Mars Hill Forum #101, November 29, 2005, Harvard Club, New York City: “What is the Proper Relationship Between Religion and Government?” Guest: Nadine Strossen, President, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Outline Used by John C. Rankin
- The answer is simple, and in a bilateral way – to maximize religious, political and economic liberty for all people equally. Hence, the name of the ACLU – American Civil Liberties Union – is most appealing. But is the ACLU historically and philosophically equipped to serve such maximized liberty?
- I ask this question in deep respect for Nadine – for we both share the same goal – we are united in affirming American civil liberties. And I ask this question of myself equally – do I serve such liberty?
- There are two choices before us tonight: a) biblical ethics; and b) a definition of government “neutrality” toward religion.
- We are all partisans, so “neutrality” for me is a fiction. Who among us is so positioned as to rise above our humanity to the status of a Platonic ideal and judge the rest of us? Or who wants to forsake his or her humanity and partisan convictions? The real question for me is this: How do our respective partisan convictions serve the equal liberties for those who believe differently?
- I will argue that biblical ethics are uniquely proactive – able to provide the freedom for religion in a pluralistic culture. This is the soul of the American Revolution.In contrast, government “neutrality” is reactive – seeking a freedom from religion. This is the soul of the French Revolution.
- I also argue that religion is a public matter, not a private matter to be closeted away. Jesus in the face of the false separation of temple and state…
- The (POSH Ls article 1) of the image of God (Sayles Auditorium, Brown University in April, 1989).
Thus, a brief history of human liberty.
- Biblical ethics is the concern for public life – not doctrine or church authority. This is a historical argument, and requires no belief on any person’s part.
- The Six Pillars of Biblical Power and Honest Politics – especially freedom.
- Creation, sin and redemption of Genesis 1-2: only truly proactive text in all human history.
- akol tokel [“in feasting you shall continually feast = metaphor for human freedom] of Genesis 2:15-17 v. pagan texts, secular origins (e.g., Athens and Rome).
- Early church v. early Islam – informed choice v. coercion.
- Question of theocracy – community of choice v. imposed conformity.
- Reformation v. Enlightenment.
- American Revolution (1776) v. French Revolution (1789): backdrop of religious wars in Europe; proactive v. reactive, and historical follow-through.
- Declaration of Independence: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed …”
- The U.S. Constitution and no imposed Protestant hegemony.
- The order of liberties in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
- Thus, the question for me is how we who are biblical people treat others.
- Smith College in November, 1994 w/Patricia Ireland of NOW – two choices: give and it shall be given, or take before you are taken. Sums up six pillars.
- I do not desire one inch greater liberty to say what I believe than the liberty I first honor for those who disagree with me, within the rule of law.
- Is the church equipped to serve such liberty? If we argue that there is one unique Source for liberty, can a skeptical world judge us by our fruit and find any good news in our demeanor and actions?