The following is a copy of a letters sent to Easton’s Human Rights Commission.
EASTON – My name is Adam Riveiro, and I’m the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church here in Easton. I wanted to take a moment to write to you in reference to your Oct. 7 meeting, which is posted on YouTube. At around the 48 minute mark of the meeting, you discussed a listening session that is being proposed for this coming December called “Navigating Religious Holidays in a Christian Society.”
I will admit, first of all, that I am heartened by the HRC’s embrace of religion. I applaud you for rejecting the common stance that “separation of church and state” precludes a town board from engaging in a religious discussion.
As I’m sure you are aware, the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in any of our founding documents. Further, the first use of this phrase by Thomas Jefferson via correspondence with a group of pastors (Baptist pastors no less!) was in reference to avoiding a state-run church, not the utter abandonment of religion and religious values from the public square.
With your example, I’m looking forward to seeing how we can promote religious discussion and religious education throughout our town government and our school system in the future.
However, my main purpose in writing to you today is in reference to a comment made about the purview of this listening session. During the meeting, it was said in reference to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity was that “these three have the same God. At the end of the day, it is the same being.”
Unfortunately, this statement runs contrary to Christian doctrine. In fact, it runs contrary to the teachings of Christ himself, who declared in John 14:6, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Neither Islam nor Judaism holds to the deity of Jesus Christ, and Christians believe this understanding is essential to salvation.
This teaching is reiterated throughout the New Testament. For instance, Acts 4:12 says of Christ, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” 1 John 4:1-3 states, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
My desire is not to engage in a theological debate, but rather to say that Christians believe that Jesus Christ is a member of the triune God, contrary to Jewish teachings. We believe that the triune God is not the same as Allah, which is also affirmed by the commonly held teachings of the Koran. The teaching of omnism (all religions are equally true and universal in nature) is a fringe teaching at best of Christianity and in no serious way could be presented as representative of commonly taught Christianity from any denominational point-of-view.
The stated goal of the HRC to promote unity (particularly in a time of such unrest and uncertainty) is laudable. However, I’d contend that unity is achieved through the promulgation of the truth. To teach a doctrine that runs contrary to Christianity as representative of the same does a grave disservice to the conversation you are attempting to have. To build a stronger, more unified town that respects and recognizes both our diversity and our commonalities (one of the HRC’s stated goals), we cannot simply wallpaper over our differences for the sake of harmony. Hard truths can’t be avoided for the sake of unity, and attempting to do so causes more harm than good.
Thank you for your time. I do not intend to be contentious, for I understand that serving on a town board is a time-consuming and difficult job. I’d simply ask that, as you move ahead with this forum, that you’d re-consider framing your discussion in a way that properly represents Christian faith and teaching.
On a personal level, you’re always welcome to attend a service at our church, and I hope that you will visit us sometime in the future.
Adam Riveiro is the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church at 800 Washington Street in Easton. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the church and its services can be found at www.mylibertybaptist.org.