Thursday, July 06, 2006

One nation, (out from) under God, part II

Those who settled in America in the colonial years have a lesson to teach us. It's a lesson that I'm afraid some people have forgotten, and it's really too bad, because it's shown itself time and time again throughout history in one form or another. Religion and political power don't mix well.

As I've so often admitted elsewhere, and maybe a few times even here in this blog, history was not one of my better subjects, so I'm bound to get some details mixed up. Still, there was one story that I remember from a junior high class about American history. A bunch of guys in England got together and said, we're tired of being told how to worship by the King. We just don't have freedom here in England; let's see if we can find freedom in America. So they got a boat and crossed the Atlantic Ocean and founded Massachusetts, where people were flogged and burned as witches and heretics if they didn't worship the way the people in charge there wanted it to be done. So, a few of them figured they weren't any better off in Massachusetts than they were in England, and they went off to found Connecticut. What did they do there? Basically they set up yet still another little pseudo-theocracy, and the cycle started again. This led to the founding of Rhode Island.

I remember being about eleven or so and thinking, what a bunch of idiots! It's like saying you didn't like being abused by your parents, so you had kids in order to abuse them and somehow even the score or something. Well, not quite. Religion and political power don't mix so well because they share many characteristics. Neither one is inherently evil, but both can be and often are used in unscrupulous manners to control people for selfish ends. And most people wielding that power of control tell themselves that they are doing it for the greater good. All of these people, including the King of England, did what they did because they believed that God was on their side. This means to me that even though their deeds were questionable, they may have at some level had quite reasonable motives.

But are motives enough? Somebody's right (maybe), and somebody's wrong, but there is no guarantee that those who are in positions of power are the ones who are right. After all, the Bible itself is full of stories of powerful men who had control over Israel but were not considered righteous in the least. If there is no guarantee for a righteous King over God's chosen people, then who's to say that we as a nation that only *assume* we have God's blessing have any sort of guarantee of righteous leadership? God loves putting the wrong people in power to teach people a lesson through having to endure bad leadership.

All that aside, let me ask my fellow Christians: what sort of Christian country would we then live in? Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton claim to be Christians, are there too many people out there that feel that both (or even either) of them was/is an ideal leader for our country? Do you think Baptists would be content with letting Catholics be in charge, or vice-versa? Look at the controversies over abortion, homosexuality, and gender roles that are tearing apart American denominations right now. Do you really believe we can hold the country together when we can't even hold our churches together?

Now does that mean that we can't allow our religious beliefs to play themselves out in the way we run our government? I don't think it does at all, but one thing we always need to remember is the "golden rule", and put ourselves in somebody else's shoes. Would we be okay with somebody else making these same decisions that we make? Somebody else running the country the way that we run it? If the theists tell the atheists that they won't be allowed to live as they see fit, then how do we know that tomorrow the monotheists won't take away the rights of the pagans and Hindus, and the next day the Christians take away from the Muslims and Jews, and the next day the Protestants take away from the Catholics and Mormons, and the next day the Baptists take away from the Methodists and Lutherans, etc. Maybe the "slippery slope" isn't considered a valid form of argument, but I just see a set of events lined up that, if we took away the religious rights of one person for an arbitrary reason, would lead to virtually nobody having freedom anymore.

1 comment:

Na said...

Hear hear! Secularism is the only guard against religiously orientated views interfering with freedom and fairness for all.