Separation No Longer
It’s time we be held accountable for our arrogance in the 1990s. By insisting on a strict embargo on religion in any state institution, we in the secular community left a significant segment of our society without a leg to stand on or a culture to connect with. The result of this marginalization was the creation of a sub-United States, complete with its own institutions and infrastructure.
It was here, in the sub-America, where believers fell prey to radical demagogues who used ACLU objections to trivial quibbles like Christmas trees in public schools and nativity scenes on public property to convince otherwise rational Americans that the Christian faith – and by extension the country itself – was under assault. Overtime, these radical groups developed significant bases from which they plotted to “take back the country for Christ.” I know, having lived through it as a student in an evangelical school system.
Now, in the final days of the Bush Administration (an unauthentic evangelical administration, but perhaps the closest thing we’ve ever had), 75% of Americans realize just how devastating these ideas have been for the country, indeed the world. But don’t think for a second that the religious Right is solely to blame for this.
The radical Left was also given too much ear in the years leading up to this mess too. Would it have really killed anyone to let a nativity scene be erected on public property during the holidays? To put a Christmas tree in a public school? Hang the Ten Commandments in a classroom? Allow individual teachers the option of beginning class with a five-minute prayer? Perhaps if we on the Left had conceded these ceremonies to the religious Right, there wouldn’t have been this great sense of dejectedness in their community. The belief that the country had been “lost” might not have been so strong for them.
My hope is that, if/when Obama becomes president, he will work to find ways to bring Evangelicals into the mainstream community (his endorsement of the Faith-Based Initiative is an imperfect start.) This is not to say that there are policies which could prove disastrous if he conceded, but hopefully we can come to a point where we have legitimate discussions and exchanges of worldviews. Is it possible to debate gridlock issues like abortion with less rhetoric and more reason? I think so, despite the cynicism I expressed earlier this month.
For myself, I’m going to start making a point to talk to the people I had previously dismissed as “crazy” and see if we can’t find some common ground.