Monday, November 01, 2004

On Godless Constitutions

Last Friday the heads of state in Europe signed the European Union's first constitution. The Pope viewed it as a setback. Instead of explicitly recognizing Christianity, the European Constitution separates church and state and upholds religious freedom.

Two hundred and fifteen years ago the United States of America became the first nation in history to separate church and state and grant religious freedom to all its citizens. The most reputable religious leaders of the day viewed it as a setback. They wanted a system of government that united church and state like the ones in Europe. They denounced the new constitution as being "a godless constitution" and prophesied doom and gloom for people of faith. Today, however, faith is recognized as being more vibrant and extensive in America than it is in Europe.

Ironically, at the very moment when Europe is officially endorsing the principle of voluntary religion that made America so attractive to people of conviction searching for religious freedom, many Americans are being mobilized to cast votes that will ensure legislation and adjudication that will require every citizen to acknowledge a religious "worldview," practice a form of "ceremonial deism," and live by the moral codes of a subset of a single religion.

Should the theocrats succeed, there is little doubt in my mind that, two hundred years from now, faith will be more vibrant and extensive in Europe than it is in America. Faiths resort to force when they are in decay. Strong faiths grow by the persuasiveness of their convictions.

1 comment:

Jon said...

Very intriguing idea, Bruce. I think you might have something there. Church and state have never been completely separate, and in some European countries, the state levies Church taxes. Definitely a cause for resentment.

Separation allows the possibility of choice--and without choice there can be no choosing to follow God.