Sunday, March 29, 2015

Separation of Church and State

Not long ago I posted a picture on Facebook in jest to a close friend of mine whose parents own and run a meat business. His parents are very Godly people who go to great lengths to help people. Their business is extremely well thought of in the community. The picture I posted was of a package of meat my wife had purchased. The package of meat had a very clear message on it:
What I said was, "Whatever happened to the Separation of Church and Steak????"
(Yes I realize they're pork chops)
My aim was to lampoon the insanity and intolerance of liberal America. I think I did a good job in doing it. 

Yet not long after this a local radio DJ used the words on the meat packaging as a launching pad to suppress people's 1st Amendment rights. He basically said people should keep their religion to themselves because this (the words on the meat packaging) could offend people. 

My eyes couldn't possibly roll enough to communicate my lack of respect for that opinion. What a stupid, stupid, stupid way to live your life. You are that offended? Really? You can't just deal with words on a package of meat? You can't just shut up and go to another butcher? You're an adult with zero coping skills. That's what you are.

And this radio DJ can get away with trying to suppress people's freedom of religion and expression and free speech because he was attacking Christians. Disagree with me? Go read a newspaper. I'm not saying Christians are being martyred in the streets of America. I'm saying conservative Christians who think biblically are permitted to be publicly maligned and ostracized. Still disagree with me? Watch what happens the next time a pro athlete says anything about homosexuality that doesn't celebrate it. Anything less than a celebration of that which is clearly unnatural is now viewed in the public sphere as hate speech. I'm not being hyperbolic or paranoid - this is an observable truth. 

Lest I get further off topic I'll now just jump back on track. The words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution. Did you know that? Honestly, did you? Did you know the words originated in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a baptist church to give the church assurance that the government would not be interfering with the church?

Woah woah woah. Did I just say that the separation of church and state is actually a protection for churches from the government???

"No, Tim! It means that religious people can't take their faith-shaped consciences into the voting booth! That's what it means!!! I'm plugging my ears if you say anything else!!!!! BIGOT!!!! RACIST!!!! HOMOPHOBE!!!"

Sorry to break it to you, my liberal friend. Just think about it for a minute. Why would the government give the freedom of religion to people if we were only permitted to exercise that religion in specific, government approved areas? Does that sound like freedom? If something is heavily restricted by the government, is that really freedom? I must vote sans a faith-shaped conscience? Whaaaattt?? What does that even look like?

It's easy for us to see what a Christian-faith-shaped conscience looks like. We are Bible people. The Bible is God's revealed word to us and the authority in our lives. So we vote in accordance to what the Bible says. This would mean we could never vote to allow stealing or murder. This would also mean we would vote to uphold a person's right to a fair trial and that no one should be convicted without evidence. The list goes on.

What's tough is to see what a faith-shaped conscience looks like for a secular humanist. Secular humanists aren't known for their consistency in thinking. Because they preach moral relativism, what's right for Suzie Q is not right for Billy and what's true for Bobby is not what's true for Andy and what Julie J is allowed to do Abigail is not allowed to do. I can't follow it. They can't be reasoned with because their worldview isn't built upon reason or facts but ethereal platitudes and non-sequiturs.

Regardless, each secular humanist has his or her own  faith(or worldview)-shaped conscience. And I am honestly fine with that. Why? Because not every Christian thinks the same in the voting booth. Politics are delicate and sometimes more tactical and pragmatic than ideal. But the secular humanist must be afforded the same right to vote in accordance with his or her values as the Christian. In fact, I would never ask someone to violate their conscience in the voting booth or in their place of business.

"I don't feel right doing XYZ job for this person. They are going to do something I strongly disagree with and I feel like I'll be a contributor to this act with which I disagree."

Does that statement apply to the secular humanist or to the conservative Christian? Does it matter? Why should anyone be forced to violate their conscience? How is that cool? How is that tolerance? How is there freedom in this country if we literally force people to violate their values? I don't get it.

The 1st Amendment is a protection from the state forcing people into a belief system they disagree with. The government recognizes some rights are unalieanble (given to us from God) and thus can't be tampered with. If the government forces you or me to violate our consciences (Christian, humanist, Muslim, Hindu, etc) the government has imposed its authority in an area which it promised to abstain. That would be a self-defeating government.

And how far do you want to take the belief that people should leave government out of politics? Do we remove laws against murder and stealing because those are forbidden in the Bible? Couldn't someone say that those laws are a violation of the separation of church and state because they're consistent with what the New Testament teaches?

"Quit imposing your religion  on me!!!"

I'm not! I'm really not. I'm given the option to vote in accordance with my faith and I choose to exercise that right. How am I forcing my religion on you? Am I going door to door and pointing a gun at people? Am I trying to force everyone to be Christian? Not at all. I'm just voting in accordance with my conscience and I'd hope you are doing the same.

"You can't legislate morality!!!"

Really? That's what virtually every single law is. It's the imposition of some form of ethic. Whether it's ethics or right moral behavior in how we deal with the environment or economics or marriage; I can't think of any law that doesn't impose or legislate morality.

School Zone

20 MPH

That's the government telling us it is WRONG to drive over 20 in certain areas.

Drugs are Illegal

That's the government telling us what we can and cannot do with our bodies and saying there will be consequences if we make the WRONG decision. 

Pay X Amount in Taxes

That's the government telling us what the RIGHT amount to pay is and we have to do it. 

It is and always will be impossible to avoid people voting in accordance with their consciences. Since most people's consciences are shaped by their religion it is therefore impossible to separate voting from religion. There will always be a connection between people's faith and who and what they vote for. 

The only way to avoid religion influencing politics is for the federal government to overrule the voters or, more likely, for hyper-sensitive action groups to compel low-information voters into a manic frenzy to put pressure on the government to overrule any law that even remotely acknowledges the authority of God.

Since today's young people are easily influenced by emotional anecdotes this is a very easy tactic for hyper-sensitive action groups to utilize. Just toss out a provocative headline and you've got yourself thousands of outraged young people foaming at the mouth and chomping at the bit to prove how awesome they are. To prove that it's wrong to not do business with someone you disagree with these young people are going to boycott everyone with an opposing view. Not just the specific people with an opposing view but the entire state where the opposing view is located. Isn't hypocrisy great? 

There's no way these young people will read anything more than headlines. They've got 12 second attention spans. Some of them think that 140 character tweets are too long! They stopped reading this post once they saw I disagreed with them yet they'll call me a hateful bigot and accuse me of being a Nazi and all sorts of other stuff. 

But even if our country continues in that direction, it doesn't change anything. We still don't violate our Christ-shaped consciences. We still stand on the authority of Scripture. We still kneel before God. We lay prostrate before God no matter what. We look to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and take inspiration from their courage. We look to Daniel and emulate his uncompromising attitude. We are the 7,000 men who did not bow down to Baal. We look at Peter and John in Acts and how they responded to the same ruling council that just sentenced Christ to death. We stay the course because it is better for us to obey God than to obey men. 

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