the very thing that got us here in the first place. That is, folks escaped Europe so government wouldn't tell them what type of Christianity to accept.
The same religious freedom that allows one person such fervent belief in Christian morals allows another to reject those same Christian principles.
Instead, I believe those who invoke a Christian nation defense as they oppose the NDO fail to recognize that we are a secular nation.
I have to believe there's a difference between being a Christian nation and being a nation of (predominantly) Christians.
A Christian nation would compel beliefs by force of law. If we were a Christian nation, wouldn't it be so much easier? We wouldn't have to wrestle with problems like who to grant rights to or how to treat those who are different than we are. Instead, we could just dust off a few passages from Leviticus and call it a day.
Instead, we are a nation of Christians and because of that, speaking as one mere Christian, it does not allow us the power to simply take our morals and copy-and-paste them to every other person. We must use our faith and understanding to act on the world and community. It's not as easy or tidy because we can't necessarily let a pew Bible do our thinking for us.
In a society of Christians, we cannot force our views on everyone else. We cannot let our words do the work for us. We have to let our actions and deeds prevail. In the case of the NDO, we have to decide how we will respond to the issue of gender issues instead of leaning on the Bible or church authorities.
Some will undoubtedly put their faith and trust in whatever church, denomination or scriptural passage they choose. And that will be fine and probably fitting. The secular society which we inhabit allows us freedom to associate with any church or religion. However, it cannot allow us to make that decision en masse for others.
For me, though, the matter is also one of religious conviction, although I must confess: I do not see the Bible or dogma as clearly on this issue as some.
Instead, the best a nation of Christians can do is recognize that those things which divide us need healing and reconciliation. For those of us who are religious, we only have to look around to see what we believe is an almost infinite display of God's creative power. For those who are religious, we know that we will be watched and judged by our actions, and we can only hope that what people see are those who have chosen to treat others in a way they would want to be treated.
Let me explain: I am possibly the luckiest class of person in Billings, a white, middle-class, heterosexual male. There have been many from a similar background willing to voice support for the NDO cause, like I have, because I should and do hope that everyone can be treated as well, as fairly and as justly as I have been here. I am not saying anyone deserves more or better treatment — just the same protections and privileges as I have.
We may be one nation under God (which still doesn't mean Christian). And nowhere does it say, "liberty for just some."
For me, nothing in the NDO takes away anything from those who wish to continue to believe things like homosexuality is a sin. This debate has nothing to do with taking away anything.
It's really about whether our city can live up to the very noble idea of justice for all, instead of justice for most.