Revisiting separation of church and state.

I've written on this topic before and probably will again.

Like most people, as you go through life, your beliefs and opinions on things change. Maybe you'll completely change your mind about something. Maybe you'll look deeper into why you believe something and that belief will become deeper, sharper, more defined. Maybe you'll stop believing in something all together. I say all this to clarify - the things I post here are my personal brain dump. Nothing I post here should be taken as my manifesto on anything. I can, and probably will contradict myself on several issues. I just writes them as I sees them at that point in time.

So, here's what's going through my brain today.

After my last post regarding California's decision on same-sex unions and the evangelical community's reaction to it, I got to thinking....

My friend Adam corrected me on something that I had taken on the word of an elder at our church to be true: Churches aren't allowed to discuss political issues. As I said, that was a mistaken belief. On some level, EVERYTHING is political. But the fact is, churches are allowed to talk about issues that are questions of morality, even if they cross into what some deem the realm of politics. Same-sex marriage, abortion, pre-marital sex, just to name a few.

By the same token, in the political realm, it's impossible to avoid issues that some deem religious. The church that Barak Obama used to attend makes national news almost every day. During the campaigning, the beliefs of Mitt Romney were debated and discussed in the context of how good a president a member of the LDS church might make.

Someone once said that man is a political creature. Man (mankind) is also a creature of faith. That is to say that when it comes to God - or Allah or Buddha or Brahman or nature - everyone believes something, even if their belief is that they don't believe anything.

As such, this brings to bear the question, exactly how can we separate Church and State if mankind is both a political creature and a faithful creature?

This is where it's important to draw the line between the individual and the "organization". An individual's beliefs don't constitute "church". Likewise, one's political opinions don't constitute "state". The principle of "separation of church and state" cannot be applied to the individual. It's not like one can shut down the "religious" part of his brain when he goes to vote, nor can he shut down his political beliefs when he goes to church.

In my post cited above I rambled angily about how some are revising history books by moving any mention of anything that might be religious in the name of "separation of church and state". This doesn't change the facts that throughout the history of the world individuals have acted on their faith beliefs. This doesn't make it "church". The same applies to those who have acted on their political views, rightly or wrongly, doing so doesn't make them "the state". Teaching or writing history without paying attention to these facts is to present history that is not the truth. Likewise, those studying the Bible, writing books and commentaries need to keep the Bible as a whole and not pick and choose a verse here and a verse there to justify their positions.

So what is meant by "Church" and "State" and the separation thereof? First of all, nowhere in the Constitution is the phrase "separation of Church and State" used. The phrase comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a group of Baptist leaders, and is not in any legislation. However, it has become the rule of the land and has been defined by the courts. (See my post cited above for a brief description of Everson v. Board of Education, 1947 and the writings of James Madison.) The church is not an individual's faith beliefs, it is the organized church, the denominations and individual churches with their own leadership. Likewise, the state is not people, it is the governing body. Here in the United States, it would be the Federal government - the President, Congress, and Supreme Court - the states' governments - and the local governing bodies.

As I see it, government can't tell people how to practice religion and an organized church can't tell people how to practice politics. That doesn't mean that a person's beliefs, which are truly a part of him, whether political or religious won't dictate how he acts, thinks, speaks, prays, and votes. Government and the organized church cannot dictate what is in a persons mind. The rights of the individual remain sacred. Even if they weren't, the law of the land or the rule of the church cannot get inside someone's head.

I had a point when I started, but it seems to have slipped my mind. I guess, what I'm trying to say is that when it comes to issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, et. al. The church cannot tell people how to vote or participate on a political level. Likewise, the government, or "the state" cannot tell people what to believe or what they can do on a religious level.

So, on the topic of same-sex marriage in the state of California: the state can decide whether to allow it or not, but it cannot tell people to accept it as a moral position if such a position is against their sincerely held religious beliefs. It cannot tell churches how they can use their own property and it cannot force them to perform a religious ceremony to add pomp and circumstance to a civil union. Likewise, the church cannot tell it's members to vote a certain way to overturn a decision made by the state. It can say all it wants about the morality of same-sex unions, but it cannot participate in the political process.

California cannot tell it's residents what to think or feel about same-sex unions. The passage of a law or the decision of a court may make it the law of the land, but that doesn't mean that it has to be accepted as a moral position by those who see it as immoral.

It all comes down to what's in a person's head. Church and State co-exist there and there's really nothing either one can do about it.

Too much rambling, so I'll get off my soapbox now.