Sunday, May 01, 2005

Some days I really consider moving to Canada

I'll start off by with the caveat that I've been sick this weekend. When getting out of bed to make yourself an English muffin seems a little too strenuous, fighting political battles suddenly seem insurmountable, so where I'm usually optimistic for the long haul and full of spit and fight, today I'm just tired and wanting to escape and not have to fight anymore. Tomorrow this probably won't seem as scary. Disturbing, but not "run away!" scary.

This article about the "myth" of separation of church and state is what has me so concerned. Now I'm one of the first people to say that this concept has been abused. The First Amendment's stipulation that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" does not and should not mean that we have to excise the word "God" from every bit of public life. Schools should allow Christian (or Jewish or Muslim or Pagan or whatever) clubs just like they allow secular clubs. Kids should be allowed to write papers on religious figures. People should be allowed to wear crosses or stars of David or other religious symbols. They should be allowed to pray. I get really annoyed by some of the extremes groups like the ACLU will go to that in effect establish atheism as the "established religion."

That said, we've swung the pendulum way too far the other way in recent years.

Religious conservatives, emboldened by President Bush's re-election and confident of their political clout, are not interested in merely overhauling the judiciary. Ideally, they are seeking a judiciary that would remove the wall of separation between church and state.

This ambition is stated clearly in numerous legal briefs currently on file at the U.S. Supreme Court in connection with a pending case; they seek removal of "a Berlin wall" that is "out of step with this nation's religious heritage." In fact, their leaders argue in interviews that the church-state barrier is a "myth" invented by the high court in 1947, thanks to a twisted interpretation of our founding documents.

Matthew Staver, a religious-right lawyer who recently argued a church-state case in front of the Supreme Court, said Friday, "The term 'separation of church and state' is an easy hook. People hear it, they think of the First Amendment. It's like the line 'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,' and you think of Muhammad Ali.

"But there's no 'separation' phrase in the First Amendment. … Interpreting it that way is laughable."

Okay, granted, that phrase isn't in the First Amendment itself, but invented in 1947? Wha???? Try 1802 in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a group of Baptists who were afraid for their religious freedoms. That's the important part here, he wrote this to allay their fears that their religious freedom wouldn't be tolerated. You remember Thomas Jefferson, one of our Founding Fathers?

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [emphasis mine]

With all due respect to Mr. Staver, it certainly didn't seem laughable to Mr. Jefferson to interpret the First Amendment as establishing a separation between church and state. And not just a separation, but a wall of separation.

Heck, I'll even go a step further. I think separation of church and state as a concept, if not in those words, goes all the way back to Jesus who very specifically refused to be a political revolutionary.

What scares me about all of this is that I see my freedom to worship being chipped away, and I'm a Christian! I can only imagine how non-Christians must feel! Groups with political motivations have wormed their way into mainstream denominations like mine and have made changes that force their will on how I and others practice our faith. Amendments are being passed in numerous states that are usurping local control over domestic partnerships and legal contracts between individuals. Rape victims aren't getting access to emergency contraceptives because some people think that's abortion. Sin, which is highly interpretative even within Christianity let alone outside of it, is being used to define what should and should not be legal.

The United States was founded by people of great faith. Specifically, great Christian faith. We don't do history justice if we refuse to recognize that. But we don't do either our faith or our country justice if we refuse to recognize that both are best served by not being intertwined. Jesus said to render unto God what is God and to Caesar what is Caesar's. Thomas Jefferson envisioned a wall of separation between church and state. Why would Christian Americans want to ignore both one of the founders of our country and the founder of our faith?

I hear Vancouver is lovely this time of year...


At 8:40 AM, Blogger DogBlogger said...

Funny, some days I really consider moving to the UCC or the Unitarian Universalists, but not to Canada. As much as I complain about heat waves, I really am a Southern girl.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

I think if I didn't love my specific congregation so much, I'd leave the UM church for the UCC in a heartbeat, but then again, when I'm not sick, I've got too much fight for that. They're not having MY church, dammit!

And seriously, I'm as likely to leave the desert as I am to sprout wings, but some days just seem scarier than others.

Or maybe I'm seeing too much Revenge of the Sith promotion and republics devolving into totalitarian regimes is too much on the brain. ;)

At 8:55 AM, Blogger DogBlogger said...

Yeah, I'm with you on all counts there. Saw Sin City this weekend, which had a Sith trailer beforehand, and after being bored as all get out in Episode II, I was shocked (shocked!) to find myself interested in Ep III...

At 10:52 PM, Blogger Xpatriated Texan said...

The Constitution - and both the collected Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers - insist that religion is not to be the basis of government or vice versa.

However, it does not say the same faith. The problem, as I see it, is not that the religious right is trying to let their faith guide them. It is that they are trying to impose the religious observation of that faith upon the rest of the country.

The answer to bad theology is better theology, not secularism.


At 5:48 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

I agree. If I sounded like I was advocating secularism, I'm not. As I wrote, I do think "separation of church and state" has been abused by those who want to excise religion completely from public life, and I disagree with that. But yes, the problem isn't people being guided by their faith. That's a good thing. It's imposing that faith on others, which is what I see happening more and more frequently in high levels of government.


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