Someone, please, help me out: If … if, if, if …. If someone makes a claim based on a religious principle, what is the obligation to reconcile the claim with the religion?
Okay, let’s try a working example. Tom Searles reports, for The Charleston Gazette:
A handful of people who believe digitized photos on state driver’s licenses could be the beginning of the biblical “mark of the beast” will receive special licenses from the Division of Motor Vehicles today.
Phil Hudok, a Randolph County teacher who previously refused to enforce school rules requiring students to wear bar-coded identification badges because it violated his religious beliefs, will be one of the first.
“We’re a Christian, nondenominational scripture-believing group,” Hudok said.
Hudok, pastor Butch Paugh and 12 others met with DMV Commissioner Joseph Cicchirillo in 2006 about the perceived problem. At the time, state officials were getting ready to comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005, which would have forced states to share information about licensed drivers with other states.
Under the plan Cicchirillo established, Hudok and other followers of Paugh will be allowed to have their license photos taken at the Capitol DMV office and then removed from the computer system. DMV will maintain a hard copy of the pictures at the main office.
“What these people objected to was the digital image,” Cicchirillo said.
The federal act also requires personal information, such as birth dates and driving records, in the system. “All the other information stays there,” the commissioner said.
He said there has been no outpouring of people objecting to the digital photos.
“Right now, I have three or four people who have requested it for religious reasons,” he said. “I think what they told me was it had to do with the mark of the beast.”
What is interesting is that Hudok’s concerns actually sound somewhat practical. How will the Real ID program affect things like interstate travel and banking? Yet, while such questions have, thus far, been unable to derail the momentum toward a federal identification standard, resorting to a religious complaint seems rather quite strange.
The thing is that it’s not like trying to force a Jew or Muslim to eat pork. In such cases, it seems the theological basis is fairly clear. But how, exactly, does a digital photograph equate to the mark of the beast? I would be very interested to hear or read the theological justification for such an assertion.
Because I don’t think it’s there. As with so many political disputes involving Christianity, the proposition of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s is apparently irrelevant.
And there is a certain irony here. For over fifteen years, I have heard various arguments about special rights. This has been an especially popular counterpoint to the assertion that one ought not be discriminated against for being gay. Apparently, many Christians consider equality a special right. Yet here we have what seems a dubious theological contention, and the result is that taxpayers should underwrite special accommodation.
So how is this not special, unequal, privileged treatment? Could someone please make the connection between a digital photograph and the Mark of the Beast?
Of course, it is West Virginia we’re talking about. We should not be so foolish as to expect that theology or the Bible have anything to do with Christianity.