Landscape organizes everything within sight.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Separation of Church and State -- Why it's not our issue

A good, recent USA Today article highlights where church and state stands. Liberals often think of it as an enshrined, historical principle that we should go back to so that we can kick the evangelical voters' groups off the air, stop the president from praying for mean things, and keep fundamentalism at bay in the schools.

But as a legal principle, it's not clear that church and state is the fix.

Most Republicans of a slightly libertarian bent would also like to see funding to religious schools and organizations limited -- in the same breath as they'd like to axe public highways, swimming pools, and lunch programs.

Fighting for social and political change on the basis of "church and state" tends to rile up post-40-yr-old liberals who remember gaining ground for pluralism behind the banner of "church and state" when school prayer went out decades ago. But these days it's not liable to draw the loyalty of anyone except rabidly embattled atheists.

And why? Well, because Progressives in general are waking up to the fact that they have *always* had deep spiritual, religious, and humanitarian values in terms of a world view that insists that caring for people is more important than money or power.

If that's a religious values (and often it is), all the more reason that religious communities of progressives should insist on their right to take part in public life, and should do so speaking from a religious point of view.

It's not about foisting one's beliefs on others. Progressive Christians are still loyal to the values of Cultural Pluralism explored by political philosophers earlier in the century, who insisted that the values of one group should never predominate to oppress the minority, just because the majority controls power in a democracy.

Progressive Christians find that their duty to protect minority religious, ethnic, political, and sexual groups echoes Christ's ministry of loving and listening to the outcast.

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Link: USA Today article. We excerpt:

Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckelis a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot.

Bob: A new book, Divided by God, by Noah Feldman, suggests a compromise in the church/state battle. Since religious values are so central to many Americans, Feldman thinks government and the courts should give more leeway to religious expression such as displaying the Ten Commandments and finding a reasonable way for students to pray in school if they wish. In exchange for this latitude, he would "insist on a stricter ban on state funding of religious institutions and activities." I like that.

Cal: He has a point. Besides, God doesn't need government or public funds to advance His agenda. Taking government money inevitably forces the recipient to compromise his beliefs. If religious people want their unadulterated faith taught, they should put their children in private schools or home school them. Yet religious students in public schools and in other institutions should have the freedom to express their faith, while respecting the faith, or non-faith, of others. That's a balance that works in the public square and benefits everyone.
Bob: I think we agree. Government money for religious expression is a bad idea, can compromise faith initiatives and crosses the church/state line. That said, government and the courts need to revisit existing statutes and regulations that punish people of faith from expressing that faith in public. That, my friend, is a fair balance.

Link : Jeff Adams, Should Christians be Politically Engaged? in the Sierra Times -- a beautiful essay on the same principle. We excerpt:

I’ll leave the judgment concerning Mr. Reed’s sincerity of faith up to God, and I concede that we all make mistakes and stumble and fall, no matter how strong our faith, but based on his actions over the last few years, I would say that at the very least Ralph Reed has been thoroughly seduced by the power and corruption of our political system. I wonder if he even realizes how far he has sunk in the quicksand of political games and corruption.

Christians, don’t let this happen to you. Yes, be politically engaged. Organize, or join an organization that advocates for the Christian worldview.


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