As we move through the Lenten season towards the celebration of Easter, a most poignant inwardly reflective time for Christians, we should as Americans also take a moment to reflect upon the soul of our nation. Yes, soul.
The American experiment began when a band of persecuted Protestants landed at Plymouth Rock. They had fled the cudgel of state-sponsored religious persecution and understood that a theocratic government would by definition be oppressive to religious rivals. The early Protestants were committed to the idea of freedom of conscience and religious dissent. Our nation’s core principles that governmental authority is derived from the consent of the people and all citizens are entitled to equal treatment under the law were born here.
Ironically but purposefully, as the framers were well aware of past religious dogma and abuse, the codification of these Christian concepts to ultimately protect religious freedom led to the creation of a secular government. But, this secular government was not Godless. It proclaimed that all men were created equal and endowed by the Creator with unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights were seen as gifts from God, not the state. It also recognized that humans were sinners and, as such, a system of checks and balances were incorporated in the Constitution to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of corrupt, power-hungry men — in other words, sinners.
The framers further protected our religious freedom in the Bill of Rights with the establishment clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof. “ It has become clear that adherence to the establishment clause has been enthusiastically enforced these days. But, what about the free exercise of religion? God forbid anyone near a public school even consider opening a Bible, say a prayer of thanks before a meal or kneel in a locker room.
So… where are we? A country founded on religious principles but afraid to exercise religious beliefs publicly. The Supreme Court of the early ’60s effectively excised the moral foundation of America with landmark decisions on school prayer and reproductive freedom. These decisions made by nine unaccountable lawyers were, in fact, driven by extreme issue focused radical activists. These count legislated decisions resulted in seismic shifts in the arc of our country. We the people, the voters were not consulted. Did America really want to go in that direction?
In hindsight, school prayer was a cohesive moral compass for young people, and the ripple effects have led to loony arguments about offensive nativity scenes, holiday trees, crucifixes and Easter bunnies hopping on public lands. And, the logical legal extension of the court decisions on reproductive freedom has resulted in the reprehensible debate about late-term and even postpartum abortions. So much for your free exercise of religious beliefs or the unalienable right to life.
At this point I fear the moral underpinnings of the nation have been eroded without us even noticing. See you in the foxhole. Happy Easter.