• 43°

Leonard Pitts: Fortunately, the faith of force and exclusion is not the only faith

On Sunday, people all over the world will commemorate the morning an itinerant rabbi, falsely convicted and cruelly executed, stood up and walked out of his own tomb. It is the foundation act for the world’s largest faith, a touchstone of hope for over 2 billion people.

But that faith has been a source of ongoing friction between those adherents who feel it compels them to redeem tomorrow and those who feel it obligates them to restore yesterday. Last week, the latter made headlines — again.

In Arizona, a state senator suggested a law making church mandatory as a way of arresting what she sees as America’s moral decline. When controversy erupted, Sylvia Allen said she couldn’t understand what the fuss was about.

In Indiana, meantime, the governor signed a law protecting businesses from anything that might infringe upon their “free exercise of religion.” In other words, it protects their right to discriminate against gay people. When controversy erupted, Gov. Mike Pence claimed this interpretation of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” misreads its intent.

The senator’s ignorance and the governor’s disingenuousness offer stark illustration of what too often these days masquerades as faith.

Allen, like the Taliban before her, seems to believe faith is something you can coerce. Unfortunately for her, that’s expressly forbidden in the first words of the First Amendment to the Constitution that her oath of office requires her to support. She might want to read it sometime.

As to Pence, his claim that the law is being misread is undercut by the fact that it is being celebrated by anti-gay lobbyists. He has contended the RFRA is as innocuous as similar laws passed by other states and the federal government, a claim sharply disputed by law professor Garrett Epps, writing online for The Atlantic, who notes there is language unique to Indiana’s law that seems designed to let businesses refuse service to gay people.

But the most damning witness against Pence has been Pence himself. Five times last Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked him a simple yes or no question: Does the law permit discrimination against gay people? Five times, he refused to answer. By Tuesday, Pence was promising to “fix” the miserable thing. Stay tuned.

Taken together, Allen and Pence exemplify a “faith” that has become all too common, a U-turn faith that seeks to return America to a mythic yesterday. Pence’s law would effectively allow businesses to give gay people the kind of mistreatment that was common 40 years ago, while Allen explicitly says she wants to go back to the way things were when she was a child. For the record: Allen turns 68 this week.

And so it goes with this faith of force and exclusion. Thank God it’s not the only faith there is. Indeed, in the same week Allen and Pence were making fools of themselves, a pastor in Miami was pushing for socially conscious redevelopment of a blighted inner-city community, a church in Los Angeles was hosting a panel on police-involved shootings and a preacher near Washington was recruiting men to mow lawns, clean up trash-strewn lots and mentor troubled boys.

This is the faith of sacrifice and service. Unlike the faith of force and exclusion, it gets no headlines, generates no heat. It just is.

But one is thankful it is. One is glad for its example and reminder.

This week, Christians mark the long ago dawn when the Son rose. But if that faith means anything, it means the ability and imperative to face what is without fear. So faith ought not pine for the old days.

After all, dawn is the breaking of the new.

Pitts writes for The Miami Herald. Contact him at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Comments

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday

News

Facing personnel deficiencies, local fire departments request tax rate increases

Local

‘Panic buying’ creates gas supply shortages locally, statewide after pipeline cyberattack

Business

Twice as nice: Planet Smoothie opens alongside Cold Stone Creamery in co-branded store

Local

Spencer board gets update on South Iredell rat problem

Education

West Rowan teacher awarded $15,000 outdoor learning grant

Cleveland

Town of Cleveland plans celebration May 22

High School

High school girls tennis: Busy Hornets win again easily

High School

High school softball: Nixon, Walton top all-county team

Education

All Hood Alumni and Friends Symposium scheduled June 18