Politics and the Church – Where’s the Church? [Part 10]

‘Politics’ is a reflection of our culture.  Moral and cultural bodies such as churches and private charities are often called mediating institutions because they mediate between individuals and the government.  They create a public sphere, often called civil society, that the state doesn’t control.  Without such institutions a civil society cannot survive.  Those committed to a limited government need to do more than talk about individual rights.  We must also defend vibrant cultural institutions that shape who we are, instill in us a sense of virtue and responsibility, and help us fulfill Christ’s mandate to help our fellow man.  For the churches to sit back and rely on a secular government to shape society, we will create a world that none of us will want to be a part of.  It’s happening today.  With more and more laws being added to the books things are only getting worse.  A “God-fearing” society doesn’t need laws to control every phase of life.  When society is held accountable to no one but self we see what can happen…just listen to the news or read the newspaper.  When ‘self’ is in charge, laws are meaningless.  “Church” is going to have to learn to speak up or get pushed further onto the perimeter of society.  Let’s start now on stories of how ‘the few’ can cause disruption among the many.  Unfortunately, the ‘few’ come from the secular part of our society.

For more than a decade boys and girls at Glenview Elementary School in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, would start the day by gathering on the playground to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  They would conclude their service by saying “God bless America”.  It was a tradition started after the terrorists attacks on September 11, 2001.  That tradition ended on a winter day in 2016 thanks to the ‘American’ Civil Liberties Union. [Phaedra Trethan,”ACLU: No ‘God Bless America’ in Haddon Heights School”, Courier-Post, January 6, 2016].  The school’s principal sent a letter to parents advising them that “the administration has decided to discontinue the official endorsement of reciting ‘God bless America’ at the end of the morning Pledge of Allegiance.” [Ibid].  According to the ACLU, reciting the phrase “God bless America” is unconstitutional.  Their reasoning…”The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the government from not only favoring one religion over another, but also from promoting religion over non-religion”.  They did not want to make it appear as a government endorsement, especially in elementary schools, given the impressionable age of the children. [Ibid].  For the record, let me quote the US Constitution, Amendment I:”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise there of…”.   I fail to see any justification for their argument in Amendment I.  What law was passed?  Wasn’t ‘free exercise’ being prohibited in the ACLU’s complaint?  Nevertheless the final decision to stop the practice was determined by the school district, fearing a costly lawsuit.  The children were never forced to recite the “Pledge of Allegiance” or say “God bless America”.  Parents were in an up roar, viewing it as a slow chipping away of the values, beliefs, and traditions that this nation was created upon. [Principal Sassano in conversation with Todd Starnes, January 2016].  This is just one on many examples of the ‘Great Unraveling’ taking place before our eyes.  Where were the community’s churches?  There are many more examples.

Our next example involves a Florida high school student. This student was disciplined after a national atheist organization took offense…poor babies…when he concluded the morning announcements by saying, “God bless America”.  A spokesperson for the Nassau County School District said the student at Yulee High School deviated from the approved script on the morning of February 9 and uttered the words,”God bless America” causing two atheist students to experience angst…where were their towels and coloring books?  She went on to say that the principal took the appropriate steps in speaking with the student and disciplining him. [Sharyl Wood in communication with Todd Starnes, February 2015].  Now-a-days what’s the penalty for asking God to bless America…thirty lashes?  The atheist students had reached out to the American Humanist Association (AHA). [Scott Johnson,”God Bless America Sparks Controversy at School”, Graham Media Group, February 13, 2015].  The center sent a testy letter to the principal and school district stating,”It is inappropriate and unlawful for a public school to start the school day with an official statement over the intercom stating ‘God bless America’, for such a statement affirms God-belief, validates a theistic worldview, and is invidious toward atheists and other nonbelievers”. [Monica Miller, Appignani Humanist Legal Center, email sent to Nassau County School District and Yulee High School on February 9, 2015].  AHA went on to further state the student violated the Constitution and broke the law by invoking God’s name over the public address system.  Of course a threat of lawsuit was included. (Why is it that the God-haters seem to have unlimited funds to bring about lawsuits?)  As the student delivered the morning announcements he became a government representative…or so AHA claims.  Maybe if the student had quoted ex-president Obama’s pastor there would have been no problem…”God damn America”.  American high school students do not give up their rights to free speech when they go to school. First Liberty Institute took on the case.  In today’s world it’s difficult to decide between what’s worse…perpetually offended atheists or constitutionally ignorant educators?  How many churches support these Christian law firms as they take a stand against the secular/atheist onslaught that would like to put the churches out of business?

There’s much more to go but I will close this week with a thought of my own.  In the United States we are accepting of all religions or no religion at all.  It’s our founding principles that make that possible.  Where did those principles come from?  They came from the Bible where we are taught to even love our enemies…and that isn’t easy.  By accepting all religions it doesn’t mean that we are to ‘trash’ Christianity.  Everyone, including atheists, should be thankful for the freedoms the Bible gives us…even the freedom to sin, but with either eventual forgiveness or punishment.  If one chooses to not worship God that one should be thankful to God for that opportunity.  When ‘man’ is in charge that is not always an option.  Christians should let their patriotism show.  If we express patriotism only in private, we will lose the public square and the church will be relegated to the status of social club/club house.  We will continue the challenges faced by Christian/patriots next week.

– Bob Munsey

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