The North Carolina bill that would have established a state religion is dead, thanks be to God. It was killed on Thursday, the day before I wrote my post, but I only found out today.

I am astonished and troubled, though, that about a third of Americans said in a recent poll that Christianity should be the official religion of their state. 32% even said they would favor a constitutional amendment making Christianity the established religion of the US!

Those numbers should be zero, if people were smart and really cared about faith, the common good, and the life of the nation. That sort of entanglement is not good for government or religion.

At least the majority in the poll thought both possibilities were a bad idea. But the numbers are still astounding, so I say: God help us!

© 2013 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

Source:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/06/christianity-state-religion_n_3022255.html?ir=Religion

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Some lawmakers in North Carolina want to establish Christianity as the official religion of the state. They say separation of church and state applies only to the federal government.

The bill introduced on April 1 (no, it’s not a joke) reads:

“SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

“SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.”

The impetus for the measure was a suit in Rowan County filed on behalf of three citizens who objected to the local Board of Commissioners opening meetings exclusively with Christian prayer, thus giving preference to one religion.

Of course, the legislators really care nothing about religion. This is a power play, plain and simple. As a person of faith and a leader of a Christian church, I object to and am disgusted by this blatant disregard, in the name of Christianity and Christ, for neighbors of other faiths or no faith. Jesus said “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and echoing Leviticus, called on his followers to love our neighbors as ourselves. How does running roughshod over the feelings and viewpoints of others honor either principle? Clearly it doesn’t. Jesus must be weeping over what power-hungry and insensitive politicians are doing supposedly in his name.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing has been around since the Pilgrims landed. The Puritans, contrary to what we were taught, did not come to these shores seeking freedom in general. They sought freedom of religion only for themselves. People like Roger Williams were exiled. Native American spirituality was looked on as heathen and devilish. As Richard T. Hughes notes: “The Puritans sought freedom for themselves but for no one else” (Myths America Lives By: 28).

Whether in the 17th century or the 21st, Christian faith is not about imposing a viewpoint on our neighbors by laws or violence. It’s about seeking the common good, together with all people of good will; being open to the insights of others that may and will enrich our perceptions of what God is doing in the world; and most of all, displaying humble love that regards the other as more important than ourselves (1 Corinthians 13; Philippians 2:3).

Not even the bill’s sponsors expect it to go anywhere. God grant that it be so. May he defeat all such wrong-headed and idolatrous attempts to force others to worship and live in a way a few declare to be right. 

© 2013 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

Sources:

“States’ Rights And Religion: North Carolina Legislators Say U.S. Constitution Doesn’t Apply To Them” https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/states-rights-and-religion-north-carolina-legislators-say-us-constitution

“North Carolina May Declare Official State Religion Under New Bill” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/03/north-carolina-religion-bill_n_3003401.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=040313&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

For an excellent discussion of matters of the common good and politics, see Arianna Huffington at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/jim-wallis-on-gods-side_b_3001635.html and Jim Wallis at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/on-gods-side-for-the-comm_b_2973104.html.