Christian Politics

Politics and Religion; their connected history in the United States of America, and the future of the Christian voting block.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Intention of "Separation of Church and State"

The separation of church and state is an issue that is debated frequently, but rarely interpreted correctly by the mainstream media or average citizen.  The reasons for this are simple.  The media has a longstanding history of leaning to the left on all issues because the political left is where the media gets their “freedom”.  The average citizen in this country depends on the media for interpretation of politics and current events, and generally doesn’t study historical content or context of the Constitution and its framers.  In order to truly understand the intent of separation of church and state, several factors must be taken into account; factors which are conveniently overlooked by proponents of this separation. 

I don’t think anyone doubts that the United States of America was founded, largely, on the premise of religious freedom.  Our ancestors suffered tremendous persecution for their religious beliefs and so sought out a place where they could follow their own religion(s) independent of government edicts.  However, the country was not founded by atheists.  Our founding fathers did not intend to create an environment hostile to religion, but to create an environment where people were free to worship; Freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. 

To understand why separation of church and state was not intended to vilify Christianity, you have to look at the way of life as it happened during the time the Constitution was drafted, and those decades leading up to the Revolutionary War. 

Religion was a major part of everyone’s life 250 years ago.  In fact, going back 400 or more years, you can still see that religion was the focal point of all walks of life.  The church was central to life and relationships.  Church socials were held on a regular basis allowing the younger generations to interact with each other, and eventually marry.  Town meetings were held in church buildings, typically opened with prayer.  The moral values of the Bible dictated the conduct and behavior of the people.  References to God were commonplace in conversation and public speeches.

John Winthrop, in 1645 gave a speech at Plymouth Colony in response to a legal suit involving an elected militia official.  In this speech he used the word God 7 times.
 “The covenant between you and us is the oath you have taken of us, which is to this purpose, that we shall govern you and judge your causes by the rules of God's laws and our own, according to our best skill.”  At this point, Winthrop clearly makes the case that our laws are based on God’s law.  “The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic covenants and constitutions, amongst men themselves. This liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which i is good, just, and honest.”  In this section, Winthrop is discussing the two types of liberty, natural and civil/federal.  Earlier in this speech he refers to natural liberty being the liberty of man due to his nature, which is corrupt.  Here, he makes it clear that civil/federal liberty should provide the moral compass, again, based on Biblical principles. 

Samuel Adams delivered a speech on August 1, 1776 in which he referred to heaven four different times.  While he did not specifically reference God, religion or Christianity, the references to heaven show that his belief in the existence of heaven.  As heaven is the home of God, it is safe to interpret that Samuel Adams believed in God. 

Many different opinions exist as to the religion, or lack thereof, among those we call the founding fathers.  In general, deism was the predominant belief among the founding fathers.  Deism is basically a belief in God, but nothing more or less.  Many people use this to further advance misinterpretation of ‘separation of church and state’, but in truth this is one of the biggest supports to the original intent.  Under English rule, there was only one allowed religion.  The founding fathers wanted to ensure the people of this new nation would be free to worship in the church they chose.  They also sought to ensure that government did not depend upon a specific religion to fund the federal purse.

Still, we have not answered the question of relevance.  In order to understand how belief in God and/or Christianity influenced the phrase “separation of church and state”, you must now look at religion in context of the era.  Up to this point it is clear that, deist or theist, religion and belief in higher authority existed almost universally among our ancestors and founding fathers.  These people did not merely pay lip-service to religion, but sincerely believed in it.  Religion and personal convictions permeated all aspects of their lives; reference to God and/or a high authority were commonplace in the conversation of all people, politicians and citizens.  Knowing that these people held a deep belief in God or deity, it is impossible to accept the notion that they would craft a Constitution that would force God and religion out of the realm of publicly acceptable conduct.  A person with deep belief in God is not going to enact public policy which detracts from God.  These are men who so strongly believed in their convictions for a free nation they were willing to go to war, and die, to gain it.  Are we supposed to believe they had less conviction in terms of God when the impetus for this desire for freedom were based on belief in God?

By understanding that religion was a part of daily life for these people, we can see that the intent of separation of church and state was not to remove the church from having authority or influence, but to prevent the state from dictating religion.  So, why would the founding fathers not have more clearly phrased their intent?  Again, the answer is simple.  Because religion and belief were so deeply ingrained in the lives of all people in the nation, the idea that a day might come when religion was shoved to a back burner was a completely alien concept.  Just as our founding fathers could not conceive of an orbiting space station, they could not conceive the possibility that their constitution would be used to force religion from the public eye.  Religion and belief in God were such an integral part of life and had been for centuries prior, they literally had no possible way of thinking an era would come when that was not the case. 

Separation of church and state was not intended to keep religion out of politics, but to keep politics out of religion.  Separation of church and state was not intended to undermine the moral fiber of the nation, yet it has been turned into that very weapon by taking God out of all public locations.  In courtrooms around the country, God and the Bible are taboo even though the very basis for those laws come directly from the Bible.  In schools where our nation’s children learn the fundamentals of social and peer relationships, we have forced the moralistic teachings of God out of the classrooms.  We wonder why we have an increase in teen pregnancy, teen violence, school shootings and juvenile crime yet no one speaks up about the lack of moral values taught to our children.  We, the people, have allowed the far left to undermine the morals of our country while hiding behind a false interpretation of “separation of church and state”.  Until “we the people” stand up and draw the line in the sand, the erosion of our nation will continue until we no longer have a nation. 

Next installment:  God, the voting booth, and you.


At August 25, 2007 at 9:58 AM, Blogger Rick Thomas said...



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