The Balance Between Faith and Liberty
For the last several decades, the secular humanists and the “Religious Right” have been engaged in a political struggle for influence in the government and public life of our nation. The humanists claim to be non-religious and thus able to enforce their views forcibly on the nation without infringing upon the “separation of Church and State”. The Right claims that these United States were founded as a Christian nation and that our Founding Fathers never intended for Christianity to be excluded from the national life of the country. Both sides are ultimately basing there entire arguments on false assumptions. In order to understand the truth, we need to break down the false assumptions on both sides and then form a more complete world view in order to avoid some of the worst historical pitfalls.
To begin with, let me say this: Despite its not appearing anywhere in our founding documents, I agree 100% with Thomas Jefferson on the need for a “separation of Church and State”. In any case we look at historically, a merger between political power and religious institutions resulted in massive loss of life and great destruction of the spiritual vitality of the nation. The takeover of the German churches by the Nazi government was vitally necessary in properly indoctrinating the German people to accept the Fuhrer concept and later war atrocities. Pastors like Bonhoeffer who dared to call out the whole concept of the Fuhrer as contrary to the commands of scripture had to be jailed and ultimately killed. The opposite has also been true, the Catholic domination of the European political scene gave us atrocities like the Crusades and the Inquisition, as the inquisition demonstrates the temptation to use the political might of the “Church” to crush spiritual dissenters is to great to be overcome. In the most comprehensive early history of our nation The Life of Washington, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall even spells out the failures of the early Puritans when they sought to crush dissent despite having only recently fled persecutions in England themselves.
Ironically, this issue they claim to cherish so dearly, is in fact the ultimate issue for the humanists in their rise to power. Secular humanism is the religion of non-religion, it has no more right to oppress religious people than religions people have to oppress its adherents. America is teetering dangerously on the edge of accepting a new State Church in the name of tolerance and political correctness. We are approaching the point where those with certain world views are being treated more and more harshly in the public eye, most notably are dissenting views on the morality of homosexuality, abortion, the creation of the world, and the concept of just war. Most of these pushes are coming not from the Right (ridicule of just war excepted) but from the humanists on the left. Even while proclaiming toleration and justice they are engaging in exactly the kind of religious oppression they claim to abhor. It is not enough that they have different views on moral concepts than the rest of the nation, they are trying to force their vision of morality on the rest of us in the name of equality and toleration.
The ultimate issue, the root cause if you will of this fight, is the vast overreach of our Federal government. Consider some of the hot button “moral” issues facing the nation today:
Prayer in Public Schools: If the Federal Government had not chosen to completely seize control of our Pubic Education system, there would be no church/state issue where school prayer, or for that matter curriculum involving origins was involved. Schools need to be run at the extreme local level, and as has historically been the case parents need to be directly responsible for the hiring of teachers and selection of curriculum. Ultimately, it is the parent and not the government who is responsible for the well being of the child. As soon as we restore our education system to this recognition, this issue fades away.
Homosexual Marriage: The only reason that this is a national political issue is because the government, through the tax code, has gotten itself involved in determining who may and may not marry; which I may add is a very frightening and dangerous prospect indeed! Had we not violated the entire spirit and letter of the Constitution with the formation of the IRS and modern tax code, this issue would not exist. Marriage is fundamentally a religious institution, therefore each religions group ought to maintain its right to marry whomever it chooses. The state has no business coming in and defining marriage, but the tax code has made it necessary for the state to do so. While I’m on this point though, let me point out that much of the homosexual agenda does violate the separation of church and state. Any attempt to use the violent force of government to silence others because they believe that your actions are morally wrong, violates their right to hold their own moral convictions. Arguments that this kind of speech causes bullying, emotional trauma, or violence are a scape goat for the real issue, which is that the homosexual movement is unwilling to permit free speech that they find disagreeable. I would like to strongly advocate that this position be dropped before, like a double edged sword it comes back upon them. As soon as the force of the government is used to silence opposition, the majority (most of whom hold the opposite world view) will role over on the homosexual movement and we may actually see real oppression. Instead we need to get the government out of the whole situation and return to recognizing each other’s freedom of religion.
Notice I didn’t mention Abortion. Abortion is not actually a purely moral issue, and does fall under the authority of the Federal government to address. Abortion involves the murder and oppression of one group of defenseless citizens by the very people who are charged to defend them. The question in the abortion issue is are unborn babies people? To be totally honest, I have never seen strong evidence from either side that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt at what point in pregnancy they suddenly become people. Is this ignorance an excuse to continue wide spread killing until we “know” that they are people? NO! The unborn must be treated as full fledged citizens and as human beings with all the rights thereof from birth, precisely because we do not know at what point we are killing a human child. This then represents the repression of one group by another, and is therefore a liberty issue that must be addressed by the state, much like slavery was not a “moral issue” but rather a liberty issue.
I would warn caution on this one though, the root causes of abortion are moral and must be addressed at the cultural and religious level before any government solution will have any real effect. I believe, despite slavery being fundamentally a freedom issue, that the Civil War illustrates very clearly why morality, even when liberty is at stake, cannot ultimately be legislated nor forced at the tip of the bayonet. Finally passing legal protection for the unborn will not end the mass murder until the society behind the killing fundamentally changes.
This leads to the root question then: How are Faith and Liberty connected? What is the relationship between the two? We have established that morality cannot be legislated, but what about the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Founding Fathers were Christians?
The short answer is this, you cannot have liberty without faith. Unless the nation maintains its moral values at the cultural and religious level, any government built on liberty will ultimately fail. The reason for this is rather simple, the principle of liberty is built upon the belief that all men are created equal and have certain natural or divine rights as soon as my neighbor comes to believe that he has the right to take my rights away, the government must step in. Once government intervention is forced to become to frequent, liberty fades away into the distance. Only a society in which men acknowledge and revere each others rights can maintain liberty. This can only exist when men are sufficiently moral to know and protect each other rights.
For this reason, it was the strong Faith of our Founding Fathers, and Forefathers that ultimately produced the liberty rich environment upon which our Constitution was established. They did not set out to form some sort of Christian nation where the state enforced morality, this couldn’t have possibly been further from their minds. The Founding Fathers had no motivation to establish a political Christian nation, because these United States were already a Christian nation! As soon, however, as the faith and moral principles of the nation began to slide we began to lose our liberty. And so it is that every time the American people place their faith for salvation in the government, be it the Great Depression, 9/11, etc; we give away more of our liberty. Only a root level restoration of the faith that made America, America; the sort of Faith that moves from man to man and community to community, the sort of Faith our Fathers and Forefathers had, can create an environment from which our liberty can ultimately be restored.