To Americans the principal that a fair and just society must be under girded by a system of laws that separates the power of the state from that of religious institution seems entirely self-evident. That it has not always been so is easily forgotten or unconsciously discounted. That religious practice, or less commonly an abhorrence thereof, is central to the hearts of men should not be overlooked in one’s examination of history.
The secularist crowd often underestimates the religious passion of the founders. But an honest read of history show them to be a deeply religious group that was blessed with the insight to see farther than most realized then or even now. For revisionists to try to separate these men from their personal religious practices is an insult to their intelligence and practical wisdom.
Europe is presently struggling with this issue that for the United States was largely settled over two hundred years ago at the State House in Philadelphia. So many years later it is astounding how truly brilliant the document demonstrates itself to be that is our Constitution. That the Constitutional Convention would create a document that did not even mention God or Providence is truly a testament to their foresight in what it takes to create a government that respects individuals.
America stands in a great contrast to the rest of the world in this peculiar aspect. While as individuals we have a deep tradition of Christian faith, we have developed a co-existent faith in the importance of maintaining distinct and mutually autonomous civil and religious institutions. While the debate in Europe is certainly not one that threatens religious liberty, it is quite a contrast with America where even the slightest hint of religious practice are being expunged from our public fora.
It might be fairly asked whether our national obsession with the separation of church and state is a healthy one. It should come as no surprise that I do not find this trend to be so much a product of heart-felt belief as it is an expression of a natural tension rooted in the wide spread disgust with those in the religious right who by their public acts seem committed to imposing their views on society, and those in the secular left who by their acts seem committed to wiping religious practice from the face of society.
I think if we are honest with ourselves, “In God We Trust” emblazoned on our currency is not often given much thought by people on either side of the debate other than that thought generated by the debate itself.
I have no difficulty with removing religious symbols from our civil institutions per se. Rather, it is a matter of small consequence compared to the serious problems that lay directly in front of us as a Nation. Similarly, I have no problem with continuing historical traditions that have roots in religious practice as long as those traditions are contained to that context. While adopting the secularist position is appealing to me being a true believer in the rule of law, I think it is insane to even attempt total expungement of religious heritage.
Insane because the roots are too deep.
Europe will undoubtedly find its way through the complexity of creating a secular Union. Like America, where we are still burnishing off the rough edges, it will be a long but worthwhile process. It is my sincere prayer that God will bless them with a document that is as inspired as what our founders bequeathed to their posterity.