When separation of church, state breaks down who defines God?

"As I read Lori Moreth’s article "Liberals Crowd out God with Political Correctness" (Oct. 1), I could not help but think: who gets to define God?

"Sharon Crowley in her book "Towards Civil Discourse: Rhetoric and Fundamentalism" (2006), states that, "…defenders of fundamentalisms do not evaluate the ideals that drive them; were they to do so, they would run the risk of discovering in incoherence and other flaws. Rather, they invest their energy in protecting those ideas from assault by unbelievers." Sadly, Moreth’s article appeared to be another tirade against a basic concept of the Constitution: that this government shall not produce or endorse an official religion.

"Yet, often people talk about the founding fathers Christian values. We are a Christian nation, they assert. Therefore, certain acts and practices should flow from this (such as George W. Bush’s prayer breakfasts).

"A quick reflection on Christian religions is worth noting: there are literally hundreds of different Christian denominations. Each proposes their own unique interpretation of the Bible. Many of the founding fathers were "theists" and some walked their own path, Benjamin Franklin is one example. At various times the Christian Bible has been used to endorse or authorize slavery. At times the Christian Bible (interpretations thereof) has been used to torture, hang and destroy other faiths and cultures. There are even cases of Christians killing Christians (Protestant and Catholic wars in Europe). What then does it mean to say that we should return to "Christian values"?

"Here are some more important questions to ask, as we ponder claims that this nation was founded on Christian values and principles: who defines God, what nation, creed, or faith, dare claim that God is only found within their doctrine and covenant? What about those who do not believe in a God, period? To say that God can only be Christian is already limiting the notion and concept of God. Will God only reveal himself or herself to Christian churches? All others are excluded?

"Also, Christianity is a relatively new religion. Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, for example, are much older. To say that God will only manifest in one religion is arrogance of the highest order and presupposes that certain human beings have an inside track to God’s mind.

"Furthermore, this claim asks us to assume that God did not want to make him or herself known before Jesus Christ. It is not surprising that this thought has no validity apart from the fervent clinging conviction of those who claim it as gospel truth. It is important to remember that the Bible started out as a Holy Scripture for the Israelites and addressed concerns, problems, and community values for a distinctly Jewish culture. For example, if I were to literally follow Biblical injunctions, then I would have to stone to death those I find working on the Sabbath. Does that make any sense in modern times? No, so how could it be the literal truth of God?

"I always get a little bit leery of those who blame the ills and problems of this nation as a result of "not being right with God." Even the Civil War was blamed on not being "right with God." This is the language of dominance and fear. Our founding fathers knew full well the implications of an orthodox faith. In light of this knowledge they crafted the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment and the separation principle. These two clauses may be found in the Constitution but it takes some work to discern their meaning.

"Martha Nussbaum, author of "Liberty of Conscience: in Defense of America’s Tradition of Religious Equality" wrote about this matter. She holds appointments in the Law School, Divinity School and Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago and is a board member in the university’s human rights program. She points out that the gist of the non- establishment clause is that this nation shall not favor one religion over another. This state of affairs would quickly lead to a doctrine of exclusivity: deciding who is in and who is out.

"Think of China’s persecution of the Falun Gong. These people were only guilty of not swallowing official notions of spirituality. They were quickly branded as an evil cult and are being persecuted to this day. The separation principle in Nussbaum’s viewpoint explicitly points out that a certain degree of separation must exist between church and state. Their spheres of influence and jurisdiction are and should be separate. Ironically this sentiment espoused in our Constitution is hinted at by Jesus Christ’s admonition to "give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21 NIV). I, for one, am grateful that no established religion has been embraced by the US government. Perhaps, it is true that the state rules by force of arms and religion or spiritual authority operates from or within a specific moral code. Either way, what made this nation great is that permission is granted for people of different faiths to live harmoniously with one another.

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