Friday, June 30, 2006

Faith in the Public Square

Barack Obama - US Senator from Illinois gave a speech on Wednesday about the role of religion in public life.

Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King -- indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history -- were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition....

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason....

This may be difficult for those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice.

Al Mohler called this idea
"secularism with a smile -- offered in the form of an invitation for believers to show up, but then only to be allowed to make arguments that are not based in their deepest beliefs."
It could be that. But at least Senator Obama speech opens the discussion between the secular and those of faith in our society today. It is rare, to say the least, to hear a liberal leader even willing to talk about the uneasy tension between church and state and acknowledge that morality has a place in public policy.

It's not just progressive politicans that are discussing the tension but others as well. Walter Shurden gave a speech at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Freedom where he expressed great worry over the "militancy of the right wing".

I am suggesting, however, that there are "American Christians" for whom the adjective is more important than the noun.

I am suggesting that some Christian churches in our country have been transformed into political temples and some pastors have embraced the moniker of "patriot pastors."

I am suggesting that devoted theocrats have an eye on the machinery of national and state governments, and that they make no apology for it.

He was specifically worried about groups like Generation Joshua who "turn Christian, home-schooled students into political foot soldiers to gain political power in order to subsume everything - entertainment, law, government, and education -under their right wing version of Christianity." and the Christian Coalition.

I am a Christian homeschooler who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, but that doesn't mean I am determined to turn the United States or the world into a theocracy. I am not a Christian Reconstructionists. Nor do I belong to either group mentioned above. However, I do think it is totally within the bounds of public discourse in America to talk about my faith and how it helps shape my convictions and opinions - and to do so without having to translate them into "universal values" as Mr Obama suggests. And if that is how public policy is shaped, so be it. Further, we are raising our children that no matter what they end up doing as a vocation, that their faith will guide their principles and decisions. That could include government office, entertainment, etc. Is that so bad? Is there room in America for people like me?

Related News Stories :The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, ABC News, Associated Baptist Press.

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