Secularism & the Separation of Church and State

June 16, 2013

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; of abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”….” The First Amendment of the United States.

I just skimmed through a file of letters to the editor and articles written by normal citizens, editorial boards, journalists, clergy, etc., during the Prop 8 battle here in CA some years back – all seeking to motivate Californians to vote no on prop 8 and thus to support same sex marriage. Interesting how many times “separation of church and state” came up in those letters/articles. In a number of cases, it was either explicitly stated or implied that we pastors and Christians who believe the Bible is the word of God are free to say whatever we want inside the walls of our church buildings, but in the public discourse we should only be observers because of what Thomas Jefferson said in the constitution about the Separation of Church and State. So freedom of speech applies to everyone in America except us I guess.

Most of you probably know by now that this original phrase “Separation of Church and State” came from a private letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to a group of Baptists in response to a rumor that the new American government was going to establish a national church, similar to the Anglican church in England. He assured them that our Founding Fathers had set up a wall of separation of church and state to prevent this kind of coercion from the government.

Two days later I understand – Jefferson attended church services in what was then Washington D.C’s most public building – the Chamber of the House of Representatives in the Capitol Building. And it is public record that he practiced his faith and encouraged it even as President. For instance he proclaimed days of “thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God” and drafted a bill that punished those who disturbed worship services or violated the Sabbath. As President, he prayed during both his inaugural addresses, signed bills that appropriated money for congressional chaplains, and “earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers, diligently to attend divine services.”

There is a rising chorus (small but loud) of folk in our nation that are claiming we are a secular nation, and that anything our government touches or says must be based in secularism, not in any religious undertones. Some are gripped with fear – reminding us in their writings or speeches of what happened in the Crusades or the Inquisition or the Witch trials in Salem. Indeed the deaths and abuse that happened at the hands of religious zealots during those periods of time are deeply regrettable, and should never ever happen again.

But did you know that if we were to look at a pie chart, which I have in front of me, of all the deaths/murders that were caused by leaders of movements or governments throughout history, it would show us that less than 1% of all these deaths were because of the above mentioned religious events or movements – equaling about 200,000 people. But if we were to look at the murders caused by just Mao in China, Stalin in Russia, and Hitler in Europe (all three deeply secular and anti religious) they would equal 100,000,000?? And these 3 are just the tip of the iceberg! I have before me an article by Piero Scaruffi entitled “Modern Genocides”. Have you ever heard of Leopold II of Belgium (Congo 1886-1908)? Primarily motivated by greed for riches – around 8,000,000 were killed at his hands. Around 5,000,000 civilians were killed by Hideki Tojo in Japan (1941-1944). Pol Pot – Cambodia – 1,700,000… and the list just goes sickenly on. And we haven’t even touched how many untold millions of abortions have been caused by secularists who believe in the survival of the fittest, and evolving documents and living constitutions, and thus who answer to no one but themselves, and see no intrinsic worth in the individual. And we want to be led by secularists?

Here is what a very brave and wise man (Aleksander Solzhenitsyn – 1918-2008), who lived under the tyranny of Stalin, and wrote against his abuses at his own peril, concluded, “If I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible what was the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men had forgotten God; that is why all this has happened.”

Are you aware of how un secular every one of our founding fathers were, and thus why our nation for so long has given great value to life and honored the intrinsic value of an individual, and also has believed in moral depravity, and thus tried to develop a system of government and its primary documents to protect us from evil tyrants, and the tendency for “absolute power to corrupt absolutely”?

David Barton – perhaps the foremost scholar alive today of our founding fathers and founding documents – states, “It can be easily demonstrated that a very high percentage – in fact, the overwhelming majority – of Founding Fathers were Christians, but certainly not all of them were. Today, citizens are regularly told about the lesser religious Founders (such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine), but hear nothing about the prominent Christians among the Founders (for example, 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration held what are today considered seminary or Bible school degrees, and many others of the signers were bold and outspoken in their personal Christian faith). Significantly, not one of the Founding Fathers was secular in his orientation; even Thomas Paine (certainly the least religious of the Founders) openly acknowledged God and announced his belief in his personal accountability to God, and he also directly advocated teaching creationism in the public school classroom.”

My heart today is to encourage you to learn to lovingly, respectfully, but boldly and unashamedly speak of the truths of Christ and scripture into our very needy culture and society– knowing that our soldiers died to preserve that right, and also remembering that our example of humility, mercy and servant hood must always back up our words. And if you are a praying person, please pray for me to do the same.

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