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WHICH CHURCH OR STATE?

June 26, 2017

WHICH CHURCH OR STATE?

Religion has made great strides in interfering with matters of state since Reagan cynically invited Falwell, Sr. into his inner political chamber and Billy Graham gained special favor with multiple presidents. The trend has continued with the current occupant (Trump) who has cynically invited Falwell Jr. into his narcissistic other-world political chamber as well, marked by a speech given at Falwell’s Liberty University of recent date in a sort of Luciferian address to the College of Cardinals display of utter opposites – or are they? One has to question how ostensibly religious people can vote for an irreligious libertine, and I do. What’s going on behind the scenes in this lust for power to govern, whatever the appearances? We know “what’s in it for him?” for Trump, but “what’s in it for him” for Falwell et al.?

Perhaps the Falwells of this world wish to take over government just as cynically as the secular politicians and expected and still expect to get something for their support of the likes of Nixon, Bush Jr. and Trump. When politicians invite foxes into the henhouse with the real or implied invitation to mix matters of church and state, we should not be surprised when our government takes a turn to the right or whatever direction the religious leaders may decree. Foxes, whatever their calling cards, from the philosophy of the gentle Nazarene to the brute force of an Attila to Genghis Khan, eat chickens – and don’t let them tell you otherwise – while government in this metaphor can be safely defined as poultry.

So let’s take this essay in speculation a step further. If politicians are willing to unconstitutionally mix affairs of church and state for selfish political purposes, they and the rest of us may find our rights as citizens swallowed up by religion at some point and subject to some sort of theological dictatorship such as in Iran, where matters that have passed political muster must still be reviewed by ayatollahs before they can become law, so what’s next? To take this to its dry logical extreme, will Trump set up a Department of Theological Affairs and appoint Falwell as first director? Far out? Yes, but anything short of that may reach such an extreme point from where we are now that we will feel the emasculation of our constitutional rights, duties, privileges and immunities. Anywhere on the spectrum from here to  there is a move too far. Who elected Falwell to trash the First Amendment?

Finally, and to the point, if we are to surrender our secular constitutional rights to religion, just what religion will it be? Will we follow the hard right Protestant views of a Falwell regime? The vison of a Brigham Young and The Book of Mormon? The pill-less Mary Baker Eddy and her Christian Science? The single-minded vision of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The Wesley brothers? Which? Why?

Even if we let the foxes into our political henhouse without constitutional restraint, does anyone reading this think for a minute that this would end the church and state issue? I think quite the contrary, and though the primary issue of church and state will have been settled, the brawl would intensify between competing branches of religion to have their particular views become those of the nation.

I finally am of the view that mixing the affairs of church and state is not only unconstitutional but that as a practical matter we would invite mayhem into public affairs if we did allow such a mixture of the secular with the divine which, in my view, are oil and water. I think at bottom that religion or any of its branches based on doctrinal differences should stay in the church house, temple or mosque apart from government just as government should stay out of church houses, temples or mosques, since either and both are unconstitutional intrusions in the affairs of the other. I note here that Jesus was opposed to such a mixture with his reputed statement to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” a clear sign of demarcation between the divine and the profane.

Oil and water cannot mix, nor can (successfully and historically) church and state. They are mutually exclusive aside from the unconstitutional effect of trying to shoehorn one into the other and we have more important things to do than waste our time and energy on this project, so let’s go to the church, temple or mosque of our choice or not and leave the matter of voting and policy-making to the state. As the saying goes, we can walk and chew gum at the same time, so let’s do it.     GERALD      E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Comment
  1. As a pastor in the ELCA of the Lutheran bodies, I could not agree more. We have seen throughout history up to the present day what Religion under the direction of State (and visa versa) has done to cause destruction and violence upon the masses. I don’t want Trump to dictate my religious understanding any more than he would want me to dictate his understanding of public affairs.

    Having said that, I do believe there is a false dichotomy created to suggests how we understand our human nature and moral/ethical compass which is somehow compartmentalized and separate from our so-called “secular” lives day to day. That may work in the abstract, but it is NOT how we actually live our lives internally and externally.

    You prove that point by pointing to Jesus’ presumed account of the “ownership” of money (and the graven image of a pagan man for Jews upon it’s surface). Allow me to suggests that Jesus was NOT advocating any kind of a separation of “religion/church” from “state.” That would would not have made any sense to him at all as nearly ALL empires and nation/states of his day had no such separation. Indeed, The Temple in Jerusalem was BOTH the religious and banking center for the Jewish peoples. Same for the Roman citizen. The Emperor and all the Senators had duel roles as BOTH government officials AND religious Priest in their various places of worship.

    What Jesus was suggesting, I think, was that the Roman Emperor “thinks” he owns the bank as it were, but in reality, EVERYTHING in the world belongs to God. In other words, The Emperor is NOT God and/or Creator, rather God is and, therefore, God is the “owner” of all God’s creation, including the metals and paper likes materials upon which human beings create their artificial and temporary means of wealth and ownership. The underlying theological war between Jerusalem and Rome was whether the Emperor was The Son of God (as stated officially within Imperial theology and publicized throughout the Empire on all matter of public buildings including the Roman currency shown to Jesus!) or, as Jewish followers of Jesus claimed, Jesus was “their” Son of God! I hope that clarifies the passage somewhat.

    At stake for me as feeling called in life to bring truth to power is the freedom and liberty to make ethical and moral claims and judgments upon persons and or, in this case, a President, his administration and Congress who are in total defiance and contradiction of the human rights and dignity which is at the heart and core of the Judaic/Christian teachings I attempt to study, follow and teach.

    This, of course, has (and should have) NOTHING to do with the question of theocracy or not. As I said at the beginning, I am in complete favor of separations. No nation should be led by a religious dictate such as we saw in Nazi Germany when the churches were nationalized to follow Hitler’s policies and theology. But as a citizen (and a stated follower of the Jewish Jesus), I desire the freedom to make demands upon the state that are humane and fair and puts human dignity front and center. Naturally, my demands are largely (but not totally) informed by my readings and understanding of Jesus’ teaching and his life and death, a death as a result of being accused of subverting the political and religious powers of the Empire. Yes, Jesus died because he was seen as a political threat…..period. I feel called to be the same kind of threat to those who would want to play God, Trump, party, or any other entity. No one is God, including yours truly! Keep up the good work!!!

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