Thursday, May 15, 2014

Intolerant Tolerance

America as a nation has always had a federal government that recognized the necessity of not having a state religion to dictate to our elected leaders how we should be governed.  Our founders specifically did not want such a quasi-theocracy or state sponsored faith such as England had with its Anglican Church.  It is for this very reason that religious liberties were declared sacrosanct and yet required to be specifically set apart from the administration of our government via the very first amendment to our United States Constitution. 

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.

Many of our progressive friends will point to Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he spoke of a “separation of church and state” in the misguided assumption that Jefferson meant that faith should be kept private and never intrude into the public square.  Of course they often fail to realize that if that was Jefferson’s meaning, then it would follow that the converse of his statement must also be true; the state should be held separate so as not intrude upon the religious rights of the individual.  That said, the latter part of the statement, not the former, is indeed true and is specifically codified in the first amendment.

However, Jefferson and our founding fathers certainly did not intend for any mention of God or Jesus to be something uttered only behind the doors of the village church.  Indeed, from the very beginning of this nation, congress has ever started its opening session with prayer led by a government paid chaplain.  Indeed many of our founders and some of our greatest presidents and governmental leaders have waxed eloquently on the floor of the house, to gathered crowds of citizens, or in the bully pulpit of the presidency to the American citizenry about the necessity of some legislation, movement, or historical event by invoking God’s name.  Such are done as appeals to the very best of what is within each of us.

Even Thomas Jefferson when contemplating the evil institution of slavery in our young nation, despite being a slave owner himself, made just such an invocation:

“God who gave us life gave us liberty.  And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God?  That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

Jefferson was proved correct about such justice being served when eighty years after having written that statement, our nation was plunged into a horrific and bloody civil war that nearly destroyed a country that was supposedly conceived in liberty, in order to right that evil.

I have had some discussions where I have been told that I and others of faith simply want to erect a theocracy to govern the United States.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I simply want OUR nation to be governed as per the original intentions of the Constitution and it amendments.  (I wouldn’t object to the repeal of the 16th amendment though.)  Further, I want to be able to live my life and my faith freely without the government infringing upon that most basic of human rights.  I want to be able to mention or perhaps even pray to God in school, in my office, or at a city council meeting without someone immediately calling the ACLU because they were offended. 

We all need to be respectful and polite towards one another, particularly when we are from differing cultures, faith communities, or perhaps a lack thereof.  We also need to realize that tolerance is something that must work in both directions for a peaceful society to emerge and it is not merely something of which the left has the rhetorical high ground and a monopoly thereof.  Indeed, it is my observation that is often times those espousing the mantra of “tolerance” whom are the least tolerant of those people that believe and live their lives according to a Christian faith.  

While we believers don’t want the government to impose our beliefs on those that choose not to believe, so too do we not want progressives to impose their secular beliefs upon us through governmental mandate, fiat, or legislation in the guise of a very intolerant form of tolerance.  Further, such is our right to publicly exercise our faith without infringement as espoused in the first amendment and by our Founding Fathers’ intents, words, and, deeds.  Indeed it is a right that transcends human law.  Our desire to worship Him freely is a right kindled within our hearts by our Creator, and as such it can never be extinguished.


John Myste said...

Jefferson was ever the politician. He was not a Christian by today's standards, much like many of the deist-minded founders.

"Many of our progressive friends will point to Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he spoke of a “separation of church and state” in the misguided assumption that Jefferson meant that faith should be kept private and never intrude into the public square. "

I don't think the founders, as a unit, ever suggested that one who lives in public housing (the White House, for example), cannot therefore express is faith there. For example, I think Christmas trees in the White House are just fine. It is "Freedom of Religion" being practiced.

That said, prayer in schools lead by a teacher, for example, is a grayer area. The non -Christian children, who must attend school by mandate of the state, will feel either left out and singled out or hypocritical if they participate. At that point, we are imposing our faith in a public place, not expressing it. Services should not be held in places where we are expected to send our children.

It is easy to mix the two concepts. Children have a right to pray in school. Even a teacher has a right to pray in school. The teacher, however, does not have the right to hold church services in public secular schools, and leading prayers to the Christian God may fall into that category.

T. Paine said...

John, I have no disagreements with what you wrote whatsoever. I also agree that public school teachers should not be allowed to lead prayers in class for the very reasons you mentioned. I never meant to suggest or even imply otherwise.

What I would like to see corrected is the hostility towards faith, particularly Christianity, in schools and other public settings. Teachers should not be allowed to chastise students for reading the Bible in open reading sessions. Teachers should not be chastised by school administrations for having a Bible on their desks. Baccalaureate ceremonies of a prayerful nature should not be disallowed when attendance is optional. Various school clubs of a religious nature should not be opposed, again when joining is optional. Unfortunately, all these things are not universally allowed anymore. Public shows of faith are often found “offensive” by the secular culture, but a disagreement by a person of faith with an alternative lifestyle is evidently cause for re-education in diversity or sensitivity training. Evidently a quiet disagreement is not acceptable. A full-throated support of such things by ALL members of society must be made before the secular culture warriors will be appeased. THAT is the intolerance of which I was speaking, my friend.

John Myste said...

Mr. Paine, I have no disagreements with what you wrote whatsoever.

“Teachers should not be allowed to chastise students for reading the Bible in open reading sessions.”

I could not agree more.

“Public shows of faith are often found “offensive” by the secular culture.”

This is the very thing the majority of the founders intended to guard against. Funny, the effort to fulfill the promise sometimes recreates the problem. O’ the irony.

OK, so, essentially, we have nothing to talk about!