|Posted by thethousandmarch on May 26, 2008 at 12:18 AM|
I have decided that I will identify myself as an Evangelical. However, I cannot ignore the distaste with recent Evangelical political involvement, which I had previously mentioned. Though I believe religion can and must be part of the public sphere, I believe in pluralism, and I believe in a secular state. I do not agree with the way in which Evangelicals and other conservatives are attempting to 'take back America', trying to return us to our 'Christian' roots, trying to legislate Christian morality, fighting for their rights. How can I be comfortable with my identity when it will lump me in with so many people who disturb me? Should I not find some way to separate myself from those I disagree with?
I can separate myself from the present mainstream Evangelical political involvement. First of all, there is a movement amongst many, especially young Evangelicals, which seeks an alternative method of social engagement. As well, there is a strong tradition of Evangelical political involvement - a model - which we can all be proud of. Historically there have been numerous Evangelicals who sought to maintain the separation between the church and state.
It was Evangelicals, led by James Madison, who championed the separation of Church and State. They did not want a Christian State; they wanted a secular one, which would allow for a pluralistic society. They sought this because, as Evangelicals, they believed the best way for Christianity to be healthy was for it to be free from government control.
(Here's a link to a discussion of this)
Pluralism is imperative for Evangelicalism; people must be free to reject Christianity. If we believe faith is a personal choice, if communal religion cannot be a substitute for a personal relationship with God, then a secular government is ideal. I'm glad that my children will be born into a society that is not 'Christian', because nothing will be taken for granted. There will be no societal pressure placed upon them to pretend they are Christian, or for them to pretend they are 'moral'. They will have the freedom to choose. If they choose to follow Christ then it is much more likely that it will be a personal faith based decision, rather than a charade.
I don't know how much the separation of church and state actually protects the state. Any special interest group which is allowed to gain unchecked control will be dangerous to the state - more specifically to the nation - whether it is a religious institution or a secular one. If one group has too much power there is a risk of them abusing that power, discriminating against those outside of their group. However, the church must maintain its separation from the state for it's own health. We as Christians must seek to serve our nation and our world, not our own self-interests. We should not seek to protect our own rights, but the rights of the weak and oppressed. We must not become corrupt with power and reviled by those we seek to love.