Brother Jake and Religious Freedom

By: Bro. Jake
December 19, 2013

brother jake

Just in time for the annual conflict for Christmas, here is my latest video. Warning: this one gets political.

Growing up in rural Arizona, I had a pretty long bus home from elementary school every day. On the days when I didn’t fall asleep, miss my stop, and have to wait in the “bus barn” for my Mom to pick me up, I’d pass the time chatting with my childhood buddy Joe, who lived even further along the route than I did. There was one particular week of the long commute that I’ve never forgotten. Joe, who was extremely sharp, was describing some picture book that he had read about the history of life on earth. When he arrived at the topic of cavemen, my mind simply rejected the thought outright. Cavemen?! How could such a thing exist? It must be blasphemy! For some reason, the idea of cavemen did not fit in the timeline of earth history I had in my mind, which was something like this:

dinosaurs–>Adam and Eve–>Moses/Egyptians/etc–>middle ages (possibly dragons)–>America–>me

So, I decided to change his mind. And by “change his mind,” I mean I repeated variations of the phrase “there’s no such thing as cavemen. How could there be cavemen?” over and over. It took about 45 minutes, but just before my stop, he finally threw up his hands and said “Fine!” I smiled, grabbed my backpack, and trotted off the bus.

I never told Joe this, but I felt a sharp pang of regret as I watched the bus pull away. What was my problem? He had just been sharing something he thought was interesting, but I felt compelled to brow-beat him into submission. As I’ve grown older, I realized why I had been so insistent: the thought of my friend not sharing or endorsing my worldview freaked me out, so I lashed out.

To me, the annual “war on Christmas” conversation seems to stem from the same sense of insecurity. It isn’t that more and more people hate Christmas; it’s just that enough people would be ostracized by interpreting the season from a Christian point of view that municipalities and companies decide it isn’t worth it. But when “Christmas” becomes “Holiday,” we’re suddenly back on the school bus, sitting next to Joe and talking about cavemen. “Holiday”? What is this “Holiday”? It’s Christmas! It’s always been Christmas! My ideas are valid! This is war!

However, I wonder how much any of this would matter to Christ. Take the following exchange in Matthew 16:

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some,Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

The speculations of his identity from the larger society are brushed away without a second thought as he asks the more important question—what do you think? To him, individual understanding was more important than the societal validation.

And so, I believe, it is with us.

So don’t be like young Brother Jake. Don’t brow beat those around you to stave off insecurity. The temptation to require validation for our opinions and ideas from those around us can be strong, but it’s very rarely the best course of action. And above all, have a wonderful, beautiful Christmas.


Brother Jake

9 Responses to Brother Jake and Religious Freedom

  1. New Iconoclast on December 19, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    Unfortunately, when you say that “freedom of religion” means that the government should give religion a special status and encourage the expression of religion (that’s close to a direct quote), you are incorrect both historically and morally. In fact, the thinking by which you come to this conclusion actually contradicts the (more believable) thinking by which you conclude that the government has no business messing with marriage because they’ll eventually start dictating how we express our religion – who we marry in our temples, for whom we take photos or bake cakes, and so on.

    That is why government has no business in the religious conversation whatsoever. “Congress shall pass no law” is a pretty unambiguous statement, and in the interest of recognizing the evolution of governmental control mechanisms, it should also be taken to mean “and un-elected bureaucrats shall promulgate no regulations.”

    Frankly, I’m OK with a courthouse at which no Ten Commandments are displayed, and schools in which prayers are not mandatory (they are still allowed – just not forced). I don’t want my children prayed over every day by some evangelical anti-Mormon bible-thumper, and if I were a Hindu, I’d probably be even more irked by it, as well as being tired of having the Ten Commandments shoved in my face every time I renewed my driver’s license.

    What I want from my schools is education. What I want in my courtrooms is justice. (Not just law; not these days, Heaven forbid.) Only those things. I get my churchin’ in the chapel and in my home. Let those other buildings serve their intended purpose for all Americans, regardless of creed.

    I do not recall a single instance of Jesus lobbying the Romans to place a menorah in Pilate’s palace, or to have Passover made a Roman holiday. What He said was, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Let us go and do likewise.

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  2. Nate W. on December 19, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    New Iconoclast, I’d say your satire meter is about due for its 60,000 mile service…

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  3. Brad on December 19, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    I believe the right freedom of religion includes the right to freedom *from* religion.

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  4. alice on December 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Once again, Jake, AWESOME!!!!

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  5. hawkgrrrl on December 19, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    Well done, sir. I particularly appreciated your insertion of the Ancient Aliens guy. Well played.

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  6. wilt on December 19, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Brad: We are in violent agreement if freedom *from* religion is not equated to freedom from seeing, hearing, watching anything at any time even vaguely religious. There needs to be a balance there – difficult though it can be to find it.

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  7. New Iconoclast on December 19, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    About halfway through, I thought, “He can’t be serious.” But I was on a roll. And I’ve heard more outrageous things, about which people were completely serious… – ah, heck, it’s been a long week!

    Well played, Jake! :)

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  8. Jeff Spector on December 20, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    I loved it! thanks,

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  9. Mark Davis on December 26, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    You can’t tell Jake’s video is satirical (at least until aliens start popping up) because he presents arguments actually made by some mormons. But by the very end . . . well, it’s four minutes of your life and only a temporary loss of faith in humanity, so watch for yourself.

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