Public Display of Religion

Few things really irk me in this world. There’s waking up, missing church, missing the gym, slow internet connections – to name a couple. One thing in particular that always tends to turn the knob on my internal oven, and I’ve been seeing a lot of it lately, is the insistence by the non-religious that “private religion” is to be kept out of the public realm, or that religion is to be kept out of politics, etc. I understand that, particularly with regard to Christianity, there are some debates on what a Christian body politic would look like, but my main point has more to do with participating in American politics as a Christian.

The first and probably foremost problem with these complaints is that “religion” is left undefined. What people generally have in mind when “religion” is uttered in informal speech typically includes religious imagery (like crosses or stone tablets), institutionalized worship, mandatory tithes, etc., etc. However, when speaking in the context of politics, “religion” can indicate something as general as upholding the sanctity of human life or holding that marriage is between one man and one woman. These, no doubt, are deeply-held beliefs that in some way will affect the way you regard marriage and life, and will affect the types of laws you vie to pass and implement. But when people are vying for laws to the contrary of these things, are we supposed to believe they’re not operating on some foundational basis that itself is deeply held? What substantial difference does it make if they don’t gather for worship or conferences (and they do) or attend some church (and they do). Further, what does “separation between church and state” even mean?

How is it, for instance, that a Christian is supposed to influence the laws of his nation, except on the basis of what he holds most dearly or important? How is this somehow foul play, and really, exactly who doesn’t do this? Over and over I hear the complaint (which is more like a whine in D-flat. I have an ear for music.) that I have no right or say in any one else’s personal life. Perhaps. Although I would like to think my opinion that thieves should change their ways, or else risk punishment, should be taken seriously. On the contrary, anyone that participates at all in the political process is presuming a “say” in others’ personal lives. Until laws of a nation don’t affect the lives of people the nation comprises, is the suggested separation even coherent?

But I guess this simply raises the question: are these non-religious people in fact suggesting Christians just do not qualify to participate in the political process? Are they suggesting Christians simply sit down and shut up? Do our political opinions (which are inextricably tied to our deeply-held beliefs) consign us to some level of citizenship that is lower than what they consider requisite to pass laws? If this doesn’t suggest the establishment of an totalitarian secularist religion, does it really also not prohibit the free exercise thereof?

 In either case, there’s nothing to suppose these are anything more than mere complaints. It’s one thing to really dislike your competition. It’s quite another to complain incessantly, in lieu of a reasoned argument, that your competition should simply silence. Maybe we should call everything they try to do, “Communism.” Oops…


2 Comments

brig

So on one hand we have religious convictions concerning ethics, and on the other hand we have one’s political framework containing ethical convictions, and we are not supposed to mix our ethics with our ethics. This makes perfect sense, don’t you think? One might be forced to maintain their ethics consistently, or at the very least, account for them, and we can’t have that.

Matthias McMahon

Or better yet, submit to God’s authority.


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