Separation of Church and State

We tend to forget about many of the basic principles that our country was founded on all those years ago. As we live our lives and form our perceptions of not only the people around us, but the government to which we submit to, we place our own ideologies on top of what the original intent behind our nations set of laws. It is critical for us to revisit the discussion surrounding the establishment of our nation so we can remember the true intent behind why our laws were written the way they were.

One of the biggest contentious issues in the last fifty years has been religion in our public system. For most of our nation’s existence, Christianity has been at the forefront of our public consciousness and a strong part of our leaders’ upbringing. If they were not active members of the faith, they were almost always brought up in households that were. People today like to conveniently forget that our country was established mostly by Protestant settlers looking for a place to practice their religious duties free from oppression.

On the other hand, we can’t ignore the verbiage that was included in the Constitution from the very beginning. It was made very clear that the people establishing this nation wanted to make it a place where the citizens could practice their own individual religions and still participate in our system of government, regardless of what that religion might be. It was clear that even though many of the founders were Christians, the objective was to create a nation that had no official religion.

There have been many objections in recent years against the advance of other religions in our country, or even the lack of religion. As society moves toward an ever diverse mix of different people with different ideas, traditional Americans fear what that will mean for them. When our citizenry was mostly the same, we never worried about how other beliefs might affect our lives. It wasn’t a problem to have school led prayers or to have Christian icons placed on public property. We all thought the same way, so why would it bother anyone?

Today, however, our country is increasingly shifting away from a Christian majority to a more diverse mixture of ideologies. While we certainly still make up a majority of the population, atheists and agnostics make up more than twenty percent of our nation, with other religions adding a few percent more on top of that. That’s more than 80 million Americans. With so many people with so many differing faiths, it is no longer tenable to cling to the idea that our religion should take priority over anyone else when it comes to our system of government.

It is important to remember that while our faith requires us to personally live by certain rules, it does not require us to force our ideology or morality onto other people. Denigrating our leadership because they don’t hold our personal viewpoints does not help move our nation forward. It simply creates deeper divisions as we continue trying to push our own agendas rather than working together toward compromises we can all live with.

If we are called to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves“, part of that means accepting that the people around us will not always agree with the way we see things, and it is not for us to force them to. If we are going to live in a nation that values freedom in all things, including religion, then we have to accept the things that come along with that which may be problematic to our faith. We share this planet with billions of other individuals, and we’re not going to agree on many things. If we truly trust in God, then we must focus on love and rather than control.

We can compromise on matters of government without compromising on our faith. If we continue trying to maintain our hold on the public sector, then we have no leg to stand later on should the balance swing in the other direction and other groups wish to impose their own viewpoints on us. If we want to continue having a place to freely be Christians, it behooves us not to make enemies of the people we live with.

Stand firm in your ideals and argue for your faith, but before you become upset that Christian values are no longer at the forefront of our government, remember that it was our founding fathers who first set us down this path. It just took two hundred years for us to get here. As we move forward into the future, we will only become more diverse, and if we want to continue being the greatest nation in the world, we have to learn to incorporate more than just our own ways.

How do you feel about religion in our government? Should it have a voice, or is it important to minimize its influence? Where is the line between respecting religion and incorporating it into law? If we can remember how the founders of the country thought as they drew up the Constitution, we might have a more harmonious frame of mind when we enter into political discussion of the issue.

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