Our country was founded in a certain religious belief structure. “In God We Trust” our money declares – though that seems rather odd in these days of rabid over-consumption. And the Declaration of Independence, one of our most “sacred” documents, explicitly states that men (ok – let’s include women here too!) are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
But this does not lead to the assumption that church and state should necessarily mingle on an every day basis, nor that church beliefs, assumptions, dictates should form the primary basis for our government. Carter said he believes the saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.” The two are separate. This humble man of integrity, who is deeply religious, believes that Church and State must maintain a distance, must keep separate households.
Months back I read an article about some married couples who choose to live apart – one couple profiled in detail in the article live across the street from one another. Perhaps we should do the same when it comes to Church and State. The Church can of course be next door, or across the street, or down the road, from the houses of government – and the two may meet, talk, share a meal, perhaps a rousing good roll in the hay (well, perhaps not…), but even if they live side by side in townhouses, with one common wall, they should not tear down the wall that keeps them separate. Let them deal with the reality of walking out the front door and down the path to knock upon one another’s doors. Let them share a bottle of wine over dinner and then return to their own homes.
But the metaphor here is not apt, for though couples may choose to live apart, they are still a couple, married, and they may be very close. How close do we want our government to religious practice and belief? And whose practice, whose belief?
I caught briefly a snippet of a Barbara Walters show on heaven the other day. It was mindless dribble for the most part, so I changed the channel; but a friend tells me she caught a part which quoted both born-again Christians and fundamentalist Muslims. Both groups believe that if one doesn’t believe their way, one is going to hell. And both groups are surely, firmly convinced of the righteousness of their stance. One person quoted said that hell was being burned, then being removed from the fire only to be placed back in and burned again – over and over.
Why would one want to believe in a god that would burn you over and over because you did not believe in him in a particular way (or for any reason for that matter)? What causes such absolutist thinking – such an emotionally and socially charged, cruel, narrow outlook on the world?
If that is truly the way it is – if I must believe as the fundamentalists say or risk going to hell, and be burned over and over again, then I choose to stand on the mountaintop, stick my finger in the air, and cry out to God, “Fuck you! You want to burn me – here I am. Come and get me you fucker!”
And I also choose to stick my finger out to those who would destroy the very thing they proclaim to love – our country – by tearing down the wall that divides church and state.
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s – and unto God what is God’s.
And for a different take on being endowed by the Creator – check this out: