Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Christian's Argument for Separation of Church and State

When I was younger, I criticized the concept of the separation of church and state. I recited the same arguments most of you have heard - that it was about the establishment of religion, not simply the practice thereof in public; that how it's being used now isn't at all how it was intended when it was stated, etc.

However, over the last several years I have watched the behavior in our country and I have now become and advocate for separation of church and state - as a Christian. It's created tension with family members when I have mentioned my changing views on the separation of church and state. I hope this article will help explain why I believe that we all, even faithful Christians, should urge that there be a complete separation between religion and the use of the state.

My view is NOT because I believe that Christianity should be kept to oneself - quiet and personal - only discussed in private, etc. I have gone on mission trips, I have volunteered and helped people in my community, I have handed out pamphlets, all while openly talking about beliefs and relationship with God. The primary reason I now support separation of church and state is because whenever you use the state to advertise, celebrate, encourage, proselytize, or even merely recognize your religious views, it opens the doors for others - that may believe *drastically* differently than you - to do the same. When Christians argue that the first amendment protects freedom "of" religion, not freedom "from" religion, they need to be aware that they are making the argument that other religions be allowed to place their own religious articles and practices into the public sphere.

So when people say we should not have taken prayer or the Bible out of public (state) schools, I warn that others would use the same concept to push their own religious views upon our children - and whereas Christians may not wish to indoctrinate children, others surely will. 

Now one may claim that the US is a predominantly Christian nation, so it should only be natural that Christian items, art, practices, etc be present in public society. However, Christians need to recognize the difference between the "public sphere" and the state. Have Christian images, art and posters in merely a publicly viewable area is different than having such items in the state courthouse. Having a group prayer in a parking lot is different than such praying taking place in a public (state) classroom. A group singing hymns as they walk house to house is different than singing them in the legislature. The "public sphere" is very much different than the state.

It needs to be remembered that the state is a tool of coercion and indoctrination. It uses force, violence, bribes and propaganda to create the behavior that it seeks. These are not the approaches that Christians take, so we should want to prohibit as many others from using the state to pursue their means as possible. Instead, when Christians advocate for increased presence of Christianity in state activities or locations, it only justifies those of very different views to attempt to assert the same.

As an example, note the story of Satanists trying to make Florida public schools distribute a Satanic children's coloring book. This is not an isolated occurrence. People have begun to use the state to assert their desired preferences for society for years. And it shows no signs of stopping. I believe it naive for Christians to think they will be the only ones to assert such religious presence.

Legally, it is hypocritical of any Christian to attempt to get the Bible in public schools while denying the ability for Satanists to push for their own materials be made present. I say this not because I believe Christianity and Satanism are equivalent religio-philosophical beliefs. But in the eyes of the state, they both have equivalent claims to representation - purely from a legal perspective. Any Christian that wins the right to have daily group prayer in public (state) schools, or to have the Ten Commandments displayed in the public courthouse, has just created the precedent by which a Satanist may push to have a daily Satantic chant/ritual performed or to have Satanic statues placed in state buildings. Don't believe me? It is already happening.

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