Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Easter Basket: Filled with Eggs, God & State

For true Christians, Easter is certainly considered to be a more important holy day than Christmas, but there is no contest that Christmas is the more celebrated holiday of the year. I guess it's because toys win out over peeps and chocolate every time.

That fact is another example of how we have mixed up the importance of certain traditions -- with respect to religion as well as government. Of course, I'm referring to the concept of the Separation of Church & State that is under challenge by the American theocracy.

The underpinnings of this attempt to intertwine religion and government is that some of our leaders (and their religious backers) argue that our nation was founded as a Christian nation and that God was always an integral part of our history as a country. The truth of this historical background does not negate the fact that the separation of Church and State was also determined to be necessary for the country precisely because of religious differences. Rather, the reality is that that separation was meant as "the great protector of religion, not its enemy." As historian Gary Wills has written, Meditating on the Church-State Divide, tolerance, and religious freedom -- which eventually led to the constitutional Separation of Church and State, was the result of a hard fought battle of principles by religious adherents, such as the Quakers, who were persecuted for their beliefs.

For a long time, that was the unquestioned law of the land. Then, as Mark Lilla says, in his NYTimes essay, The Politics of God:
The twilight of the idols has been postponed. For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong.
So how did we get here? I believe that the American theocracy is largely comprised of the Evangelical ministers who operate as CEO's of their mega Churches. They are driven by mega-egos, looking for power and control -- and money, which they have amassed in huge quantities. For these zealots, religion is just the product that they are selling to the masses. Unfortunately, because of their power and money, they are also a major lobbying force in the conservative wing of the GOP. It is these "preachers" that need to be removed from a position of influence -- from in the Church and State.

And I find it somewhat ironic that as the fundamentalist minority tries to impose its evangelical views upon society, that the majority has in fact moved in the other direction (perhaps because of them). For example, an overwhelming majority of those polled during a debate on religion believe that "America is too damn religious." See, Is America Too Damn Religious? (and hear the debate at NPR). And organized religion is increasingly losing membership based upon a recent study of religious affiliation. See Swing Shift. As I noted there:

However, what is most interesting about the study is the fact that 'unaffiliated' or no religious preference is growing -- at the same time that the extreme religious right is trying to impose the equivalent of governmental sanctioned religion.

Based upon the clear trends, at some point, no religion will be the majority non-religion and perhaps we could then again adopt the separation of Church and State as the law of the land. What a concept that would be."

For previous essays in support of the Blog Against Theocracy, see Which Church Controls the State? and Keep the Church out of the State.

No comments: