Friday, January 30, 2009

Church and state

Separate? Not separate? I am uneducated but curious about the subject lately.

John and I debate the role of Christian values in politics and government - he thinks more and more that those values might not have as much a place in government as they have in the past 30 years or so. I see his point, but wonder back, if they are my values, then shouldn't I want to spread them?

Another friend talks about America's Christian roots, that we are a Christian nation. That too, is a thought that I explore - finding some interesting two-sided insight here at I read about Anne Hutchinson, co-founder of Rhode Island, who fled Puritan religious intolerance. Religious freedom, not just Christianity, seems to be a theme of our country's history.

A couple of days ago, I read this quote, written by an Iranian-American writer, Hooman Majd (in The Ayatollah Begs to Differ), son of a diplomat and cousin to the former Iranian president Khatami.
"It strikes me often while I am in Iran that were Christian evangelicals to take a tour of Iran today, they might find it the model for an ideal society they seek in America. Replace Allah with God, Mohammad with Jesus, keep the same public and private notions of chastity, sin, salvation and God's will, and a Christian Republic is born."

In Iran, it is one sect of Islam that rules (Shia). Their stands on the death penalty, modesty, interpretation of the Koran, etc. rule the land, for better or for worse. Puritans fled religious intolerance, yet they slipped into it themselves. What if Puritan Protestantism had become the law of our land? Would it look more like Iran here than we realize?

I see that Christian foundations have given our country strength of character. But I take pause as I consider that Christian-izing our government and policies might have some serious negative effects, not so unlike those we readily condemn in the Middle East. People in Jesus' day hoped that he would come and overthrow the brutal Romans. Instead, he did nothing of the sort, interacting with the government mainly just to pay his taxes. It's confusing!

What do you think?


Danielle said...

"I see that Christian foundations have given our country strength of character."

what of slavery, imperialism, unequal opportunity, high illiteracy rates, highest teen pregnancies, the fact that we're the largest weapons producer, the highest toxin emitter?

i don't mean for you to address each of these, but how do you define the strength of character that you see?

Don said...

My understanding is that separation of church and state was intended by the Founding Fathers to keep the government from running the churches, and not the other way around; however, I think there is some value in not having a church-run state for the reasons you point out.

You may want to explore the author of this quote, "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

Alexis de Tocqueville (the author) spent quite some time searching out the source of America's greatness. The value he distilled he called simply "good."

Let us know what you find.

Dinaff said...

I'm reading a great book that addresses this very question (lucky you, I seem to have a book for everything! ;o):

Chuck Colson's Kingdoms in Conflict, detailing the responsiblity/roles of both gov't and church.