Dear Grandson: I risk writing you this letter in order to pass along some censored history. Today’s America of 2050, officially atheist by law, is a very different place from the “nation under God” of my boyhood in 2010. When you take your first communion in Denver’s underground church on a spring morning once known as Easter, you need to know how this and other holy days disappeared from the American calendar.
Our country at mid-century remains the envy of the world, still fairly prosperous and optimistic, still claiming to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. But I’m sad to tell you that during my lifetime, “brave” and “free” have been redefined so as to disallow any reverence for that power whom our founders called the Creator. Christians and Jews have been made outlaws.
So hide my letter with your Bible; both are illegal to possess. It is only because your father and mother honor the civil-disobedience tradition of Martin Luther King and ignore the ban on Judeo-Christian writings that you can read the Scriptures at all.
How tragically does the noisy complacency of my parents back in the Bush and Obama years contrast with the quiet courage of your parents today. Again we see how adversity brings out the best in the people of God, as all history teaches. If believers had been more vigilant for freedom of conscience back in the Teens, judges wouldn’t have dared to rewrite the First Amendment as they did in the Tiernan case.
The dominoes began falling with the election of a “Freedom from Religion” activist, Robert Tiernan, to the Colorado House in 2010. Once in office, he played on the Catholic sex scandals, allegations of evangelical homophobia, and the anti-Israel mood to portray the God of the Bible as civilization’s worst enemy. His bill branding the Gospels and the Torah as hate speech became law on Good Friday, 2012.
A Colorado coalition led by broadcaster James Dobson, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Rabbi Hillel Goldberg filed suit, denouncing the act as “tyranny worthy of Lenin or Nero.” But the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it. The majority opinion by Justice Keith Ellison, the former congressman newly appointed by President Obama, ruled that “religion” in the First Amendment excludes by definition every thought, word, and action that manifests intolerance toward any species whatsoever, or the planet itself.
The times are grim, my boy. Yet the faithful have survived worse. This Easter, albeit in secrecy and danger, you kneel to a God who loved you enough to come here and die so you might live. Your friend Aaron whispers at Passover his gratitude for a divine deliverance from bondage and death. Down the centuries, neither Caesar nor Satan nor all our own sins have been able to halt these ancient devotions. Nor shall they now. Stay strong