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CHURCH AND STATE – A THUMBNAIL SKETCH

March 2, 2017

CHURCH AND STATE – A THUMBNAIL SKETCH

Recently Sheila Kennedy, a professor at IUPUI in Indianapolis, published a piece on church and state and asked for comment. Following was my short response, slightly edited. I have only lightly touched on a few of the enormous ranges of topics that could be discussed in this never-ending brawl between those who are religious, those who are not and those who don’t care one way or another.

We have had this tension between church and state for centuries, even before the Roman emperor Constantine threw in the towel and declared himself a Christian. Indeed there are points in history where the church was the state (see the pope’s coronation of Charlemagne as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1,000 A.D., an artificial state which, as Voltaire later noted in his own inimitable fashion, was neither holy, Roman nor an empire).

History has also been replete with wars between Christians, notably the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648 in Europe in which Catholics and Protestants killed one another by the thousands, more than some of the recurring plagues that killed off huge swaths of Europeans. Our country was settled in part by religious refugees from England who could not abide the perceived excesses of the Church of England.

Our forefathers were confronted with Quaker and Puritan and other minorities and wisely came up with a constitutional provision which they probably thought or hoped would settle religious controversies by throwing all religious factions a bone (the Establishment Clause) in order to keep the peace. Our problem today is how to define and implement such a provision in keeping the peace in our attempts to divine just what Madison had in mind when crafting such provision and adding, as we must, a consideration of the views of a growing component of atheists and agnostics to the mix who view religion at best a mere social construct.

I think that our forefathers (some of whom were Deists) thought in terms of live and let live, that there should be strict lines of demarcation between the duties of a citizen and a believer as publicly expressed and that, if they were around today and aware of intervening history since 1789, would oppose prayer in public settings. Those who eschew religious expression as a mere social construct would doubtless agree, though for different reasons.

We don’t need another Thirty Years War and I think the long ago pope’s choice of Charlemagne was ill-fated in any event since Charlie may have been holy but couldn’t read or write, a situation somewhat reminiscent of our recent choice for the Oval office in the here and now.       GERALD         E

 

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One Comment
  1. billy1926 permalink

    Your piece is too short! Come in a little longer and talk about the last 100 years of U.S.A.’s siuation and religious wealth.

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