Why We Don’t Want a Christian Nation

A letter to the editor and a blog post both got me thinking about the separation of Church and State, and history.

I already talked a bit about the letter, but it is one line that sticks out (emphasis mine):

THE GLOBE does a public service in publishing letters like that of the Rev. George Szal (”Womb, woman, and child,” April 29), in which he espouses the breathtakingly medieval notion of blaming the world’s troubles on a woman’s choice — in this case, the biblical Eve. It serves as a useful reminder of how far most people’s concepts of morality have evolved since the Middle Ages, and at the same time of how much remains to be accomplished.

ANDY GOLDSTEIN
Hudson

There is sometimes talk of whether or not religion played an active role in the formation of our country. Even if it did, why would we want to return to that? Supposing our country was formed in the bonds of a theocracy reminiscent of the worst the dark ages had to offer, why would we seek it again? Does anyone seriously refer to our history as a country built on slavery as a positive, or as a compelling reason to justify more racism in government?

The blog post is by Marcelonious over at Silent No More:

Just a couple interesting thoughts for you. Someone sent me the following quote by Thomas Jefferson:

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are a gift of God?”

Consider then, this man, who obviously had some affiliation with religion and God, proposing the “Wall of Separation”, aka separation of church and state. Why would a man who said the previous quote propose such a thing, unless he obviously had the safety of religion (as well as government) in mind?

The wall of separation does indeed protect religion from the state. However, what Thomas is clearly saying is that our liberties are intrinsic. They are human rights, not civil rights. Civil rights are granted at the pleasure of government.  Human rights transcend governments and simply are.

Now, obviously, I don’t think that such a wall is impossible to bypass. Whether one chooses to acknowledge the fact or not, people carry their religion with them wherever they go. To say that the First Amendment nullifies religion within government is poppycock. But to say that the 1st Amendment nullifies government within religion is not. Government is not allowed to interfere with religion, but religion is allowed to interfere government.

No, religion is not allowed to interfere with government. If the people of one religion interfere with government, and get a law passed that establishes that religion, then government would be interfering with other religions. So much for the first amendment!

But even if this were the case, why would it be desirable in the least? What Marcelonious is describing is a return to the middle ages, a return to one state religion writing the laws of the land. We do not want a Christian nation because it would mean an end to religious freedom. Eventually even how you choose to practice Christianity would be the domain of the government.

This is something to keep in mind as we listen to our Presidential Candidates. We do not want a Christian nation. We want an America where every person is free to practice or not practice as they see fit. We do not want a Theocracy, we want a Democracy.

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Keeping Religion Out of Political Discourse

I discussed a Reverend’s religiously based response to an article on abortion.  Here is what he said:

ELLEN GOODMAN (”Trumping women’s rights,” Op-ed, April 20) accuses politicians (mostly male) of playing God. May I remind her that it was the first woman playing God in a garden and deciding for herself what was good and what was evil that got us into the moral mess that we find ourselves in today.

Well he got two amazing responses in the May 6th Sunday Globe:

THE GLOBE does a public service in publishing letters like that of the Rev. George Szal (“Womb, woman, and child,” April 29), in which he espouses the breathtakingly medieval notion of blaming the world’s troubles on a woman’s choice — in this case, the biblical Eve. It serves as a useful reminder of how far most people’s concepts of morality have evolved since the Middle Ages, and at the same time of how much remains to be accomplished.

ANDY GOLDSTEIN
Hudson

The Reverend is indeed stuck in a dark past, and his letter only serves to show just how out of touch the radical religious right is.  Jenniffer’s response really hits home (emphasis mine):

I AM sure that I am not the only woman and reader compelled to respond to George Szal’s infuriating letter regarding the Supreme Court’s recent ban on so-called partial-birth abortion. While the reverend is certainly entitled to his opinion, I would like to remind him, as well as other religious individuals, that I am protected from the ramifications of such opinions by the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. Religious fables have no place in political debates that decide my right to make decisions regarding my own health and welfare. Shame on Szal for writing a letter that overtly degrades and vilifies women, and shame on the Globe for giving him a platform to do so.

JENNIFER KELLEY
Melrose

Ouch.  But right on.  Why should one person’s religious conviction be a legal force in our country, a sword dangled over all our heads?  The Reverend’s letter not only serves to try and justify the ruling, it also attempts to suggest women innately deserve to be oppressed, that women are not morally equal to men.

We do not need religion to have a system of ethics.  We do not need religion, period, to have a successful and compassionate government.  What we do need is a sharper distinction between Church and State.  It is not just our religious freedoms, but all of our freedoms that are at stake.  If one religion is established as a valid source for law, then more than our ability to practice or not practice as we choose could be lost.

By pursuing a secular state, we have so much more to gain.  We can start by looking at where we ground our arguments.

Rhetoric Isn’t a Dirty Word

Alternatively, don’t take advise from wolves.

Jon Chait projects his inner demons onto liberals and then takes them to task for it.  Amanda (Pandagon) has the news:

Just when I had finally formed my opinion on this Jon Chait article where he equates the netroots with the Christian right enough to start writing a post on it (my opinion, in summary: anyone who participated in the propaganda blitz to justify the Iraq War needs to STFU from here until the end of time about how expressing your opinion forcefully on the internet is “propaganda”), someone beats me to the punch. Like Scott, I have to recommend Henry’s take on the article.  Chait brings a lot of false assumptions to the table, including his offensive suggestion that all the netroots talk on “framing” has any relationship whatsoever with the right’s open willingness to lie and use subversion for political gain.

This is brilliant on Chait’s part.  It obscures the severity of the right’s offenses, casts doubt on the left’s response, and finally makes the very act of making an effective argument appear a dishonest failure.

He links this to the right’s open contempt for reality, which is unbelievably unfair. “Framing”, as I’ve said before, is just the new buzzword for encouraging people to match their rhetoric to their arguments, to present a cohesive, compelling worldview.

Framing is so much more.  It is the context and the importance of the argument.  It is the argument’s impact.  It is the realization that not all arguments are genuine.  Some are escapes.  The recent Supreme Court Case on Abortion is a great example.  The objection from the left generally focuses in on the “no exception for the health of the mother” aspect of the opinion, and the very worrying consequences that leaves us with.  The right generally responds not by addressing our objection directly, but by re-framing the issue as an argument over the person-hood of the fetus.

Framing is a buzzword for encouraging people to tackle arguments on their own terms.  It is an invitation to address the arguments behind arguments.

Chait also treats the idea that we bloggers are standing up for the people and against the establishment in D.C. as if it were just silly and, moreso, like we just made up the conflict in our heads. Then he rolls this crap out:

The netroots will forgive Democrats in conservative districts for moving as far to the right as necessary to win elections. But they do everything within their power to eliminate from liberal states or districts moderates like Joe Lieberman or Jane Harman, whose stances are born of conviction rather than necessity. This is precisely the same principle espoused by Norquist and other GOP activists. They will defend Republicans who need to demonstrate their independence from the national party in order to maintain their electoral viability. (As Norquist once remarked about Lincoln Chafee, “A Republican from Rhode Island is a gift from the gods.”) But deviation by a Republican from a conservative state–say, Arizonan John McCain–is unforgivable.

The sense of entitlement to a job representing the people—an entitlement that shouldn’t be threatened if you, like Lieberman, move so far to the right that you aren’t representing the views of your constiuency—is indeed the thing we want to eradicate. Pardon us for being democratic-minded and wanting the people’s view represented in Congress.

Having failed to fight us on the merits of our arguments, Chait is doing the next best thing.  He is attacking our political arsenal.  Effective rhetoric.  Using strategy in national elections to ensure the make up of the Democratic party reflects the make up of the American people.  When it comes right down to it, Chait does not have any actual argument beyond “The left is being effective.  Stop it!”.

So much of what we do to fight back and be heard is treated with a condescending sneer.  Protests.  Blogs.  The stuff of rabble!  The word rhetoric itself gets a bad rap.  “That’s just rhetoric”.  A rhetorical question is just one you don’t have to answer, right?

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion.  It is the martial art of political communication.  It is the arms we all bear in order to uphold our own citizenship and freedom.  Is it any wonder it is the subject of such derision?