What follows is a response to my recent Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent News. You can read the letter here. This response to my letter is a good example of the way a lot of people think in rural, small town, NW Ohio. My response is in italics and indented.
Mr. Gerencser is trying to undermine the historical importance the Bible played in the building of our country’s government by villainizing it and by stating; “that the moral code of conduct of a particular religion has no business being codified into law within a secular state”.
Not at all. I readily admit the significant part the Bible played in the history and foundation of the United States. I also admit the McGuffey Readers played a vital part in the education of countless children in the United States. No one suggests that we should use McGuffey Readers in our schools today and the same should go for the Bible.
The Bible is an antiquated book, written thousands of years ago, for a people whose lives bear little to no connection with how we live in the 21st century. It is irrelevant. In fact, the Bible often stands in the way of us becoming a just and progressive society.
Look at who the culture warriors are. Most all of them have a Bible in their hand as they demand that the citizens of a secular state submit to the commands of their particular sect’s God. This kind of thinking should be offensive to all those who value democracy and freedom.
I readily admit the Bible played a part in the making of our laws. But then, there are a lot of laws that are contrary to what the Bible teaches. Why do we not see Christians demanding non-Biblical laws be repealed?
Besides, no Christian really wants the laws of the Bible codified as the law of the State. It would cramp their lifestyle. Imagine, no NFL football because of the command to keep the Sabbath.
What is the Bible? It’s a book, an inanimate object. Mr. Gerencser states that; “The Bible has been used in the past to justify all kinds of vile behavior.” The Bible itself is not responsible for any of the reprehensible acts that have been committed throughout history and have been justified by misquoting the Bible. It is the person behind the act that is responsible; not just for committing them but also for using the Bible in a lie to further their own agenda. No one will inherit the kingdom of God, if the Bible is to be taken literally. It is all of us, myself included. Why, because of our sin nature, and because of this we have all of these “vile acts” throughout history. But the Bible is not just a book, it is God breathed, meaning it came from God.
So which is it? Is the Bible an inanimate object or is it a God breathed (inspired) book?
You would have me believe that reprehensible acts have been committed by people who found justification for their acts misquoting the Bible. The Bible is not the problem, people are. I don’t have a problem with your thinking here.
However, because no two Christians can agree on what the Bible says and people routinely use their interpretations of the Bible to justify acts that sane people consider evil, we should be able to agree that the Bible should not be consulted at all when it comes to matters of State. How could we ever determine whose interpretation is right?
I want leaders who use reason and common sense when they make decisions on my behalf. I don’t want them consulting religious leaders or the Bible before they act. As leaders in a secular state they should only concern themselves with making decisions that are in the best interest of the American people. (hint: banning abortion, demanding creationism be taught in public schools, withholding civil rights from same sex couples, and requiring sectarian prayers in school are not in the best interest of the American people)
You want to take the Bible literally, be my guest. However, we live in a secular state and literal interpretations of the Bible or any interpretation of any religious text for that matter, should play no part in our government’s decision making process.
I am not suggesting that Christians can’t be a part of our government. Since the majority of Americans are Christians. (albeit in name only) I don’t expect them to become atheists when they take office. I do, however, expect them to act in the best interest of the American people.
I want leaders who seek the counsel of good men and women rather than trying to divine the teachings and prophecies of an antiquated book written thousands of years ago.
We the United States of America are not a secular state, but a constitutional republic. Our Founding Fathers created our government based upon the Constitution which was based upon three separate documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and the Bible. Because of this our government is controlled by the Constitution. That is why it is called a, “living, breathing document”. We have been a Christian nation from the very beginning and many of us still are. Because our Constitution was based upon the Bible, that our government is based upon the Bible and the only way to change that is to change the Constitution. Hence, the fight we have been having over the last several decades.
Uh…we are a secular constitutional republic.
Uh, most people of your stripe do not consider the Constitution a living , breathing document. I suspect you are misidentifying yourself here. Most people who hold your view take a strict constructionist view of the Constitution. Strict constructionists view the Constitution like they do the Ten Commandments, written in stone.
I believe the Constitution is a living, breathing document. Over hundreds of years, as our nation continues to grow, evolve, and mature, our understanding of the Constitution changes. In my view, it matters not what the Founders meant the Constitution to say. What matters is what it is interpreted to mean now. Our laws have evolved and changed over time and I can only hope they will continue to do so.
Mr. Gerencser also stated that, “Our legal system should reflect what is best for the American people. How best to live as a pluralistic people in a secular state.”
Do you know what the second sentence in his quote means? Pluralism is the theory that a multitude of groups should govern the United States, not the people as a whole. These groups or organizations include trade unions, civil rights activists, environmentalists and business or financial lobbyists.
I have no idea where you got your definition of pluralism.
Diane Eck of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University writes:
The plurality of religious traditions and cultures has come to characterize every part of the world today. But what is pluralism? Here are four points to begin our thinking:
First, pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity. Diversity can and has meant the creation of religious ghettoes with little traffic between or among them. Today, religious diversity is a given, but pluralism is not a given; it is an achievement. Mere diversity without real encounter and relationship will yield increasing tensions in our societies.
Second, pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference. Tolerance is a necessary public virtue, but it does not require Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and ardent secularists to know anything about one another. Tolerance is too thin a foundation for a world of religious difference and proximity. It does nothing to remove our ignorance of one another, and leaves in place the stereotype, the half-truth, the fears that underlie old patterns of division and violence. In the world in which we live today, our ignorance of one another will be increasingly costly.
Third, pluralism is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments. The new paradigm of pluralism does not require us to leave our identities and our commitments behind, for pluralism is the encounter of commitments. It means holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.
Fourth, pluralism is based on dialogue. The language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Dialogue means both speaking and listening, and that process reveals both common understandings and real differences. Dialogue does not mean everyone at the “table” will agree with one another. Pluralism involves the commitment to being at the table — with one’s commitments.
I would also remind you that we do not have a government structure where the people as a whole govern. We elect people to represent us. If we like what they do while in office we reelect them. If we don’t we boot them out of office.
Majority rule democracy would quickly devolve into anarchy and oppression. Our current government structure rightly recognizes the right of minorities to find redress of their grievances.
We have all been witness to the glowing success of this in action over the last 3½ years. Just look at how certain groups within our government have tried to bail out the automotive industry and the housing market. All they have succeeded in doing is taking over the private market with an already failing model and enslaved our future generations with debt. A secular state remains neutral in matters of religion and treats all its citizens equal regardless of religion. Our Founding Fathers did not want our fledgling country to be sucked back into what they had just left where your religious stance could get you killed, and they wanted God to be the father of our nation. It all comes down to one thing: Do you believe in God?
Are you suggesting that the state should not be neutral in matters of religion? Are you suggesting that certain religions (I am assume the Christian religion) should receive preferential treatment? I assume you are advocating a Christian theocracy.
Yet, you turn right around suggest that our forefathers fled a theocracy to find freedom here in America. I am confused by your logic here, but then most Christian theocrats confuse me.
Where does the Constitution say the Christian God is the father of the United States?
Whether one believes in God is of no importance except for Christians who make believing in their God a matter of moral goodness. Since most of the evil acts perpetrated by the U.S. government over the course of its history were authorized by Christian men, it is proper and right for us to ask WHY anyone should think Christianity gives a person moral goodness?
I get it. God matters to you. The Bible matters to you. However, as a fellow citizen of the United States, God doesn’t matter to me and I find the Bible offensive and irrelevant. Since we are fellow citizens in a secular state we must find a way to co-exist. Telling me that I must bow to your God and follow your God’s law book is not co-existence, it is a declaration of war.
“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.” — George Washington.
You do know that George Washington was a deist?
I will leave you with a few George Washington quotes of my own:
“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.”
“The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institutions may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances, be made subservient to the vilest of purposes.”