Monday, August 01, 2005

The State of the Church-State Debate

Thoughtful take on the great church-state debate (hey, that rhymes) from Slate ... The State of the Church-State Debate - Has Noah Feldman come up with a feasible compromise? By Alan Wolfe

The compromise? Quote!
Feldman believes he has come up with a compromise: His solution is to accord evangelicals the right to have their symbols displayed in public while giving their opponents the right to deny governmental funding to religious organizations.

Frankly, I could live with that. Accepting any favor from Caesar (tax exemption, faith-based handouts, et. al.) seems to me to be the road to ruin. The Christian church has nothing to fear in standing on its own two feet. There is much more in this article, like ...
Persuaded that American religiosity was simply too strong to be challenged directly, opponents of religion's role in the public sphere retreated from Darrow-like strong secularism into what Feldman calls "legal secularism." Legal secularism does not presume the absence of God. Instead, it takes no position on theological issues at all; its only tenet is that laws should be neutral between religions and between religion and non-religion. Judges, not legislatures or popular referenda, are called upon to interpret what separation of church and state means. And judges love it, no one more than former U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who used her swing vote to decide, pretty much on her own, what would be permissible and what forbidden.

... and ...
In response to the judicial victories of legal secularism, conservative Christians also changed their tactics from those employed in the Scopes era. Instead of arguing on behalf of their own faith, they claimed to defend all faiths. Conservative Protestants no longer attack Catholics and discriminate against Jews; on the contrary, they embrace Catholics and Jews who agree with them on abortion or other moral issues. Feldman calls these voters "values evangelicals." Uniting them all is the conviction that legal secularism can never be neutral between religion and non-religion; by keeping faith out of the public square, courts side against those who believe that a God who has no public presence is not a God at all.

This, to me, is where things get sticky. Promoting good "values" is not the role of the Christian church. This is a works-based (i.e., false) Gospel. The Christian church exists to disciple the nations. Can we do that in unity with those who deny the Scriptures and Christ? Just asking.