Secularization requires a different approach by Christians

When I listen to Christian programming lately I can’t get away from the phrase “the assault on Christianity.” Depending on how conservative the program is, the phrase is often paired with a derogatory comment about the Obama administration and how it’s ushering in an unprecedented list of legislation that’s incompatible with Christianity.
At the top of that list is usually the Freedom of Choice Act which, among other things, would create a fundamental right to abortion that government could not limit but would have to support, even prohibit physicians from refusing to perform abortions due to conscientious objection.
I’m as strongly opposed to FOCA as the most conservative of conservatives. Even though I think I Obama’s stance on social justice, as well as his diplomacy and tendency to prioritize reason over religion are qualities a national leader should have, I’m deeply saddened by his commitment to the legislation. I think that, in addition to the soaring divorce rate, the spread of abortion is one of the indicators of just how sinful our culture has become.
On the other hand, I respectfully disagree with those who claim that Christianity is under attack.
Conservative radio and television programs have plenty of examples to cite in building an argument about cultural warfare. A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court forbidding a New Jersey football coach from kneeling while his players pray was certainly grist for the mill. So is the fact that throughout the South arguments rage over whether the Ten Commandments should be displayed in courthouses.
I don’t think it’s helpful for Christians to nurse a siege mentality. What some see as evidence of a cultural onslaught I see as a world coming to terms with a creeping secularization that is both healthy and inevitable.
I’m convinced that our Founding Fathers envisioned a secular society. History shows they were men of various faiths, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Unitarians, among others, but primarily men of the Enlightenment, men of science, men of secular inclinations, not what today we’d consider evangelicals.
That’s not to say that they didn’t hold certain Christians principles in high regard. In the broad, savage sweep of history things like individual dignity, personal freedom and racial equality are fairly new concepts. I won’t say “the church” but certainly Christianity has done much to help incarnate those ideas in modern culture.
It’s precisely here, as a kind of moral dialogue partner with government, that Christianity, or any religion, finds its rightful place, not in public prayer or monuments. That’s why I think it’s important to fight FOCA and why I also think Christians should let public institutions, like schools and courts, do their own thing without having to make concessions to one particular faith. I think that President Obama, who, despite what some say is a man of faith, also holds this belief.
According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 16 percent of Americans are “secular,” or unaffiliated with any particular faith. About one forth of those identify themselves as either atheist or agnostic. For those between the ages of 18-29 numbers are even higher. Despite how you or I feel about it, that’s just the way it is. For many people, religion is not the primary frame of reference anymore, and I think that’s OK and it doesn’t mean the devil is winning. Pluralism and diversity are realities in the modern world and if I remember my Sunday school lessons correctly, God loves diversity. Secularization is part of that diversity and perhaps, in the larger scheme of things, it helps create a world where no one religion has the proverbial floor but where all religions are in dialogue with one another, representatives at a table of discussion concerned with meaning, love and justice.
I’m confident that government can reflect the best tenets of religion without being overtly religious. Religion is a private matter and the U.S. – thank God – is not a theocracy. I think that, as people of faith, our responsibility is to keep doing what the Founding Fathers intended, reminding government that people are created in the image and likeness of God. If we succeed in doing that, good things should follow.
Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com

 

Galen Holley