Church, state must remain separate

Most Christians want their religion represented in public schools and throughout our governments. But with so many denominations, which ones will be represented? Some of them will have a conflict. I personally could tolerate the Unitarian Church in public life but there would be a national outcry over their recognition of Moslems and of Asian religions that are obscure in this country. Would we say “In God we trust” or would it be Allah or Buddha or Zoroaster? We might have as many inscriptions on our pennies as we do now on our quarters.

We would not have so many denominations if churches were capable of unifying us.

Before the Civil War southern Christians, including Baptists and Methodists, split off from the “mainstream” denominations to form denominations that supported slavery. The Southern Baptists and Southern Methodists outnumbered their northern counterparts. The war appeared to solve the slavery issue under secular law but it did not unite the fractured churches. How would we have hoped to settle the issue of civil rights if the churches–or rather one elected church–had responsibility for making the decision? That church would predictably resist getting voted out of office.

Abraham Lincoln was moved by people who claimed that they answered to a higher power than secular law. But he decided, correctly I believe, that the Constitution superseded religion when there was a conflict. We are not fully “One nation, under God” as Iran is with Allah.

After the Civil War, churches united to maintain segregation through private schools. The Ku Klux Klan would have been a candidate for our national religion and might have won if it had been put to a vote. Evangelicals would rally to it. Congressmen would be wearing white sheets the way some ministers wear robes today.

Many Christians thought secular issues did not matter because Jesus was coming again immediately. The Bible is inerrant and Jesus will restore the kingdom of God when he deigns to, so why vote in the meantime? I hope people who think like that DON’T vote. Christianity, or at least theocracy, seems to be incompatible with democracy. And speaking of the Bible, do we include the Apocrypha? The Book of Mormon? Any particular study Bible? Must it be written in Greek? Is the world flat now?

People who accept the doctrine of immaculate conception can accept the immaculate separation of church and state. We can’t argue with God but having a democracy requires that we have debates that would get people excommunicated from their churches. It is the only way to go.

Michael Ireland



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