After a few days off folks, I am back. I have been quite busy with seminary and am finding new ways the Holy Spirit is filling me to do great things. The Lord is truly at work in our world, but so is the enemy. One of the things which I have continued to see as a disturbing trend is the censoring of religion. One of the wonderful things about our nation is this concept of convenience based freedoms. For example, it’s very convenient to commend a cop for doing his job when someone has just broken into your house, but when they are pulling you over on the side of the road very few are thanking the system for working. Likewise, we have this gift of not only freedom of speech, but also freedom of religion. While it’s nothing new that atheist and other anti-religious organizations are trying to tear down all things which we believe and hold dear they seem to forget the system which we reside in. Now I am not attacking all atheist here some of them kind hearted people, but that’s the thing about the nation we live in. People should be able to freely express their beliefs whether that is in God or not. We live in a nation where people can worship the “force” and proclaim to be Jedi’s. So as ridiculous as that is many nations do not have this freedom. We live in a nation with such ability to do as we please. However, I find that far too often we are easily offended. Far too often we get consumed with what we want and forget the issue. Separation of church and state is still a prominent debate and yet so few people who are in the debate have the slightest clue what they are talking about.
Maybe its time to Leave Thomas Jefferson Alone
Jefferson seems to be the center of this whole debate because Christians want him on their side and Athiest the same. Well, news flash he was likely neither. Jefferson was definitely not an Athiest he did believe in God. However, Jefferson was not a major fan of organized religion. Nonetheless, Jefferson has been credited to be a believer in Biblical teachings. He was a rationalist and essentially would cherry pick the Bible and take away portions he could not rationalize. While he did criticize organized religion, that didn’t mean he didn’t believe in Christian doctrine. He had a faith battle. He like all of us should, questioned his faith and looked at why he believes what he believes. So let’s clear the air here none of us know what his belief was. You can’t say for certain so stop trying to label him.
He is credited with coming up with the concept but Jefferson is painted at this anti-church, Athiest who is against the church from influencing everything around us. This is far from the truth. For those of you who do not like to skew history to prove an argument Thomas Jefferson, yes, was for separation of church and state, but this was not because he was against the church. Often times this mentality was to protect the church. When this nation was founded they were surrounded sought religious freedom from state-controlled religion. What this means is that if you were not x, y, or z then you were breaking the law. For example, in early America, if you were Baptist you were breaking the law because you were not Anglican like the rest of the commonwealth. Thomas Jefferson was by no measure the most religious man in the world, but he without a question believed in God. He would be what many call spiritual, but not religious these days. Jefferson believed in the freedom of ideologies to allow us to choose. He didn’t fight for this to block one group from the other, but to allow all ideas a platform to stand on. If people eventually struck it down essentially it would die out.
“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.” –Thomas Jefferson
The quote above is by Jefferson but these are not the words of an Athiest. This is the facts of people who claim to be Christians. This is no different than a lot of other ideologies. His critique of Christians holds some Biblical backing. When I read this quote I can only think of the parallels to the Bible. For example, Matthew 7:5,
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
People have acted as hypocrites for many years Christian and non-Christian. Every group of people have hypocrites. If you are reading this, friend, you are a hypocrite. All of us are hypocrites. It’s irrational to think otherwise. Not to mention plenty of ministers have said similar things. For example, Father Brennan Manning the author of the Raggamuffin Gospel.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
Thomas Jefferson may not have been a devout Christian, but he was a defender of the faith, and all faiths to be honest. Any quote you read about Jefferson speaking out about faith is because of religious intolerance not because of an underlying unbelief. Take the quote below.
“In 1769, I became a member of the legislature by the choice of the county in which I live, & continued in that until it was closed by the revolution. I made one effort in that body for the permission of the emancipation of slaves, which was rejected: and indeed, during the regal government, nothing liberal could expect success. Our minds were circumscribed within narrow limits by an habitual belief that it was our duty to be subordinate to the mother country in all matters of government, to direct all our labors in subservience to her interests, and even to observe a bigoted intolerance for all religions but hers.” -Thomas Jefferson
Funny thing is this is a defense of the free practice. As a nation compose of hundred of different sects of Christianity alone why should you not be free to practice as a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Born Again, or whatever else there is. Especially within in Christian belief why are we not uniting here, we have the same core belief we just go about our business differently. See back before Jefferson was President he ensured our rights to practice freely. He believed that all those denominations should have a chance to spread their views.
“I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority.” –Thomas Jefferson
So yes, Thomas Jefferson believed in separation of church and state. However, people often take his words out of context. The matter goes two ways, the government should not interfere with free religious practice. Jefferson says that public schools should not favor one ideology of the other not to say one is invalid, but to allow people the ability to cognitively think and choose. People on both sides of this issue are completely misguided.
Who are we Hurting?
Far too often I feel like this is a matter of who cries the loudest. It’s because you are selfish and want to get what you want. Let’s be honest it has nothing to do with but what you think. This is wrong to the core. As a Christian, we should not become offended when someone says they don’t believe or even attack our belief. Your faith should be much strong than some misguided soul’s words. However, to the atheist out there who is it really hurting that there is a cross on a building or a Bible verse somewhere. Is it really hurting you? Is it going to kill you? This whole debate is really idiotic. The whole thing is you can’t say this name or the next is dumb. Historically speaking to the non-believers out there, there is only one rational debate you can have. Jesus Christ was a real person and plenty of evidence supports that the only thing you can deny is His divinity. Which is foolish because what you have to lose vs. what you can gain is really unbalanced. I’m not going to make this a debate of faith right now. However, we have to stop censoring facts because they are facts which other people disagree with. Facts should be facts bottom line.
This whole issue is often blown out of proportions. For those of you who are Christians, you should know that our God is greater than any opposition any person can every muster up. The whole matter of separation of church and state is often blow out of proportions because people want to tailor facts to fit their reality. Thomas Jefferson is one of the most skewed figures in American history. He lies at the center of this debate, but we don’t know the true faith of Jefferson. However, his quotes do live on. I can say for certain there is not a single Jefferson quote which shows he hated Christians or was an atheist. While he was critical of some aspects of organized religion he was an advocate for the free practice of faith. Many times the separation of church and state is to protect the church. We need to stop being so easily offended by what people say. Let Hugh Freeze post Bible verses on his Twitter, and let’s be grateful for the freedoms we do have. Peace and Blessings to you Always my brothers and sisters in Christ.