I’ve heard the arguments before, and they seem to be getting louder…approaching deafening levels. The cries of the religious right, proclaiming that the government is “taking God out of our society!” “They’ve taken God out of our schools!” So, God is someone who can be led around by the hand, perhaps handcuffed and escorted off of the premises? “Put God back in our schools!” Ah, so God is an object, that can be moved at will by those in power? What exactly is the religious right trying to say here?
According to Christianity’s ruling guidepost, the Bible, God is the creator of all that we see, hear, touch, smell and taste…everything in the observable universe. He, according to the Bible, exists outside and above the knowable reaches of existence. God is supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient and omni-present. If this is so, then how exactly is it possible for man, one of God’s creations, to remove him from somewhere?
Well, let’s look at exactly what is being challenged, removed and / or otherwise affected in society. In the arena of public education, the endorsement of any single religion over another, or religion over irreligion, has been all but eliminated. This is the logical result of several court rulings, including those of SCOTUS, which are in line with the concepts enshrined in the first amendment’s “Free Exercise” and “Establishment” clauses. In other words, the government has established that taxpayer dollars, which fund our schools, won’t be used to proffer or prop up any particular religious dogma or preference. In essence, “faith-based biblical instruction” has been removed from the classroom. In other words, spoken words have been removed from the classroom. Since when did God become words, invented and spoken by Man?
Bibles, Qu’rans and other religious texts have been removed from some school libraries, due to a desire by school districts to be compliant with state and federal laws concerning religious neutrality. In others, religious texts can still be accessed by students as valid reference material. Otherwise, students are still entitled and allowed to bring Bibles to school with them. (I know this for a fact, due to today’s call to the assistant principal of our local high school.) In the cases where these texts have been removed, it’s simply a case of books being removed. Since when did God become a book? (I know of only one other major religion that has elevated a religious text to the level of venerated, bordering on worship…)
Let’s examine what’s being removed from city, county, state and federal properties; religious icons and symbols, such as crosses, menorahs and other representative items. Plaques bearing scriptural references and statements based in a particular religion. In other words, objects have been removed from these places. Since when did God become a physical object, invented and fashioned by the hands of Man?
So let’s recap. The things, and that’s exactly what they are folks…things that have been removed or otherwise displaced from the taxpayer-funded, government run establishments are words, books and objects. Once again, these are all material and / or tangible “five senses” items. Isn’t the God of the Bible supposed to transcend the material, tangible world?
According to the Bible, Matthew 18:20 states that; “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” So if two or three students gather together at break time to pray, God is there. That’s what the book says, people. This means that the religious right’s assertion that God is being, or has the ability to be removed from schools…is contradicted by scripture! The same goes for government buildings, public places…wherever people congregate. If two or more people are gathered together in prayer, according to Matthew 18:20, God is there.
Now, let’s examine exactly what it means to be “idolatrous”. Idolatry, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is;
idol·a·try: noun \-trē\plural idol·a·tries1 : the worship of a physical object as a god.
2 : immoderate attachment or devotion to something.
Someone who engages in idolatry would be an idolater, yes? What does the Bible say about idolaters? The answer can be found in 1st Corinthians 6:9-10…
“(9)Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, (10) Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (KJV)
I think we all know where this is going. It’s yet another in a long litany of ways in which Christianity, which started out as a great idea, has been taken by some in a direction that even God never intended. In my own not-so-humble opinion, the religious right has taken faith, and morphed it into something else. This is another case of people…fallible, fragile and fussed-up people, having brought something unknowable and eternal down to something they can wrap their heads around in a “physical world” sense. Books, speech, icons and symbols are things that they can control. Is that what this debate is really about? Control? I’ll leave that to you, my fine young readers, to decide for yourselves.