Monday, September 6, 2010

Guest Post: The Myth of Church and State

I was honored two days ago when my wife asked if I would contribute to her Marriage Mondays series.  I decided to write a few comments on the separation of church and state, and how the sentiment expressed by the Founding Fathers in the wording of the First Amendment has been twisted and pulled to an anti-religious (especially anti-Christian) extreme.  Please visit her blog, Magnify the Lord With Me, for the original posting of my commentary, and check out her other material while you're there.

Lauren's "Marriage Mondays" posts have done a great job of capturing the secular arguments for maintaining the societal standard of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Thanks Lauren! As I was reading through them, I couldn’t help but notice that several folks have posted comments to the effect that we need to maintain the “wall of separation between church and state” with regard to marriage. She has invited me to do a guest post to address this issue.
MYTH: Church (religion) and state must be kept completely separate. Anyone who holds to the traditional standard as a matter of religious conviction should not seek to impose the traditional standard on the rest of a society.

BUST: The Founding Fathers were not ignorant or simple men. They were geniuses, the most highly respected and innovative doctors, farmers, and lawyers of their time. They were steeped in philosophy, history, and natural law, and drew from this enormous perspective and wealth of knowledge in their drafting of the founding documents (Declaration of Independence and Constitution). Although they came from many different faith backgrounds, almost to a tee they acknowledged and revered the authority of the “Creator God” of the Judeo-Christian faith tradition and the fact that the entire system of Western legal and political thought rested firmly on the foundation of this faith tradition.

A few more details…

Alexis de Tocqueville, in his 1837 novel “Democracy in America,” noted that the strength and “verve” that pulsed so strong in the young country’s veins was due to its strong moral identity, based primary on the tenets of Christianity and Christian morality. He recognized that the churches played a critical role in informing American’s consciences, but also made an ominous prediction that, when the fervor faded with time, the strong and thriving society would descend into a relativistic, anti-religious (especially anti-Catholic and anti-Christian) state the likes of which had recently given rise to the Jacobin regime and the French Revolution.
While the First Amendment (wisely) forbade the establishment of any particular religion as the “official” religion of the new Republic, it also respected the right of citizens to live (not just to worship but to live) their faith, which includes the right to speak, act and vote—to carry out all aspects of living—according to their faith-informed consciences.
If we push the “Creator God” and the unchanging Natural Law that he has stamped as his sort of “fingerprint” on creation to the wayside, the only alternative is a descent into a state of being where fallen, sinful humanity attempts to make up or change the rules for itself, as popular opinion dictates. Man begins—as he has so many times in the past—to try to arbitrarily engineer the political and legal systems to codify his own happiness as an end in itself, rather than as paths to a just society as the Creator has defined it. He begins to “grasp” at happiness and a twisted sense of justice, rather than accepting the standard that has been laid down since the beginning of time. Isn’t that precisely the sin that the serpent tempted Adam and Eve to in the garden, that they did not need God and could make up the rules for themselves?
The Founding Fathers were well aware of this tendency, of its historical consequences (descent into tyranny with relativism as the societal standard). It is, in large part, why they went through such painful deliberations to carefully craft an intricate system of checks and balances.

So how does this all relate to marriage? Going a step beyond the secular arguments that Lauren has presented for preserving the traditional view of marriage, faithful Jews and Christians—anyone who reads Scripture without a personal agenda—cannot brush aside the role of God’s design for human freedom and justice in a thriving society. That includes his design for the relationship that is intended to be the foundation of society: marriage. He has laid out the standard in rather explicit terms, beginning with Genesis 2:24, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” From the very beginning, he has stressed the importance of the “one body” or “one flesh” union as the foundational relationship, while also carefully and several times condemning, under both the Old and New Covenants, what we might today describe as “alternatives” (Genesis 19:5-8, Leviticus 18:22-23 & 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, Romans 1:26-27). He was also very meticulous in providing us examples of what happens when we ignore him. Let’s just say they do not end well.

Lauren, thanks for inviting me to chime in on the debate, and thank you all for reading if you’ve made it this far. Lauren will go into some more detail next week about the Natural Law and what its implications are for we who are stewards of God’s creation, especially with regard to marriage. In the meantime, I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts and comments.

God Bless and Keep You.

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