After extensive involvement in my early years, I was “prodigal” from the organized Christian church for 30 years before a brief return, but I never threw the “baby” out with the “bathwater.” Jesus was for me, even as a small child, the “go to” guy. But that doesn’t mean I have completely ignored other points of view or other faith traditions. If anything, doing just that has reinforced my wonderment at what a guy walking around two millennia ago knew and understood.
For example, I always figured that “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind” meant exactly what it says, and if practiced, found that, as a consequence, “Loving my neighbor as myself” came naturally. “If I focus on doing those two things, the rest take care of themselves. (By the way, Jesus…and later Paul, are recorded as having said exactly that.)
As an American by birth, I feel the same way about the U.S. Constitution. Only the 1st Amendment really matters. Focus on ensuring those rights and the rest are just clarifications, which, in theory, as many said about the Equal Rights Amendment back in the 1970s, should have been unnecessary. I agree, but in practice, human beings seem to be prone to narcissism, often unable or unwilling to imagine the potential effects of our actions on lives other than ours and altering course even marginally when we perceive there is a high probability that those effects will be negative.
It always seemed to me, too, that protecting an individual’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (irrespective of those pesky demographic categories like height, gender, skin color, hair, ethnicity, language, even religious tradition), so long as another person’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not trounced upon is, part and parcel, the very same thing that Jesus taught. What else does “love your neighbor as yourself” mean except to offer the same respect and the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness you demand for yourself to everyone else?