Tuesday, April 25, 2006

God in the public square

I’ve chimed in here and there about religious issues and secularism in the public square.  Those  on the left side of the aisle continue to berate the religious right for it’s rhetoric and the Bush administration for trying to create a theocracy (as if that were possible in this country), and those on the right continue to scream that they’re under siege and the like.

Recently Newt Gingrich has been promoting some challenges that America must overcome in order to preserve our great nation, including confronting militant Islamists and staying economically competitive with China and India.

But one of them also includes defending God in the public square.   Alan Stewart Carl responds to that.

      Some people like to point to the rise of the Christian Right (better referred to as Christianists) and of false-issues like the “war on Christmas” as proof that we are living in a time of impending theocracy. But that’s just not the case. The Christian Right and their issues (real and invented) are a reaction to the realization that what we are living in is a time of impending hyper-secularism. And while I and many others (possibly Newt himself) regularly and even deeply disagree with the means and rhetoric of the Christianists, we are not particularly pleased with efforts of groups like the ACLU to wipe America clean of public displays of religion.

      And before anyone accidentally or willfully misinterprets my position, I am not calling for the Ten Commandments to be posted in courthouses and creationism to be taught in our schools. What I seek is a nation where we as a people do not get offended when confronted with the religious beliefs and passions of those whose faith seems odd to us. Nor should we get offended when our own religious beliefs and passions are scorned and mocked by others.

      When Gingrich says the future of our nation is reliant on “defending God in the public square” what I think he means is that freedom of religion, all religion, is one of the founding principles of this nation. In our zeal to keep church and state separate, we should be careful not to separate faith from our national character and public life. A man’s religion is not contained in his church or synagogue or mosque or temple—it’s part of his whole life. And America lets him live that religion. Even in the public square. Most importantly, in the public square.

As strikingly moderate and sensible as this is, I think that it’s probably how most people think on this issue, left or right.  You can criticize religious figures who rail on with catchy phrases like “War on Christmas,”  but even more so, organizations like the ACLU have become hopelessly out of touch with the values of the vast majority of Americans.   

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