When Logos came to our solar system from a galaxy far, far away to study the decline of American Civilization, he found our tendency to make life or death political decisions based on emotion to be profoundly fascinating. He analyzed many aspects of our society, but on no issue was our dislocation from reality more acute than on the separation of church and state.
Now, I think Logos's observations are instructive because it's usually very hard to think outside the box when you're living inside the box. We live inside the box, making the transcending of the boundaries and suppositions of a debate — which is often a prerequisite for cutting to the heart of the matter and revealing the truth — rare indeed. So let's see if we can benefit from the insights of an outsider looking in, one Logos, who resides outside the box of our time and place and its attendant assumptions, and inside the box of logic, where no obfuscating emotion dare tread.
An impartial observer of this sort would first be struck by the obsession we have with purging every remnant of religious expression from our public sphere. Why, with the frenetic sense of urgency with which we pursue this course of action, you would think the task was one of isolating some new virus that threatened to wipe out mankind. Of course, Logos would find no constitutional basis for such a complete rending of our religious traditions, but those of us who have read the Constitution already know it doesn't exist. Anyway, one way or another, the law eventually takes the shape of the morality of its creators.
Logos first may ask a very simple question: if these ideas really have been handed down by God, the Creator of the Universe, don't you have an obligation to infuse your every institution, including the public ones, with them? Have you not then been enjoined to inculcate children with them, in as well as out of school?
Of course, I don't have to tell you what the response will be. An army of naysayers will utter something to the effect of: 'Well, you may think God is these ideas' progenitor, but not everyone agrees with you. Many people believe they are simply man—made.'
Ah, yes, such an obvious answer, and the final word. End of discussion.
Except, you see, there's one minor detail that it overlooks. For Logos will respond, 'If they are man—made just like the secular ideas, why do you distinguish between the former and latter? Why do you insist that these man—made ideas that we call 'secular' are grist for the public mill, but these man—made ideas that we call 'religious' cannot be. If they're all man—made, wherein lies the difference?
This is how you put the secularists in a box, for they will be trapped. In either case, there is no justification for excluding religious ideas from the public square. It transforms the debate from 'Do they deserve equal status with secular ideas or lesser?' to 'Do they deserve equal status with secular ideas or greater?' If these ideas are simply man—made, then the distinction between them and secular ones is a false one, ergo they enjoy equivalency. If, however, these ideas originated in the Infinite Mind, then they must take precedence in all things over mere products of limited minds.
One frailty of limited human minds, however, is that they often cling to old, mistaken ideas long past the time when they should have been disabused of them. So, alas, the debate wouldn't end there. The next tactic might be to claim that these 'man—made 'religious' ideas' are offensive to many who don't hold them.
But Logos, steeped in reason, has the answer to that too. Quite simply, offense cannot be given, it can only be taken; what is offensive is very subjective. And I'm sure that liberals can understand this. After all, they're the first ones to use the argument that what constitutes offensiveness is completely subjective when, for instance, defending pornography against those who would censor it. Be that as it may, however, the fact is that traditionalists find many secular ideas that are foisted upon them and theirs to be deeply offensive. For instance, multiculturalist, feminist, radical—environmentalist ideas, and notions about the rectitude of homosexuality, are often the stuff of indoctrination in public schools. Some of you may agree with some of these ideas, but that's irrelevant. Logos's point is that they are as deeply offensive to some people as religious fervor is to the most ornery atheist.
So, religious ideas cannot be stricken based upon their origin or a garden—variety offensiveness argument, but the opposition still has one card to play. 'Isn't there something about religious ideas that makes them integral to who you are?' they will query, sometimes with feigned reverence. 'And, does this not distinguish them from secular ideas? Are we not talking about the domain of deep—seated beliefs that reside in the core of our being and, as such, when they offend, do they not offend more deeply?' Of course, Logos is going to insist that this 'something' that supposedly distinguishes religious ideas be defined, and not merely accepted on faith by the people who scoff at the acceptance of God's existence on faith.
No such definition will be forthcoming, I can assure you. This is because this is another one of those suppositions — left—wing dogma, if you will. In reality, while that space in the core of one's being should be occupied by God, when He is not there, something else will most surely be. And make no mistake, that something else can be anything under the sun and often burns with the fires of a thousand zealous passions.
Just think about an old—line Marxist and his formulaic devotion to his own communist creed. Such a person would so often find a reality that contradicts his ideology staring him right in the face and simply dismiss it with the mantra, 'That is not what 'The Party' says.'
Although, you need not reach beyond today's political fashions to find such blind faith in secular ideologies. You only have to look at eco—terrorists who burn homes or SUVs, feminists who see the shadowy hand of a patriarchy around every corner and cast everything as a battle of the sexes, white or black supremacists, to whom race is the greatest value, or homosexual activists who wear their sexual proclivities on their shirtsleeves. You need not wonder why these folks will protest on the streets with twisted faces and snarling voices. You need not wonder why they are so doctrinaire, why it's so difficult to appeal to them with reason: it's because they have made their ideology their raison d'etre, and woe betide the hapless soul who should question their orthodoxy.
No one is proposing the establishment of a national religion, but why elevate that prospect alone to cultural boogeyman status? It would be no more unpalatable than the establishment of a national ideology, a la the former Soviet Union. An imposed set of values is an imposed set of values, no matter what guise it masquerades under, and when rammed down the collective throat a part of the body politic will always find it a bitter pill.
It's time to stop trying to put God in a box; instead, we must put the misbegotten separation of church and state argument where it belongs: a pine box. If we do not, that is most assuredly where our civilization will end up.
Selwyn Duke is a frequent contributor.