(This was sent to the Washington Times as an oped piece. Not published.)
Clarence Page (Commentary, 8/29/03, "Secularism...and Symbolism") demeans the supporters of Alabama Chief Justice, Roy Moore's display of the Decalogue on government property -- as "waves of the faithful" and "religious zealots".
Mr. Page can, without fear of legal reprisal, publicly disagree with the Biblical position on God and the law, but it is precisely (and only) our Biblically founded legal system which can substantially guarantee him that right. That right of open and reasoned public disagreement is fast eroding everywhere Biblical culture is being subverted. The effect (for example) of so-called "hate-crime" laws is not to protect minority or disadvantaged persons, but rather to shut down honest public discussion for those who need it the most -- the minority and disadvantaged.
Secularists would do well to understand what this Christianity is with which they disagree.
Biblical faith asserts, uniquely among world religions, that God is personal creator and sovereign. He is sovereign because He is creator. That is called "ethical monotheism". Apart from the Biblical worldview, there is no ethical monotheism.
Only a creator can define the reason for existence of something. That is a logical fact. And our reason for existence is the only objective basis for moral obligation. Moral obligation is the foundation of all other (including legal) obligation.
Civil government is about coercion. We make laws we want coerced. So everything civil government does is done (as it were) at gunpoint. The great problem resolved by our Biblical, Western, and Anglo-Saxon tradition, culminating in our American constitution, was how to submit the near monopoly on coercive force held by civil government to the moral constraints of truth and righteousness, to obligate civil government to be truthful and righteous, equally toward all.
If you do not want that kind of government, the Biblical worldview sooner or later becomes your enemy.
Because there is no identifiable source of moral obligation in a secular world, all legal systems without a personal creator God ultimately rest on coercion -- not on moral legitimacy, for their alleged legal legitimacy. Might makes right. (Well, might does not actually make "right", it makes a very pragmatic -- "you'd better obey if you don't want to get clobbered".) It is all about force, not right or wrong.
A pattern has emerged from lower court decisions, notes Mr. Page, indicating that "a religious display can survive challenges if it has a secular purpose". The Ten Commandments can be governmentally displayed "if the monuments reduce the significance of Moses' law to the same secular significance of other laws that led up to our modern statues", i.e., do not honor God.
That, of course, defeats the purpose of having a religious display, which, as Judge Moore is clear, is to honor the God who is our legal sovereign.
Secularists need either (1) to recognize that the "secular significance" of law means the evacuation from law of any moral basis, and thus establishing law wholly on coercion -- or (2) to come up with an identifiable source for moral obligation in a Godless world.
It is sometimes suggested that the Decalogue should be treated equally along with, e.g., the law code of the 18th century BC Babylonian king, Hammurabi, of merely historical interest.
The law code of Hammurabi, like all non-Biblical law codes, grew in practical fact from the bottom up, a pragmatic adding of case law to case law, experimenting to produce that legal system which would sustain the rulership of Hammurabi and at the same time maintain a viable kingdom. But it had no moral basis because the king was under no law higher than his own will. So he had, much like modern totalitarian states, a standing army and a raft of bureaucratic civil servants to "manage" his subjects.
Legal principles grew from the bottom up by pragmatic experiment, so they could never become overarching, cosmic moral principles. They were always those pragmatic principles which kept a certain ruler in power (yes, occasionally to the advantage of the governed citizens). Ancient paganism and modern secularism are identical in this respect.
Hebrew religion, the beginning of ethical monotheism, changed all that.
King David (contrary, e.g., to Hammurabi or Pharaoh) understood himself to be under a law higher than himself, so Nathan, the prophet, could challenge David when he violated Bathsheba and then killed her husband, Uriah. That amazing scene between Nathan and David (2 Samuel 12) could never have happened in Egypt or Babylon. No prophet would have had the moral ground upon which to stand against the overriding coercive force of the king.
In the Biblical world, the law of God is precisely that which brings all use of coercion under the moral law. You have to have a righteous reason for coercing someone else. No one but God can provide that moral foundation. The law of God is that alone which can give us an "ordered" freedom, an order which applies to those at the top equally with those at the bottom. Equality before the law.
Without God, we find attempts at "liberal democracy" soon edging toward the principle, as the pigs let it be known in Animal Farm, "all animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others...."
Behind this discussion has been the assumption, almost unchallenged in the West, that religion should be excluded from politics. And why so? On the grounds that it is unfair for one religion to rule over people of other religions. Should Christians rule over Hindus? Or Muslims over Buddhists? Should secular people rule over religious people? We should, it is said, have a religiously neutral government.
One can then ask: Is it also unfair for one political party to rule over persons of other parties? Should Democrats rule over Republicans? Should we not have also a separation of Politics & State?
The idea of religious neutrality in civil government makes no more sense than does political neutrality -- if that is to mean exclusion of persons, parties, or religions. The necessary neutrality must reside in the way the laws are applied to different persons and parties, not in such a way as to exclude one party or religion over others, e.g., secularism over Christianity. The laws must be applied to all persons, parties, and religions equally.
The valid separation is thus not between either Religion & State or Politics & State. They are equally silly and unworkable. The separation should be against those who will not abide by the neutral rules of honest truth-seeking, honest public debate, honest pursuit of public policy. Persons who wish to influence public policy by manipulation or coercion should be excluded. They have no business making decisions about the laws to be coerced upon society. Persons of honest intent with respect to truth and righteousness, from any religious or political persuasion, should be welcome.
That honest legislative process is what the American Constitution was framed to provide, and what the founding fathers universally understood to be the intent of Godly government.
To throw God out of our legal system, voiding our legal system of moral obligation, is thus to cast ourselves back to rule by manipulation and coercion because only God can oblige power-oriented politicians to submit to due process. God alone can create obligations at all.. The secularist who wants the ordered freedom of a democratic republic, a society based on self-government, a society able to choose (or unchoose) its own leaders, is thus in the unhappy position of wanting something he cannot have except at the price of something he is not willing to grant. A democratic republic not under God is a contradiction in terms.
Whose judgement should we, then, fear? The question before us is not whether our government should recognize God, but whether God will recognize our government.
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