Thursday, July 26, 2012

We are a nation of laws, not religion

Regarding the recent mass-murder in Aurora, Colorado, Former Mayor Bob Edwards opines that America should be “looking to define the decay of our culture that allows this type of action to take place on an all too frequent basis.” His solution?—a return to Judeo-Christian values. “America was created as a Christian nation based on a Judeo-Christian foundation,writes Edwards. Our American Biblical foundation is “under attack” from church/state separatists who misinterpret the Constitution.
While I’m certain the former Mayor is well meaning; this is claptrap—and offensive. There are plenty of non-Christians in this country and they do not constitute what is wrong with it—any more or less than Christians do.
This is what the Constitution actually says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The words “God,” “Jesus,” “Judeo-Christian” or even “Bible” aren’t found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. Religion is only mentioned twice in the entire document and both are exclusionary in nature (i.e. what you can’t do with regard to religion). The first was mentioned above (from the First Amendment) and the second from article VI: “No religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” Does this sound like something written by the founders of a Christian nation?  
I do agree with Mr. Edwards that our forefathers designed an exceptional nation but it is very clear that they—quite deliberately in fact—did not design a Christian one.
In 2009, President Obama said, “One of the great strengths of the United States is (we have a very large Christian population) we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”  Another president, Thomas Jefferson wrote, in a letter to Thomas Cooper, “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” More noteworthy perhaps were Jefferson’s words to the Danbury Baptists:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship , that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘Make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
To his credit, Mr. Edwards did hedge a bit with this: “However, before Christian churches look for others to blame for the America’s moral decay they need to look inward and ask if they are leading or following.” This would prevent us from pointing out how “Judeo-Christian values” served a few Catholic priests during the last few decades.
According to Mr. Edwards, our collective moral lapse is responsible for all this horrific violence and is due to the supplanting of Christian values by “Situation ethics.” There is some irony here. Situational ethics is actually a Christian ethical theory that came on the scene in the 1960s. It was developed by an Episcopal priest; Joseph Fletcher. At its very core, this ethical theory holds that above all, one must base actions on a universal, unchanging and unconditional love for all people. So what Mr. Edwards is saying is that our societal problems are due to the replacement of Judeo-Christian principles with a universal, unchanging and unconditional love for all people. Well, Mr. Mayor, I will actually have some of that!     
So, in defense of Situational Ethics, consider the following:
A man stands at the front of a crowded movie theater with several loaded weapons, a gas mask and wearing a Batman costume. What does Situational Ethics tell him to do? I will hazard a guess: “Go home.”
What does the Judeo-Christian Bible tell him to do?  Well, lots of things but one could quote 1st Samuel 15:3, where the Judeo-Christian God says, “Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. "
We have some serious social problems in this country, but we are a nation of laws, not of men, and certainly not religion. There is nothing more American than the Constitution and now that we are clear on what it actually says, blaming our societal ills on non-Christians is simply un-American. Perhaps there are some laws that we can enact to spare lives by preventing a sociopath like James Holmes from gaining access to that many rounds in those types of weapons.     
Alan R. Hudson


Anonymous said...

As you like to base your arguemtn on the Constitution, it also does not include the phrase, "separation between church and state." Another one of the founding fathers said that the Constitution is only for a moral and religious people, that it is wholely inadequate for any other.
Your last sentence, "Perhaps there are some laws that we can enact to spare lives by preventing a sociopath like James Holmes from gaining access to that many rounds in those types of weapons." Any law that would have stopped him would stop everyone. Up to the point of his terrible crime, he had no criminal record, was not considered to be insane; in fact, he was considered to be brilliant. Maybe that should be on the list of prohibited possessors of firearms - no brilliant people can purchase or have a gun in their possession. There, that would have stopped him!
Something that the Left seems to ignore is that laws restrict the law abiding citizen and strip him of his rights (in the case of gun control); but do nothing to stop the criminal. More restrictive gun control laws only play to the advantage of the criminal.

Anonymous said...

What an ill-informed knee-jerk reaction to the word "religion"!

"Judeo-Christian VALUES" are not a "religion." They are the kind of values that embody most of the Ten Commandments. If you take out the commandments that refer to God and worshiping HIM, you are left with:

Honor thy parents (Social security is a form of this)

Thou shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain (Perjury)

Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath. (this actually provided for a “day of rest” and I think it’s safe to say Americans truly look forward to their “weekend.”)

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's "stuff." (Can lead to interference with property rights)

Other aspects of Judeo-Christian principles include the idea of taking care of family, not being cruel to servants and animals, honesty and fairness in business dealings, forgiving those who have wronged us -- these things are embodied in our laws.

These are things that enable us to live together as a society, REGARDLESS of religious affiliation. It doesn't matter if we hold these principles BECAUSE we are Jews or Christians, these "Judeo-Christian values" were the basis of our constitution and laws.

Contrast with other religious principles that we do NOT find in this country:

Reverence for, and even worship of, animals. Animals are our companions and servants; we do not place ourselves beneath them. Try prodding a cow to get off the road so you can pass by in India and see what happens -- to YOU.

A caste system, that believes that we are born to be rich or poor (clean or unclean) and cannot rise above our birth. Here we believe (or say we do) that all are created equal, with equal chance to succeed or fail.

Those are just a couple of NON-Judeo-Christian RELIGIOUS principles that we do NOT embody in this country. There are many more, but I haven't made a study of world religions to come up with more examples. Certainly, some individuals who follow those religions might believe those things, but they have not made it into our Constitution or our laws.

So to the apparent atheist who has such a problem with the concept of "Judeo-Christian principles," get past the terminology and discover what it really means. It doesn't mean we are all either Christians or Jews, it just means that the moral code of the Judeo-Christian bible was the moral code our Founding Fathers felt would make for a peaceful and ordered society, with fairness and opportunity for all. If our Founding Fathers had been Buddhists, or Muslims, or Hindus, we might have a very different Constitution. But they came from Judeo-Christian backgrounds, and those moral codes are what formed the basis for our Constitution.

Those values are embraced by the majority of the world's population because they provide fairness and order, respecting both individual rights and community rights. The point of Bob Edwards' column was that we are turning away from these values as individuals, and therefore as a nation, in favor of instant gratification and success for "ME" no matter whom "I" have to stomp on to attain it.

Fairness and kindness require self-sacrifice. Selfishness does not. All you have to do is watch C-SPAN to see selfishness in action. No compromise, no giving in, no crumbs thrown to the opposition, the Republicans want only to protect themselves and their rich supporters; the Democrats want only to vilify their opponents and keep free money flowing to people who in many cases are obtaining it fraudulently.

The Judeo-Christian value-based solution lies somewhere in between, and we are losing our ability to make the personal sacrifices needed to implement it.

Before you condemn something, you ought to learn exactly what it means.