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A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and State

April 22, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Rod Taylor

Numbering: Issue 22.B, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Eighteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: April 22, 2020

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,795

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between the church and the state in Canadian society within the contextualization of the “Sacred Polity.” The terminological differences between the church and the state become one basis for the consideration here. The paper centrally argues for the fundamentally religious nature of the religious and the secular with claims taken on faith. Claims on faith-building worldviews fundamentally different in titles and content, but similar in ways of knowing: faith. In essence, a polity is a Sacred Polity by the nature of the views held by all, whether “secular” or “religious,” being, fundamentally, religious worldviews. 

Keywords: Canada, Church, religion, Rod Taylor, Sacred Polity, state.

A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and State[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

In some types of fabrics, tugging on one loose thread can unravel the entire piece; patterns will disappear along with functionality. So it is with the delicate, interwoven threads of our faith and our politics. They are the warp and woof of our practical and philosophical existence. When personal convictions—including faith-based convictions—are removed from our political fabric, our society begins to unravel.

When considering the proper role of faith in politics, it behooves us to first ask: what is faith? Secondly: what is politics? If these can be defined, we can begin to assess their juxtaposition and how we can ethically apply our faith-driven understanding of the world to our political actions.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary says that faith is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof”. (1) Wikipedia defines faith as “confidence or trust in a person, thing or concept”. (2) Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy has this to say about faith: “At its most general, ‘faith’ means much the same as ‘trust’ . . . the question arises whether faith of that same general kind also belongs to other, non-theistic, religious contexts, or to contexts not usually thought of as religious at all. Arguably, it may be apt to speak of the faith of a humanist, or even an atheist, using the same general sense of ‘faith’ as applies to the theist case.” (3)

Some definitions link that confidence or trust to “a personal God or to a set of beliefs about God”. The Bible gives its own definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1. It says that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not [yet] seen.” (4) That phrase indicates confidence and trust in a reality that cannot be adequately known or understood only by tangible objects. According to that definition, faith is itself the evidence for a belief not unequivocally proven by the five senses.

Everyone has faith in something or someone . . . or at least in a conceptual view of reality. We call that a worldview. Some people believe in a Creator, a God with personal attributes, able to think, feel and see. Others believe in a random universe, eternally existing, independent of any divine guidance or interaction. Others believe in a Big Bang—an unexplainable and unwitnessed event of immeasurable proportion that took place in time and space and produced the material elements of which we are composed and by which we are surrounded: the air we breathe, the water we drink and the molecules used to manufacture the cars we drive and the cellphones with which we communicate. Each of these belief-systems constitutes a worldview, the equivalent of a type of faith, in that every worldview develops, in its adherents, a set of value judgments. Certain behaviours and attitudes are esteemed; others are deemed undesirable. Of course, many people fall short of living lives consistent with their intellectual understandings. They do not always “walk the talk”. They believe something to be true, but their actions do not always demonstrate that belief. People also value certainty; in seeking to justify their pre-conceived beliefs, they may ignore or minimize evidence that does not support the suppositions they have adopted as their own.

When it comes to politics, Merriam-Webster calls it “the art or science of government” or “the art or science of guiding or influencing government policy”. (5) Given that human beings tend to congregate, tend to develop social order and tend to adopt customs, rituals and protocols that are acceptable to their tribe, city or nation, we may assume, in any such group, some form of government. All societies inevitably establish disincentives to certain behaviours. Government in those societies may be highly-developed, with written laws and formal offices or it may be very simple, with leadership established by the lineage, character or the physical strength of dominant members. Whatever its form, there will be leaders and there will be laws, written or unwritten. There will be government, and where there is government, even in a family, there will be politics and attempts to influence decision-making.

Since both faith and politics are present in any human interaction, the idea that they can be kept separate is a flawed concept. Generally, when people speak about the “separation of church and state”, they are referring to a particular faith or a particular political framework. Often, in today’s secularized Western society, “faith” refers to a historically-understood (or misunderstood) version of the Christian faith. When the word “state” is used, it refers to a society unfettered by the moral strictures attributed to that Christian faith. In other words, some people—when insisting on the “separation of church and state” are simply stating their preference for state policies driven by religious (worldview) biases other than Christian ones.

Rarely do the opponents of Christian principles, who themselves carry their own philosophical biases, see themselves as religious. They may occasionally recognize the fact that they have a distinct worldview—one they see as rational and substantiated by science or nature—but they are loathe to equate “worldview” with “faith” or their interpretation of science as one of several possible explanations for the universe and humanity’s role in it. Their assumption is that their own secular worldview is the only legitimate one and that any other worldview—one that posits, for example, the existence of an intelligent and loving Creator—presents an illogical and unwelcome intrusion into the realm of political thought and action. While verbally assuring others that they have “tolerance” for beliefs they do not share, they insist that such beliefs should have no influence on the shaping of laws and cultural norms. This philosophical blindness renders any true compromise with dissenters unlikely, if not impossible. While rejecting Christian standards of right and wrong, those who oppose Christian influence in law and custom often impose (without realizing it) their own deeply-held worldview beliefs on society . . . beliefs which they expect others to accept as self-evident moral principles.

Speaking of moral behaviours, are there any behaviours that can be classed as right or wrong? That question arises when avowed secularists challenge the moral assertions of Christians or the adherents of one of the world’s other commonly-recognized religions. There are people who claim that there are no absolutes, that right and wrong are only a matter of personal opinion; they insist that people should not attempt to apply their own beliefs to matters of public policy, certainly never in the arena of partisan politics. There is an inherent inconsistency in making that claim, for by proclaiming the illegitimacy of faith’s influence on public policy, they are in fact asserting the moral superiority of their own faith or worldview. Those who declare the absolute necessity of separating faith from politics make this assertion in an attempt to exclude the influence of Christian morality from public policy, with a corresponding embrace of the influence of that “person, thing or concept” in which they themselves have confidence and trust. That thing could be socialism. That thing could be the theory of Darwinian evolution. That thing could be CO2-induced climate change. It could be “the goodness of man” (which needs some explaining nowadays). It could be public education or the stock market or the theory of non-existence. Whatever the deeply-held belief, it is part of the worldview held by an individual—either because of or in spite of physical evidence—and, as claimed above, is simply another type of faith. In fact, that belief system becomes the lens through which the world is perceived, rightly called a worldview.

If we accept the premise that there are such things as right and wrong, on what basis do we determine the rightness or wrongness of measuring political principles by spiritual standards? This question assumes that there are universal ethical standards that would either preclude or demand a functional link between a person’s spiritual and philosophical worldview and the outworking of social precepts and expectations. A person who claims it is wrong to insert moral values into public policy debates encounters a dilemma: to say that it is wrong to invoke morality is itself a moral judgment. A society can—and under certain circumstances of commonly-shared beliefs, will—create laws and customs that seem right and fitting to a majority at the time but that are rejected by subsequent generations as being unjust, unkind or even sinful. Slavery is a blatant example of this. Most today would wholeheartedly agree that slavery is not only wrong in the 21st Century but it was wrong 200 years ago. Yet, at that time, it had its proponents, mostly those who received monetary benefit from its continuance. As late as 1857, the US Supreme Court took the side of the slaveholder, in denying personhood and the rights of citizenship to African-Americans. (6) They were wrong but they believed themselves right.

One would be hard-pressed (thankfully) to find, in a Western democracy today, anyone who would deny the equal value of men and women. Yet less than 100 years ago, Canadian women were not considered “persons” under the law. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1928 that a woman was not a “person” and therefore was ineligible for appointment to the Senate. This ruling was overturned in 1929 by the Privy Council of England, showing clearly that Supreme Court Justices were not (and are not) infallible. Today, pre-born human babies are denied the recognition of their personhood by the Supreme Court of Canada, even up to the moment of natural birth. People of goodwill, on both sides of the debate, offer reasons for their perspectives and promote vigorously their points of view. In this debate, invariably, those who wish to maintain the status quo (abortion on demand) tend to reject any argument in favour of recognizing the personhood of the preborn infant on the basis that it involves a “religious perspective”. They believe themselves to be right.

It’s true that there are many supporting statements found in the Bible for the support of a pro-life position, (although there are pro-lifers who do not claim a Christian basis for their opinions). My point, and what I hope to demonstrate, is that those who passionately disagree with a pro-life position are themselves motivated by a religious belief—a worldview—which causes them to ignore arguments and even scientific facts that might contradict their assertions.

There is, for example, the scientific fact that the union of sperm and egg produce a unique DNA, different from that of the mother, unique fingerprints, half the time a different biological gender, sometimes even a different blood type. Yet, those whose worldview demands the right to terminate a pregnancy for any reason (or no reason at all) will insist: “It’s my body!” Others will say, in spite of fingerprints, brainwaves, the ability to feel pain, a heartbeat as early as 6 weeks and other miraculous developments that, “It’s just a clump of tissue!” Those statements are religious statements. They are made by those who hold a worldview that denies even the possibility of personhood for the pre-born. One could call it a religion of “Choice”, where Choice is a sacred idol and the exercise of personal choice is a sacrament. When adherents of this religion engage in political action and seek to influence legislation, they apply absolute devotion to the cause. Those who lobby for unfettered Choice are lobbying for an absolute value they claim to be a moral one.

Such positions are contradictory on several levels but then, religious beliefs like this are sometimes clung to in spite of conflicting evidence. For one thing, those who worship and serve the goddess of Choice, freely and unapologetically deny any choice to the preborn. While the mother may be inconvenienced (sometimes seriously) by a pregnancy, the aborted child is denied the opportunity to ever make a choice about anything. Secondly, the devotees of unfettered Choice generally disapprove of pro-lifers exercising their choice about what to believe and how to express those beliefs. It is commonly assumed that only pro-lifers hold views that are based on absolutes, but the absolute support by devotees of abortion Choice under any circumstances puts the lie to the claim. The attempt to quash dissent and deprive pro-lifers of a voice is silent proof. In several provinces of Canada, pro-lifers are forbidden to exercise free speech near abortion clinics or even to stand there in silent prayer. Across the country, pro-lifers are compelled by law (against their choice) to support abortion with their tax dollars. Those whose worldview convictions compel them to support unfettered access to abortion, even if it restricts the choices of others, even if it ends a human life, are simply living out their religious worldview. They believe they are right. The very right to peaceful protest, that ultimately resulted in the legalization of abortion, is denied to those who speak for the voiceless preborn.

Another example would be how secular and non-secular faiths have collided over the issue of creation and the public teaching of theories of origin. While Christians—and people of many other faiths—believe in a divine Creator, others hold to a secular view that ascribes the existence of the Universe to a series of random, undirected events. Those who believe in an intelligent Creator—who made all things, caused the planets to orbit, the sun to shine, waters to flow and life to exist in all its magnificent variety and beauty—are assumed to be religious, while those who put their trust in the Big Bang (for instance) are assumed to be practical, scientific people. Both groups believe themselves to be right. The secularists believe that their religious worldview is the only one deserving of representation in the laws and classrooms of the nation. In both worldviews there are assumptions:

Christians assume God. Pre-existent, intelligent, all-powerful, creative. The source of everything. (7)

Those who claim that the material Universe has come about through random events assume:

  • either the eternal existence of, or the sudden appearance of matter and energy. (where did the first amazing atom come from? what causes electrons to rotate around the nucleus?)
  • that random events could produce order instead of only chaos.
  • that our ability to think, to plan, to reason, to love, to create . . . our self-awareness and the existence of conscience and of our ability to reproduce, to interact . . . are somehow the result of random events over immeasurable periods of time.
  • no overarching purpose or meaning in life; (how could there be meaning in a random, undirected series of events?)

In other words, Christians and adherents of many other religions assume an intelligent God, capable of creating matter, energy and life . . . pre-existing and displaying through the material Universe, a wisdom and power greater than our own. Those who reject a personal, all-powerful, all-wise God, are forced to believe in something even more fantastic: a universe with no plan, no purpose, no design, no source. If they posit a beginning, it demands an explosion with no firecracker and nobody to light the fuse. The very elements which make up our earth (and who knows what other elements may exist on other planets or in other galaxies) are called into existence with no composer, no designer, no author, no workman.

Mankind would rather believe in a thousand impossibilities . . .

            than in one impossible God who hears and sees.               Rod Taylor, 1996

At any rate, it takes faith in Something or Someone to even live as a human being. We trust that the sun will come up tomorrow. We trust that the molecules in our coffee cup will hold together, that gravity will work today as it did yesterday, that we can walk upon solid ground without falling through into the molten rock below. We all have our beliefs.

We also have implicit trust in the idea of human relationships and interaction. Every one of us understands the moral absolutes of “Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t murder”. Unfortunately, we don’t all keep those commandments.  When mankind fails, it fails badly. Human beings will make excuses for their failures; they will seek to justify themselves. But every human being holds to a belief system that is to him or her a worldview as absolute as any of the world’s recognized religions. Not every person is involved in partisan politics, but every person would like his or her personal worldview to define the guiding principles of world in which we live.

When we are told that faith has no place in politics, we must ask, “Which faith?” and “Why not?” The tiresome canard we hear so often is that “religion causes wars”. Again, “What do you mean by religion?” If “religion” includes all worldview assumptions about existence and the meaning of life, I would agree that religious ideas (worldview differences) can divide. After all, contradictory ideas cannot all be true. But it is not Christianity or any other recognized “world religion” that has wrought the most havoc in the past 100 years. In the 20th Century, it wasn’t Christianity but the secular religion of atheistic Communism that killed more people than any other single force. (8) If religion is the greatest cause of wars, then atheistic Communism must be a religion. The Nazi Holocaust, with all its frightful consequences, was driven by a fiery, passionate, demonically-inspired set of beliefs that constituted a very twisted, ungodly, secular religion; it showed its fangs most viciously against Judeo-Christian religious views. (9)

As we face the challenges of the 21st Century—economic, geo-political, health, environmental, technological, military and social challenges—let us be honest about the reasons why we accept or reject policy proposals. Let’s not say that morality has no place in public policy. Let’s patiently explain why we believe that our own set of moral values—based on our own set of worldview assumptions—are preferable to those proposed by others. Everyone has a religion and that religion will guide his or her opinions. Ideas must be allowed to compete fairly in the public policy marketplace. In a western democracy, to advance one’s own worldview agenda by declaring contrary opinions illegitimate in the public square, is to admit that one’s own set of assumptions may not withstand the rigours of debate. The question is not whether religion should influence politics, but which religious worldviews will contribute best to further a peaceful and prosperous society.

I close with my own worldview statement, based on my own belief in a personal, living God. I am thankful that humankind is “made in His image” as the Bible says. I’m thankful that He has given to us—male and female, of every ethnicity—His own attributes: the desire and ability to create, to love, to think, to plan, to give, to nurture, to repair. I’m thankful that He is teaching us patience, self-sacrifice, generosity, kindness, humility, forgiveness (moral values shared by the adherents of many formal religions AND by many whose religious worldviews deny a personal God) . . . and that He calls us to value those attributes in others. As we seek ways to improve dialogue and to achieve a safe, prosperous, compassionate and generous society, let’s allow others to express their ideas and their ideals; the proponents of those views may deny it, but they’re all religious views.

References

  1. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). ‘Faith’. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved April 22, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith
  2. Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. ‘Faith’. Retrieved April 22, 2020 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith
  3. Bishop, John, ‘Faith’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/faith/
  4. King James Bible, Book of Hebrews, ch 11:1 “Faith” Retrieved April 22, 2020 https://www.bible.com/bible/1/HEB.11.KJV
  5. Merriam-Webster, ‘Politics’. Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Accessed Apr. 22, 2020. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics
  6. Melvin I. Urofsky, ‘Dred Scott Decision’, Encyclopedia Britannica, Pub. Feb. 28, 2020 Retrieved April 22, 2020 https://www.britannica.com/event/Dred-Scott-decision
  7. Jonathan Sarfati, Creation.com, Feb. 8, 2008 Retrieved April 22, 2020 https://creation.com/science-creation-and-evolutionism-refutation-of-nas
  8. Stone Washington, ‘1917-2017: 100 Years of Communism=100 Million Deaths’, Ellis Washington Report, Retrieved April 22, 2020 http://www.elliswashingtonreport.com/2017/10/24/1917-2017-100-years-of-communism-100-million-deaths/
  9. Michael Berenbaum, ‘Holocaust’, Encyclopedia Britannica, Jan. 14, 2020, Retrieved April 22, 2020 https://www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust/
Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Party Leader, Christian Heritage Party.

[2] Individual Publication Date: April 22, 2020: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Taylor R. A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and State [Online].April 2020; 22(B). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Taylor, R. (2020, April 22). A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and StateRetrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): TAYLOR, R. A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and State. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 22.B, April. 2020. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Taylor, Rod. 2020. “A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and State.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 22.B. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Taylor, Rod “A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and State.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 22.B (April 2020). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity.

Harvard: Taylor, R. 2020, ‘A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and StateIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 22.B. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity>.

Harvard, Australian: Taylor, R. 2020, ‘A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and StateIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 22.B., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Rod Taylor. “A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and State.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 22.B (2020):April. 2020. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Taylor R. A Sacred Polity: Untangling the Threads of Church and State [Internet]. (2020, April 22(B). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/sacred-polity.

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