I did not know this (but am not surprised) that there is an organized effort to “Blog Against Theocracy.” One post in particular caught my attention this morning. In it the blogger is concerned that evangelicals are making their way into schools through biblical literacy initiatives and Intelligent Design. One of the blogger’s arguments against evangelicalism in schools is their stated goal of global evangelism. He even quotes from the doctrinal statement of my denomination, the Assemblies of God.
This growing criticism of “theocracy” is an interesting one to me. First of all, I don’t think the, “they evangelize people” argument carries any weight. Any group with serious convictions is trying to gain adherents, and the more they gain, the happier they will be. No doubt, Bloggers Against Theocracy would like more people to hold their views than fewer, and they are actively evangelizing them. As a consequence of their own argument, they should be legislated out of our schools.
On a much more interesting note is the claim that Christians in the public square constitutes a breech of the “separation of the church and state” doctrine. Since there is no such thing in our Constitution, this is a political/philosophical view. What are the presuppositions that lead to this view?
One might be the fact/value distinction which holds that religion is a private value that does not make truth claims about reality, and thus cannot be considered with seriousness in the public square. On the other hand, secularism has a grip on the facts of the world (science, etc.) and is the only serious contender for the public mind. This simple sweeping away of religion has been attacked on several levels, and when we learn what it means to know things and have them correspond with reality, there is nothing that excludes religious knowledge. Science (naturalistically understood) does not have privileged access to the world.
Another presupposition might be that religion – Christianity in particular – has been proven false. But this view would just be naivety and wishful thinking.
Another would be that religion is not open to thought, reflection, or even modification. As a result, a culture “ruled” by religion would be disastrous to open thought and dangerous to dissenters. And since we value an open and thinking society, religion needs to be relegated to the margins. But this again is a mistaken notion of Christianity. No doubt there are a plethora of examples where “fundamentalism” or other forms of Christianity have denied the life of the mind, but they would be the exceptions to the rule, not the rule. For example, the University system so prized by free-thinkers was established by the Church as an institution of innovation. It was Catholic universities that taught the sun was the center of the solar system; medieval universities constantly critiqued and analyzed doctrine and refined theology. One of the reasons we know Thomas Aquinas and not his predecessors was his innovation on their work.
Christianity, where it is allowed to flourish according to its own worldview, is currently less of a threat to free-thought than secularism. After all, who is trying to exclude whom from schools?
I think that when all the reasons for the separation of church and state (as opposed to this short list) are laid on the table, they all fail for good reasons. Religious views have just as much legitimate access to the public as do secularist views.