Responses to other tothesource articles:
Baptists have been persecuted by state-sponsored Christianity in Europe and by colonial-sponsored Christianity in America. Baptists (and other evangelical, Bible-believing Christians) also have a history of church split after church split in the name of truth. Bible-believing Christians can be as mean-spirited, controlling and as abusive of power as any secularists. Which is worse? Having one’s faith opposed by secularists – or being attacked by Christian believers having a different moral or political vision or a different interpretation of a certain Scripture or doctrine? Paul appealed to Caesar rather than be tried by religionists. Throughout most of church history, there has been greater freedom to practice religious faith in accordance with one’s conscience under secularists than under religionists. I believe authentic Christian faith can flourish under a government that is neutral or even slightly oppositional to Christianity more than under a government that favors a particular brand of Christianity. Conservative Christians may say they are simply advocating for those Christian values that we all hold in common; history shows that it never stops there once religious people gain political power. Once in power, they begin imposing their distinctive beliefs and convictions – even to the point of persecuting other Christians who disagree with the particulars of their faith. Christians who care about truth have never been very good at tolerating different points of view – even among brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s bad enough when dogmatic Christians have ecclesiastical power to impose their will on other church members; it’s really scary to see what dogmatic Christians have done when they have also had political power to impose their will on all citizens. Both church and state -- and the cause of the Gospel -- suffer when Christians wield too much political power.
As a Baptist, I don’t need the government defending or promoting my faith. The Gospel is powerful enough to transform lives and cultures without government assistance. The problem in the USA is not that the government is too secular; the problem in America is that the church is too impotent and worldly to be salt and light. Lowering the divorce rate in the church would have as much or more positive moral influence in our society as passing legislation banning same-sex marriage. If Christians were exercising more effective influence in the fields of education, law, science, media, entertainment, and government service, we wouldn’t need to depend so heavily on political power to save our society from moral collapse.
The problem is the not the separation of church and state; the problem is the ineffectiveness of the church in society. The solution is not for the state to support the church and its agenda; the solution is for the church to be the church so that its light will penetrate and push back the darkness.
- Scott E. Pearson
Cornerstone Baptist Church
Dear friend. I have written on early American Methodism and the social movement dynamics of evangelicalism. In my research, I have come to the same conclusions as you regarding secularism and the establishment of a state religion. As one who teaches world religions, cultural anthropology and missions, I know that modern secularism functions like a religion and that it has become the religion of the secular state.
Secularism is a social myth that was created by those who want to produce a new social order. From the perspectives of worldview, epistemology, and philosophy, modern secularism, to include its many
manifestations in the sciences and politics, is very suspect. - William Payne, Ph.D.
Ashland Theological Seminary
I have found your emailed articles on secularism to be of some interest. As an atheist, an adherent of secular scientific ethics, and a homosexual, I feel I must remain aware of the forces within my country that appear to want to stand secularists like me up against a wall and shoot us.
Hyperbole? No, I think this is an entirely realistic concern. In the twenty-first century, we still live in a world in which an Iranian homosexual is in danger of being deported from The Netherlands back to Iran, where his fate would most likely be to be hanged, as others have been, simply for being a homosexual. And, more than 60 years after the "defeat" of Christian fascism in Europe, an Italian judge who refused to serve in his capacity as a judge in a courtroom with a crucifix hanging on the wall has been sentenced to seven months in prison for his failure to respect a fascist-era directive and a treaty with the Vatican signed by Benito Mussolini, even though both conflict with the 1947 post-war Italian constitution. Here in the USA, it took until June 26, 2003 before the Supreme Court of the United States finally recognized homosexuals as human beings with the same right to privacy as other citizens -- but with two newly appointed Catholic justices, it may be only a matter of time before that is reversed.
Now, as you, and so many others in America, appear to be ready to repudiate secularism, science, rational ethics, and the progress of civilization (with, for example, South Dakota's new "rapists' rights" anti- abortion law), I just want to know if you champions of this new American Christian fascist theocracy understand and are ready to accept the consequences. What can we expect for the future: Public hangings of homosexuals? The imprisonment of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for backing Michael Newdow's lawsuit against "under God" in the pledge? Religious civil wars between various states and municipalities that have established different religions? At what point should I and other scientists, the vast majority of whom do not believe in any God (Ref. 5), prepare to flee this country? I just want to know, so I can be ready. - Norman Hall, Ph.D. (Biology, U.C. San Diego, 1973)
Response to Responses:
I thoroughly enjoy reading the articles I receive from To the Source. Many have become added material for a class I am teaching at our church this spring on the Bible’s view on a variety of topics. I feel I must respond to many of the critics of Dr. Wiker’s article by sharing my own recent pilgrimage on this topic of separation.
For a long time, I have been a follower of the teachings of David Barton and others who have unearthed and shared the rich “Christian” history of our nation. However, what is often not shared is that, although it is definitely a “Christian” history, it was by no means tolerant or free to all. Several of the letters in response to Dr. Wiker criticized him for not pointing out the tolerance of true Christians in certain states or certain denominations (Pennsylvania & Rhode Island were mentioned, as well as Baptists named in letters as particularly tolerant groups). Well, this just wasn’t the case. Although Pennsylvania and other states and towns had various “Edicts of Toleration” it was limited in its scope to Protestant, King James Bible only groups. In fact, in 1844 the bloodiest account of religious intolerance coming to a head took place in the very town that ironically one of the readers, K.W., is so proud to announce as supremely tolerant...Philadelphia (see Feldberg’s The Philadelphia Riots of 1844, publ. 1975). Although laws or ordinances were passed that to us appear to accept various views, we must accurately interpret them from their proper historical context, including the events of the day, and not from our current context looking back through glasses clouded by our own presuppositions and lack of information. Whereas there was not a single denomination as a state or national church, Protestantism, in general, could easily be called the national church of the time. This is especially obvious in the Protestant persecution and exclusion of Jewish and Catholic immigrants early in our nation’s history, (Intolerance was especially evident in public schools.).
It is our heart’s desire to look back at our early national history and talk of how it was such a time of unity and tolerance, an almost utopian society, but the truth is that it was really an unsettled period in our history with a great deal of separatism, state and local loyalty and relatively little cooperation a national level. My recent study on this subject has been mind-changing and I would encourage many of you to take time to do the same.
As a very conservative, Baptist, I would have thrived in a nation such as ours in its earliest years, but I know that is not what exists today. Whether we like it or not, “separation” between church and state is what we have today. With that wall in place, I would recommend that what we need not is not more Christianity in our society or to press the Christian agenda; but we need the presence of Christian individuals in positions of influence. Jesus Christ did not come to change the politics of the day. He did not come to be a political King. He came to change the hearts of people. If you change the hearts of the people, the society will automatically change.
- Bob Johnson
Associate Pastor of Education/Administration
Several words come to mind come to my mind as we consider my relationship to Jesus Christ and how I am allowed or suppressed from sharing that in public. I agree that no one should be forced to embrace anything that he / she does not want to embrace. I also am convinced no one should silenced to share with any one an opportunity to explain something that he /she has found very satisfactory. Of course that person should have the opportunity to ignore and refuse to listen. If the above would be followed it would create the answer to all the discussion. I find myself refusing to listen to many things in the public place that I find very repulsive. I do not try to forcefully restrain. There is a place for the proper person to restrain some one who does harm to someone else. Let us each check ourselves as to why we respond to the situation at hand and let us check ourselves from saying and doing any thing maliciously - D. G.
“Americans, lagging a bit behind, began experiencing the first cracks in the late 19th century, and ever widening fissures during all of the 20th century. Today, in America we are caught in that very struggle that bubbled up in the French Revolution between Christians and radical Secularists. The common moral ground has dropped out, and hence we are torn, as a nation, between those who hold to the moral world of Christianity and those who hold to the moral world of Secularism.”
“And that is why we are divided about sexuality, marriage, abortion, euthanasia, genetic research, and on and on. We no longer have, as we did at the founding, common moral ground. Without that common moral ground, the notion of a separation of church and state, understood as some kind of cosmic wall keeping religion from entering the public square, simply means the victory of Secularism as the new established national religion.”
Dr. Wiker hits on a very hot issue here. Arguably, he hits on the biggest dividing point in the history of our country.
- Blake Levrets