I recently added to my wardrobe a cap that said: “MAKE AMERICA MORAL AGAIN”. I thought I could make a statement that the nation had departed from a political path guided by moral behavior. My cap has attracted a variety of responses. It has opened some dialogue. The most recent occurred in a local Walmart. As I passed a fellow elder, he stopped, smiled and said that he liked what my cap said. I assumed he read into the statement the same meaning as I did. Silly me! Without hesitation, he proceeded to declare what he thought the words on the cap conveyed to him. Moral persons are “born again” Christians with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Moral persons are conservatives who condemn homosexuality and abortion. When my smile turned into a frown as I politely eased my hand away from our handshake, he sought affirmation to his assumptions.

Instead, I asked him. “Are you saying that only conservative born-again Christians live a moral life?” Without hesitation he said: “Of course.” “Are you saying that conservative born-again Christians are the only ones who are saved?” Without hesitation he said “Of course.” “Are you saying that persons with a different sexual orientation or who choose to have an abortion are damned to hell?” Without hesitation he said “Yes.”

I informed him that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, that I am a progressive Christian who believes in a woman’s right to choose, that I believe those with a differing sexual orientation than mine can live a moral life and that persons practicing other religions have their own special moral relationship with their Creator. I added that to be moral also means to responsibly apply moral imperatives to whom we vote for. It was interesting to note his confusion when I applied moral imperatives to one’s response to the political process. After taking a few steps back—obviously afraid he might catch something—he stammered something like on “Judgement Day” I will be set straight. As we parted I said: “I’ll be happy to receive your apology at that time.”

To live a moral life is to “Judge not lest ye be judged.” (Luke 6:37) I am confident that women struggle with the decision to have an abortion. It may or may not be a moral decision for them, but it is their decision in a democracy. Legislating moral behavior allows one segment of society to establish a forced moral code on another segment of society. Pity the person who claims their narrowly defined faith claim is so exclusive that they can judge the way others live. When one refuses to struggle with the questions accompanying moral behavior or constructs a restrictive list of moral imperatives to support their beliefs, one rejects the very love and acceptance Jesus demonstrated and asks us to hold in our hearts.

POST SCRIPT: See what the progressive Colorado legislature is doing to help women avoid a potential moral dilemma.