In Sophocles’ Antigone our tragic heroine demonstrates to us what is regarded as one of the greatest moral principles of the Western world: when the laws of the state require one to do something against one’s own religion, or when following one’s own religious beliefs become categorized as against the law, the right thing to do is to follow your religious practices above the laws of the state. The legends of Socrates and Jesus, and their traditions, confirm and validate this virtue in the ancient world.
But what to do when religion causes one to break religious laws? Christianity has always worked through the tensions of what happens when doctrine become dogma, and when either become enforced—sometimes enforced despite of or in spite of contradictory doctrine or flying in the face of tradition.
This is what is being played out in the church trial of a United Methodist pastor from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, Rev. Frank Schaefer. Read the rest of this entry »