Sunday, February 23, 2014

Can true faith be truly lived in a theocracy?

It seems that every time I go online nowadays, I read another story of a local government voting on laws to make their populace behave in a way they consider Christian.
I have several problems with this.
First and most glaringly obvious is the separation of church and state. It almost, it SHOULD, go without saying. But this post isn't about that, because separation of church and state is a constitutional right. This post is about two ways "morality" laws dilute religious practise .

The first ( which perhaps ties more to freedom of religious expression than to dilution of faith) is that of interpretation. Those advocating laws in the interest of "Christian values" rarely align with my own expression of Christian value. To put it briefly, any law that makes it harder for my poor neighbour, my queer neighbour, my atheist neighbour, my Muslim neighbour, my addicted neighbour, my promiscuous neighbour, (the list goes on) to be treated with full dignity, kindness, and compassion is one that violates MY expression of Christian values. It doesn't just establish one religion over another, it establishes on particular interpretation of one particular religion over another. Now, unless I have my history wrong (and I don't), that's just the thing our forefathers and foremothers came to this country to escape.

The second, perhaps more esoteric one, is the one I find most important for those who want to live out a life of faith. When the law of the land requires us to behave in a "Biblical" way, how can we say we're living a life of faith at all? I'll use an example that isn't likely to be too contentious and upon which the Bible is actually absolutely clear (unlike a lot of the contentious issues).

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."

There's no getting around this one if you're of the Judeo-Christian tradition; it's one of the Ten Commandments. Yet most of us would agree that it would be ridiculous to make a law making it illegal to take the Lord's name in vain. Not only does it violate separation of church and state AND freedom of expression, it would be next to impossible to enforce!
But that's not the most important reason why for people of faith.

The most important reason is that honoring God with our words is meaningless if it's done out of fear of the legal repercussions. If I refrain from using the Lord's name in vain because it's against the law, I'm not expressing my faith. I'm not expressing reverence.

I'm just staying out of trouble.

Laws that make people "act Christian" don't promote holiness. To be holy is to be set apart. Religious people can't do that when the law of the land imposes a narrow range of action on people, and when the CHOICE to not act that way is taken away from them. Only when we have freedom can we truly act out of faith.