Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday Constitution Blogging

I usually post a few thoughts on the Constitution of the United States on Thursdays. It has become a regular feature, though I have never studied law and am only an ordinary citizen looking at our foundation document. This week was a bit too busy, being Holy Week. Additionally, this weekend is a time dedicated to blogging against theocracy. I am very happy to do so.

Mind you, I am anything but an anti-religious person. I am someone entrusted with preserving, teaching, and celebrating the Christian faith, first as a minister of the Gospel in a Baptist context and now as an Episcopal priest. I take my ordination vows very seriously. I take my faith very seriously. Those who read this blog know all this.

One very important part of my Baptist heritage is a belief in both separation of church and state and "soul freedom." No one may, should, or is allowed to tell anyone what to believe. Baptists were once persecuted and they were determined that no civil government should mess with anyone's belief, ever.

I cherish the right to understand my own beliefs in my own way, without interference. Even within my own faith community I "color outside the lines," but I do so knowing where the lines are supposed to be and why they are there and why they matter and why I sometimes go beyond them. I also know that I do not live in isolation and that all people and all creation is intimately interrelated, so my beliefs, my words, and my actions all affect others. I can be a bit of a rebel and very stubborn, but I am not an individualist or isolationist in the sense of deluding myself into thinking I can do whatever I want. Community matters to me and that, too, is one of the basic parts of my faith.

Just as I cherish the ability to believe and worship as I feel led, so I cherish and desire that for every other person. I do not want my government or any government dictating what religion I must join or practice, nor forbidding me to believe and practice freely. This means I stand by the right of those of any and all faiths and those of none (and those checking "undecided" as well) to believe or not as they feel led.

With the heritage or religious wars far more keenly on their mind than such matters are for us, some centuries later, the founders of the United States sought to avoid the horrors and injustice they had known where religions were established and enforced by law and sword.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or 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.
Article VI

Clause 3: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
From the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the Senate on June 7, 1797 (and therefore part of the supreme law of the land):

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

I am appalled at those who radically distort the history of the United States in order to claim that it was, at its founding or any point thereafter, a "Christian nation." This is arrant nonsense and a wicked lie. It is bruited about for the sack of misleading masses of well-meaning people into first asserting this untruth, then seeking to reinforce it, then to make it a reality. It is an attempt to enforce one set of beliefs on an entire nation and to privilege not merely one religion but, far worse, a narrow subset of that religion. It is a great evil.

We are currently threatened by dominionists and others whose explicit intent is to make the United States subject to their interpretation of God's alleged laws and values, to create a theocracy.

Such falsehoods and such plans are to be opposed at all times and in all places until they are exposed as the evil that they are and lose their appeal. Anything less is to yield our precious form of government and our soul freedom to power-hungry god-mongerers whose desire to impose their will on others is one of the most satanic things I can imagine.

May we keep this nation free, our government secular and grounded in the will of the People for the common good.

--The Rev. Paul E. Strid

1 comment:

FranIAm said...

So well put dear Paul and filled with the wisdom and the need for caution that is required in these dangerous days.

We are meant to live in freedom and not in submission to the will of others, who seemingly might "know" better for us and who want deliver us all to God as they understand God.

We are meant to live in the freedom that allows us to live according to our understanding and to leave others alone. And to be left alone by them.

As anyone with your background well knows, boundaries are a challenge to negotiate... But a challenge is an invitation to live in, with and for some common good.