Sunday, December 28, 2008

Religiously Informed Values

It used to be that everyone knew what the various denominations believed & stood for. The local papers published the sermons each week & everyone read them. Most folks knew the distinctions in doctrine between the various churches & most certainly the theological variations among the denominations. All knew, for example, the Methodists stood for social action & personal piety; the Baptists held tenaciously to "Soul Freedom" & the Separation of Church & State; the Presbyterians were big on the idea of Covenant & predestination; the Catholics proclaimed the rich history of tradition, the church universal, & the various orders; the Pentecostals delved into experiential theology, etc.

Sadly, today, folks don't even know their own theological distinctives, much less what other groups believe.

Thus, bringing us to the topic title: how can folks vote their "religiously informed values" if they don't even know what those values are, the history behind them, or the theological truths that give rise to the value?

I raise this question for two reasons. First, we need to realize that voting "religiously informed values" must never mean voting into law our religious dogma. Second, without an understanding of the theology, it is easy to be manipulated by religious leaders who rely on that ignorance to keep control of their power.

Let's think back to the early Colonists, many of whom came here to escape religious persecution. But what did they do when they got here? They set up the very sort of theocratic rule from whence they came. The majority's "religiously informed values" became the law. Dissenters were persecuted, whipped, shunned, or hanged. Is that the sort of society we want again?

The Founding Fathers intentionally drew a line of demarcation between the church & state. The gov't they established expressly forbade religious law from entering the civil code, even going as far to set up an entirely secular gov't with no place given for religious leaders.

Those theocracies were banned. And they should stay that way.

The difficulty people have is that they see their religious ideas as =the= truth for everyone. Now it may very well be that your religious ideas are 100% correct, but they may very well not be either. And even if those religious values you hold are entirely what God wants, God doesn't work through the legal code to carry out his plan. That is done via the spiritual establishment, not the gov't. Moreover, not everyone holds those same religious opinions & thus it is morally wrong to impose religious dogma onto others.

If there is no compelling =secular= reason for a law, the religious rational is simply not enough. Otherwise, the gov't is following the majority faith's religious dogma & establishing it with a Most Favored Status.

But the most ardent reason we don't vote our "religiously informed values" into law is the simple history of religious leaders in the past. History is replete with corrupt churchmen who rely on the theological ignorance of the people to manipulate policy. Just think of the charlatans past & present who misused Scripture to gain power for themselves.

And you're kidding yourself if you think there aren't charlatans out there who use faith as a means of gain. Tell the people what "God" wants them to do, rewrite the history, & suddenly the masses will do anything. With God on their side & a charismatic leader, there is no sin the people won't commit.

The danger of these "religiously informed values" become clear when applied to other faiths. What if the judge in Douglas County, GA, were Muslim & he insisted on the community's majority Muslim standards? What if "his courtroom, his rules" meant that every woman had to come in =with= a veil? What if women were not allowed to speak in his courtroom? What if he insisted on everyone swearing on the Koran & to Allah to tell the truth? What if Sharia Law was applied instead of the secular Constitution?

We've come too far & fought too hard for too long to let those sort of theocratic ideals have even a smidgen of a foothold. Not again. We've seen what happens in when faith & gov't become intertwined.

Not again. Not here.

1 comment:

foxofbama said...

See my comment at GMM's Mtns and Beyond.
Enjoyed the chat at Berry and hope to see you there again in the New Year.
Have a good one


Make it over for the Jan 31 Baptist Covenant in Bham if you can.
Hugo Black's grandson Stephen is speaking; having a workshop and you ought to meet him.