‘I reply, God still thunders from Sinai’
Mr. Lee Cable in his article, ‘Abortion, Alberto and Bush’ (Our readers write, Nov. 3, 2004), makes some totally erroneous assertions concerning religion and politics and the separation of church and state. Cable defines the ‘Separation of Spheres’ (better terminology for the relation of church and state) erroneously from the start and this error manifests itself throughout the rest of the article.
I will argue in this article that Cable misunderstands the spheres of church and state as historically defined by the Pilgrims, Puritans and the Framers of the Constitution, but, more tragically, he has no understanding that we all, including the President, make moral and ethical choices based on a web of beliefs called a worldview that we cannot ignore because that would show a lack of principle. A little history and some critical thinking may clear the way for more discussion and, hopefully, bring unity.
The separation of religious beliefs and everyday life and politics is a common belief that should now be thrown in the dustbin of history because faith is not just personal, it is public, it influences the way we live our lives and how we think. Cable would have us believe that freedom of religion means a privatization of faith from politics. This is not what the Pilgrims, Puritans or Framers had in mind. The freedom of religions that the Pilgrims sought, which Cable notes, was freedom from the oppression of the English state church, but what Cable does not realize is that the Puritans, like Cotton Mather, the direct descendants of the Pilgrims, saw things much differently. New England at one time was run by pastors who held political offices.
The Constitution will also not give Cable any support for his faith in the convoluted modern definition of the separation of church and state. As a matter of fact, the Constitution says, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ This, as noted historian Mark Noll notes, means that ‘the federal government would not be entangled with the institutions of religion. At the level of states, however, it was a different story.’ Many of the states during this period (five, to be exact) paid ministers with tax money, and 12 of 14 states required religious tests in order for someone to hold political office. The two states, Rhode Island and Virginia, that held to separation in a more modern sense were not against such religious legislations although they did not enforce them.
Therefore, this shows that the Constitution as originally written was not intended as an exclusion of religious presuppositions from the making of governmental policies, but an attempt to keep there from being a state-run church. In other words, the Constitution protects us from a Roman Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian or any other denomination from either running the state, or the state running the church.
The church and state were conceptualized to work as two separate spheres of influence, not to control one another. In our society today, you hear a lot of paranoia about evangelical Christians taking over the government, but this is not what is happening. Through groups such as the ACLU, the liberal elite have tried to systematically exclude all remnants of a Christian thought life from our culture. I will grant that America was not and is not a Christian nation, but it has always been full of Christ, and its principles are based on Western society, and one of those principle blocks has been the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Therefore, in a free society, Christians have a right to run for office (President) and also have a right to push their agenda just as socialists, capitalists and ‘ dare I say ‘ Muslins have a right to their moral and ethical beliefs. They also have the opportunity to see those beliefs instituted through the democratic process.
A little should be said at this point about a worldview. A worldview is a set of presuppositions (assumptions, which may be true, partially false or entirely false), which we hold (consciously or unconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic makeup of our world. A worldview informs us about such things as right and wrong, good and evil, and a number of other issues. It is wrong to ask Christian voters (or a President who claims to be a Christian), who have a clear and defined worldviews to make decisions and vote contraray to what they know is true. It is very much like asking the Communists to deny his beliefs and support a Capitalistic fee-market economy.
In the classic novel ‘The Brothers of Karamazov,’ Ivan, one of the main characters, makes a good point when discussing the relation between God and ethics. He says, ‘If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.’ Without reference to God, all morality and ethics is doomed to obscurity and personal choice (sound familiar?). Our society is split over moral and ethical issues, such as abortion and homosexual marriage, because we have tried to kick the Judeo-Christian God out of public discourse. Of course, there are going to be liberal Protestants who disagree with me, but I challenge them like Martin Luther challenged the papists of his time to argue on the basis of scripture because without that basis we have nothing but cultural and personal fancy in morals. Morality and politics are bound together, and there is no separating them.
The God who thundered from Sinai so long ago is still thundering now, and it will not help us to try and silence Him because He does not give His glory to another. I am calling all Christians to start thinking and living like Christians. We should not be looking for acceptance from any ideology (religious, secular or political) that is against the word of God.
I also call all other religious and non-religious persons to truly be tolerant and hear each other. We should not ask others to discard their belief systems just because we do not like them, but think through their truth claims. Our differing worldviews need to be discussed and open for public critique from the other communities of faith in our country. I disagree with all other religious and non-religious ideologies and almost all of what they have to say, but I do not think that in a democratic society they should be silenced but up for discussion and tested by truth. This is how democracy works and the only way it can survive.
Blake Reas, 21, a 2001 graduate of Corydon Central High School, is a sophomore at Boyce College, which is connected with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. His parents are Dennis and Cheryl Reas of Corydon.