We must not allow governments to impose Christian faith by legislation, nor should we demand undue advantages for the church. The church must be free to speak to civil authorities, neither claiming expert knowledge it does not have, nor remaining silent when God’s Word is clear (A Declaration of Faith, a document commended to the Presbyterian Church [USA] for liturgy and study).

…[W]e consider the rights of private judgment, in all matters thst respect religion, as universal and inalienable. We do not even wish to see any religious constitution aided by the civil power, further than may be necessary for protection and security, and at the same time, be equal and common to all others (Presbyterian [USA] Book of Order F-3.0101b).

As I thought about what I wrote yesterday, I realized I may have left the impression that I wanted politicians to leave the Church alone , that the Church or more broadly, religion of whatever sort, could demand for itself the privilege of special attention by government to its viewpoints. That was not my meaning. I want to clarify with this postscript that I also believe the Church/religion needs to keep its collective nose out of the government’s business.

I mean that while religion in our nation can and should be a partner in conversations, it cannot expect that its viewpoints will be more respected or put into practice in legislation than any other sector of society, like science or medicine or the military or  those who are thoroughly secular or the individual exercising his or her right of conscience free of religious dictates. Any attempt to control, not merely speak to, the actions of government, such as we have seen in the past week about certain health programs, is to me is the height of arrogance.

Maybe because I’m a freedom-loving Presbyterian and American, but I don’t want some church hierarch dictating my actions. “For freedom Christ has set us free” and”God alone is Lord of the conscience.” Religion can and ought to speak, sometimes with a loud voice, on matters of justice. But what has happened in the national conversation recently sounds to me more like the arrogant demand for unwarranted and undeserved power.

© 2012 Tom Cheatham

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