Friday, April 10, 2009

The Wilderness Of The World

From The End of Christian America by John Meacham:

Meanwhile, the number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6 million. (That is about double the number of, say, Episcopalians in the United States.)

While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance. It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called "the garden of the church" from "the wilderness of the world." As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America's unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience. At our best, we single religion out for neither particular help nor particular harm; we have historically treated faith-based arguments as one element among many in the republican sphere of debate and decision. The decline and fall of the modern religious right's notion of a Christian America creates a calmer political environment and, for many believers, may help open the way for a more theologically serious religious life.
Have all the Christians left the building, flew the coop, and abandoned ship? I don’t think so.

I also don’t think that religion is crucial to the life of the nation. (Must the media sensationalize everything?) I do think that “America's unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience.” Several Christians like to lie, and claim that we are a Christian nation, and that we were founded as such. We are not a Christian nation. Our founders did not found the country as a Christian nation. We are, however, supposed to be about freedom and equality. Where is the freedom if everyone must be a Christian in order to be an American? In other words, to be an American means believing that freedom takes precedence over religion. Not the other way around.

I’ve been in “the garden of the church.” I prefer “the wilderness of the world.” And freedom.

0 comments - Post a comment :

Post a Comment