For Gods Sake, Keep Politicians Out of Religion
In the six months since September 11, Americans have sought how to define our better selves.
The images that mock us from television or the tabloids and glossies in supermarket check-out lines dont do us justice in these altered times. Its our purposeful selves weve been seeking, as we wondered how we might have behaved had it been us forced to take our own measure.
But one aspect of this search gives us pause. Thats the drive to equate ethics which are civic standards we all share with religion where many of us differ.
Were seeing the lines blur in Calvert County, where the County Commissioners not only want to start their meeting with prayer but want to put prayer in schools and workplaces.
And were seeing it in states, from Indiana to Pennsylvania, where officials want to boost morality by posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
When were looking for a higher purpose, most of us have been taught to turn to religion. Its the rare person who hasnt called on God to help us understand, and to guide and bless us in these troubled times.
But like our founding fathers, who created the worlds first democracy by separating church from state, we see danger in turning religion to secular purposes.
The greatest danger is that authority demanded by religion is absolute. Harness the omnipotence of God for secular purposes and you get just the kind of alliance that motivates most extremist forces disrupting the world and threatening Americas safety even to our counties and towns.
The second danger is that, because we all define God differently (and some people not at all), no matter what prayer we say, it will never be everybodys God we pray to. And that will divide us in our search for our best selves rather than bring us together.
We have no argument with Calvert Countys or Indiana, Pennsylvania or Tennessees need to sanctify our public purpose. These are tough times, and to get through them, well need our best selves, molded to the image of our national heroes.
But we still feel the need to gently remind elected officials that it wasnt as priests, rabbis or ministers that we hired them. Where, when, how and with whom we pray is our own business and Gods business not theirs.