Over the past five decades, religion has been under attack in our society. Atheists, agnostics, and people who are just tired of religious arguments have by and large succeeded in marginalizing religion in American life with rants of “Separation of Church and State.” The reality is that the constitution does not even use the words “separation of church and state.” It actually prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion. In other words, it guarantees religious freedom while not setting up any religion as the official state religion. It does not forbid or restrain the free exercise of religion.
Anti-religious people have tried to get the courts to expunge religion from public life. While I’m not arguing here for prayer in the schools, I don’t see any problem with public nativity scenes as long as other religions have equal right and access to set up their own displays during their holidays.
There are many other ways that I won’t go into here where religion has successfully been marginalized by people simply saying that religion is a private matter and it should be kept private. The problem is, that in a secular society, where you shut out the voice of religion, from where do we derive our values?
Some people derive their values based upon legality. If something is legal, they believe it is therefore moral. The problem with this is that what is legal, and therefore moral, changes with each election. The reality is that just because something is legal doesn’t mean its moral. Abortion is legal, but that doesn’t make it moral. Marijuana is legal in some states, illegal in others. Does that make it moral in some states but immoral in others? Slavery used to be legal in the South. Does that mean it was moral? In short, we can not look to the legal system for what is moral.
When a society loses its moral compass, you can justify anything. When the Nazi’s revoked the rights of its Jewish citizens and sent them to concentration camps, it was legal, but certainly not moral.
I had been watching the events of Civil war building up in Ukraine over the past few weeks. Nationalist demonstrators wanting to be allied with the European Union, while the Government wanting to be allied with Russia. They have had bloody, violent demonstrations erupting in Kiev. I saw a powerful photo, which I’ve included in this post, of four priests holding a cross in the city square, standing between the demonstrators and the police. It struck me that the picture was a graphic illustration of the role of religion in a secular society; not supported by the government, but standing in the midst of society, freely speaking into it, to give moral guidance and direction. We have a right and responsibility to speak into our society about right and wrong. You don’t need to be a “believer” to know that murder, stealing and violence is wrong. Being religious doesn’t mean we no longer have the right to speak our minds and viewpoints into a society that desperately needs to hear views other than those that lean toward “anything goes.” How will people know what is good and just if we don’t speak up. Its our right, and our responsibility. The often quoted statement of Edmund Burke is true; “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We need to be proactive in our speaking out for what we believe to be right, even if its unpopular. Its our right and responsibility. Our society needs it.