Last week, while attending my 30th Reunion at Asbury College, we visited Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, KY.  Shakertown is a beautiful place to visit. You can read more about the history of the Shakers here.

Shakertown picture 2009We stayed two nights at Shaker Village, and as we have before, we enjoyed another wonderful breakfast in one of the many historic buildings.  The picture to the right gives you an idea of the simplicity and beauty of the architecture and furniture made by the Shakers.

While we were visiting Shaker Village I thought about religious freedom.  The Shakers, at various times in their history, have experienced persecution or ridicule because of their views on pacifism, communal living, celibacy and some of their other religious beliefs.  It is amazing how some religious people belittle others who have beliefs that are different from their own.  Strong religious beliefs should always foster tolerance of others, not bigotry.

For centuries, our country has been a haven for many who were seeking to escape persecution–not always but for many.  Our constitution, and the religious freedom it guarantees, is something we celebrate on this Fourth of July.  The government cannot always protect citizens from the ugly nature of bigotry and hatred like the Shakers sometimes experienced. 

My prayer on this Fourth of July is that all followers of Jesus would confront bigotry and hatred and live in peace especially with neighbors whose religious beliefs are different than their own.  

The first lines of the song Simple Gifts, written by Elder Joseph while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine in 1848, follows:  

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be." (The rest of the lyrics can be found at Wikipedia.)