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Apparently Not

I feel like our country was founded on the separation of church and state. In so many ways, the founders did basically everything in their power to keep the government from influencing religion and vice versa. With all of the noise against school vouchers (state sponsored religion because funding goes to parochial schools), the pledge of allegiance (since we reference God), and city hall having to place out decorations for about 70 December holidays, you would think people would have the separation of church and state in their little pea brains.

Apparently not.

Tonight in class I watched a PBS segment on how some churches in Ohio were possibly being investigated by the IRS for breaking their non-profit status by supporting a political candidate (which is, by the way, illegal). And all I could think (even though I was supposed to be thinking about the theories involved in mobilizing voters) was about how sad it was. How terribly, terribly sad it was.

I couldn't believe that the megachurches they were referencing, some of which have 10,000 congregants on a single Sunday, could preach politics. And I don't mean I disbelieve they were capable. I'm just shocked that people stayed.

We so often talk about "cognitive misers" in class; these people who take every shortcut available to get to their goal, trying their darndest, it seems, to not actually have to learn anything and arrive at an answer. Basically, they don't use their brains, or waste their time thinking about things they can get easy answers to someplace else. I can see how these people exist, but I weep that they constitute about 70% of the public. (I really do.)

And even though I can settle the idea in my head that so many people just don't care enough to learn ... then I think about framing. [This is a bunch of communication school jargon, I know, but stick with me here, my point is coming.] These people are getting their agenda set by the church. By preachers who are using the pulpit as a ground to recruit those who have similar political ideologies. The message is framed on moral grounds: God and the Bible speak out against homosexuals, abortion is wrong because it is taking a life - there are commandments against that ... etc. But that isn't the worst part.

The worst part is, that the people keep coming back. They have no pre-existing frame in their head, no ulterior message that says: STOP. We live in the United States of America. We live in a country where we are free from religious and political oppression (supposedly). We treasure the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom to basically do whatever our little hearts desire without tumbling into anarchy. We live in a place with the separation of church and state. But these people don't know or remember that. Or they are just too lazy to care.

I can't believe that they tolerate it. That they don't mind the blatant disregard for the country they live in, the country's government that they are being encouraged to vote for is being violated. Oh, I am quite upset. I wanted to talk about it, but I know everyone else wanted to leave class. I wanted to talk about it, but I was pretty sure that I would get the, "people are cognitive misers and you can't do anything about it" speech. I hate that speech (and I don't believe in hating).

Please tell me there are other people out there who believe there is a separation. Please tell me that other people are motivated enough to get out there and help our poor, helpless, miserly compatriots understand that religion endorsing the government or the government endorsing religion are the SAME THING. It is equally detrimental to our society as a whole. Our country will suffer from this.

I know some may say, but at least they are getting out the vote. And I am all for politically activated citizens. I am all for church-going citizens. I think if they are both we are in a fantastic place. But the relation needs to be coincidental. It shouldn't be influenced by the clergy, or the preachers, or the teachers. Politics is independent from faith and education.

This is why the 60's brought so much change to the table, with Kennedy as a Catholic. Where are all the Republicans who feared the influence of the church on government policy now? *Sigh*

I can't help but get worked up about this. I guess I am just too optimistic for the real world. I feel like the idealized society should be much closer to real society than it is. I want to do something about it. I know I'll have to get a greater grasp on reality before then - at least be able to stomach it, if all this horribleness about people just not caring is true. But one day, I am going to make a positive difference, something the Constitutional framers could be proud of. I don't know how, I don't know when (exactly), but 2020 is looking significantly closer all the time.

Other eventfullness will be posted later. My politcal-religious rant is now ended. I'm going to have some ice cream. Love always, ~Heather


Heather "rants":

I feel like our country was founded on the separation of church and state. In so many ways, the founders did basically everything in their power to keep the government from influencing religion and vice versa.

Might wanna re-read a bit. The Puritans (Massachusetts) and the Quakers (Pennsylvania) and perhaps even the Catholics (Maryland) tried to set-up what they perceived would be a perfect society where they were free from the persecution they had experienced for practicing their religions, and where everyone would be "free" to practice the new unofficial state religion (Puritanism, etc.)

The "Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion" clause is followed by the "nor prohibit the free exercise thereof" clause. We usually forget that part.

Churches who actively support candidates (or support slates based on issue-centered voter's guides) would say that they are completely within their rights (if the "free exercise" clause is honored) to support candidates whose policies or ideals that support the type of society that the churches would like to see created or maintained.

I personally see little difference between placing a Right to Life Voter's Guide in a vestibule and a church (usually this happens in black churches) giving the pulpit over to a (usually Democratic) political candidate at 11 AM on a Sunday morning. The IRS may enforce a distinction, but there is no effective societal difference.

We treasure the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom to basically do whatever our little hearts desire without tumbling into anarchy.

I don't know if you really believe that ... less of an outcome than anarchy should provide the STOP message on one's behavior.

As a representative democracy, the people whose leaders whose views most closely match their own.

--The Church teaches us that abortion is evil. Is She then wrong if Her priests and ministers campaign to enact legal limitations on this behavior?

--The Church teaches us that all life is sacred from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death? Is She then wrong to encourage Her members to work for the abolition of practices destructive to life, be they embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia or the death penalty?

--The Church teaches us that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His Bride; is She then wrong to encourage Her members to work to maintain this understanding, at least in the genders of marriage partners?

I'd say She is within Her rights, under the "free exercise" clause.

The true beauty of the system in the US is that others with a different understanding are also free to work to enact their views of a perfect, free society.

BTW: I know scads of Evangelicals, many of whom are also NASCAR fans. They aren't all sheep or "cognitive misers."

It's not as bad as it seems out there--take a drive outside of the Beltway...get that ice cream.
Of course that should be "As a representative democracy the people choose leaders... not the people "whose" leaders...

Thanks for making me think.