Why Religious Convictions Must Inform Public Policy
By: Robert E. Meyer
During the run-up to the recent November elections various arguments were made, pro and con, on a gamut of issues. On topics such as same-sex marriage or the stem-cell controversy, I found no exhortations more egregious, then those insisting that people of religious faith ought to leave their convictions in the bedroom closet on election day. What could be more absurd!
This is the sort of thinking that comes from people whose moral compass needle has been dashed on the rocks of indifference and ignorance, or spins out of control as it points in all directions toward relativism. Life is conveniently segregated between the secular and sacred so as to justify this apparent contradiction.
If you are a secularist, then your ideological convictions must be respected as part of the public debate. If you are a theist, having your conscience influenced by a Judeo-Christian ethic, then your ideas must be sequestered from public policy. It isn’t that you should think of yourself as a second class citizen, it’s just that we have a separation of church and state, you know.
Well, the Founders of our country didn’t believe in such an antithetical relationship between religious conviction and public policy.
President John Adams declared “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people, it is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
Adams understood that true liberty could only be maintained if people affirmed this measurement of discipline applied to the precepts of our Constitution. It could not be maintained if people used the Constitution for establishing unlimited rights to personal license. That would be anarchy.
George Washington, in his Farewell Address, stated the following about religion in the public venue.
“Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Obviously our Founders would have viewed today’s understanding of the concept utter nonsense.
Look at how many religious concepts have been reinterpreted contrary to their historically normative understanding, in order to align with secularism and moral relativism.
Once upon a time someone who believed in living out the tenets of the Judeo-Christian ethic, was once considered a “decent, God-fearing person.” Today, such an individual is considered mean-spirited, hatefu and bigoted
“Judge not, lest ye be judged,” once meant that we should not condemn others for the same faults we have. Today it means, you shouldn’t discern between good and bad behavior.
“Turn the other cheek,” once meant that we should not trade insult for insult. Today it means that it is wrong to defend oneself or the nation .
Tolerance was once a virtue which was practiced by graciously enduring those holding a differing opinion. Today it is a plank of moral relativism and means that all ideas must be esteemed as equal truths.
“Loving everybody” used to depict an unconditional compassion for your fellow human. Today it implies that you must approve of and celebrate his or her behavior without regard to morality.
The concept of separation of church and state meant that churches were the primary purveyors of goodwill and charity, while the government punished criminal offense. Today the phrase means that you can’t make public policy based on your religious convictions.
The irony is that the modern liberalized versions of these concepts are said to be the teachings of the scriptures. Yet the older, historically normative understanding of these edicts are rejected precisely because they come from the “Good Book.”