Friday, May 26, 2006

Of Pentacles and Tombstones

I am a member of several Yahoo groups related to religious studies and mission to new religions and alternative spiritualities. One of the groups, NUREL, recently included a post in the form of a story about a controversy in Reno, Nevada. The Associated Press is reporting that the family of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan is trying to get the Department of Veteran Affairs to approve the placement of a Wiccan pentagram on the tombstone of the fallen soldier. The family says that the pentagram would be the appropriate symbol for the young man who practiced this form of spirituality.

While Nevada officials work to speed up the probable approval of this request, the AP story states:
The Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration allows only approved emblems of religious beliefs on government headstones. Over the years, it has approved more than 30, including symbols for theTenrikyo Church, United Moravian Church and Sikhs. There's also an emblem for atheists - but none for

This news story reminds me of the firestorm of controversy that erupted a few years ago when it became known that an Army Base was permitting Wiccan ceremonies to be conducted on the military facility. There was a minor public uproar, including complaints from many evangelicals who felt that somehow the government should be in the position of disapproving certain spiritualities such as Wicca.

In light of the controversy in Reno, and as we remember our fallen war dead and other lost loved ones, Christians in religiously plural America might be thinking about the practical aspects of our theology of religions, and remember that freedom of religion means all religions, even ones evangelicals find distasteful. That seems to me to be the Christian thing to do.

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