Some mornings you wake up, you read the news and you just want to go back to bed. This was one of those mornings.
On the one hand there was a story out of the UK informing us that the EU, which Britain is moving itself out of as fast as possible, has “suggested” that the British press stop reporting the Islamic faith of terrorists. (Yeah, you read that right – follow the link – I had to read it twice just to make sure I was not missing something.) On the other hand there was a pair of stories, one in the Washington Post and one in The Atlantic about how “too much faith in God” can result in not seeking medical treatment which some think is child abuse and can lead to death. The WaPo story reports on a study out of the University of Michigan and the Atlantic story is anecdotal in nature and focuses on the potential child abuse aspects. So, on the one hand we want to avoid discussing the religion of perpetrators of evil and on the other we want to pillory people of overzealous and perhaps misunderstood faith.
For the record, I am deeply devout in my Christian faith, but I have lost friends and seen newborns severely handicapped for life due to charlatan “christian” faith healers. You will find no greater opponent to misplaced and misdirected faith than I. The point of this post is not to recount all that, but I will tell you that the best place to oppose such chicanery is inside the church, not through government control of the church.
What we have here is a clear case of religious sides being chosen, protecting Muslims and accusing Christians. Obviously there is no grand conspiracy here. It is not as if the EU is coordinating its activities with the American press, nor even WaPo and The Atlantic holding joint editorial meetings. The virtually simultaneous appearance of these three pieces is simply a stark and apparent indicator of the prevailing thought among the elite media and governing intellectuals of our day. This is a dangerous game.
Whatever bigotries and cruelties you may think Christianity guilty of – they pale in comparison to Islam. Further, while Christianity has historically engaged in bigotry and cruelty it has always, inevitably, self-corrected. Islam was cruel and warlike in its very founding and has continued to be so to this day. But I do not really want to debate which is the preferable religion.
The intellectual drift highlighted by the juxtaposition of articles above does not yet rise to the actual governmental establishment of religion, but it certainly contains the intellectual seeds thereof. The anti-establishment clause of our constitution is one of the most foundational principles of our republic. Flirting with changing that is flirting with rendering our nation unrecognizable to the founders. The founders plainly saw from their European origins that the state establishment of religion was counterproductive on more than one front.
For one thing, the state establishment of religion tended to intensify, if not foment, international hostilities – turning territorial disputes into holy wars. But more, the founders of deep and abiding faith understood that the state establishment of religion tended to compromise the religion, turning it into an instrument of state instead of the force for good that it is intended to be.
At base here is a loss of the true vision that Christianity presents.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:26-29)
There is a tendency, largely among non-Christians, to understand this passage in exclusionary terms. But such was not the intent of its author the Apostle Paul. This passage was not meant to divide the world between the baptized and the unbaptized, but was rather intended to communicate that what divides us disappears in a confrontation with Christ. When combined with the sacrificial missionary zeal of Christianity as expressed elsewhere in the Bible (to be deeply contrasted with the militant missionary zeal of the Islamic faith), it should become plain that desire at the heart of every Christian is inclusion and unity.
The founders understood this and created a government that was minimal and transactional – allowing religion and other cultural forces to forge some sort of national identity and culture. The intellectual trends cited at the opening of this post are entirely divisive. A fact which may reveal that these intellectuals have more in common with Islam than Christianity, seeking to discredit and destroy the non-believer rather than convert and unite.
We tread in dangerous territory. It is tempting to sanctimoniously quote the 23rd Psalm. (“I shall fear no evil….”) And I know that myself and my family will be safe in God’s arms. But I am concerned about future generations and the future of the nation. It is a time for prayer.