Have we taken God out of our lives, communities and public buildings? The separation of church and state has always conjured up a myriad of emotions.
Whether this country was founded solely on Judeo-Christian beliefs or merely a declaration of religious freedoms, the battle over whether or not we begin our public meetings with prayer, say "One Nation Under God" or simply "God Bless America" continues. President Eisenhower said it best when he said, "Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is."
It seems that each year at about this time discussions turn to whether or not to erect a Nativity Scene in the town square, say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." It doesn't take long before the philosophers begin to debate the issue and tell us what our founding fathers had in mind, if there really was a Jesus, and what is the meaning of church.
Many believe that when one speaks of "the church" they are referring to the Vatican in Rome. The Bible tells us in Acts 20:28 that the church is God. "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
The US is a religiously pluralistic society. We embrace freedom of religion and have fought wars to protect it. We have Christian denominations, Judaism, Islam, Muslim, and Hinduism, just to name a few. There are houses of worship that dot our land from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from north to south. And there are even non-religious churches such as that discussed in a recent OBSERVER article, Atheist 'mega-churches' take root across the US, world. Attendees of this "mega-church" gather for about an hour "of rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing (is) God."
So, why exclude God? When people gather together to worship and find solace who or what are they worshiping? If they are turning away from God, are they denying that God exists, or have they chosen to turn to another power they see as more to their liking? These things puzzle me and it makes me sad to know that there are those who don't share in the goodness of all that God has given to them. So, when the Atheists go into their "church" what are they seeking? And, if there is no God why call it a church in the first place?
It is no secret that today's society has embarked on a bolder and more promiscuous way of life and many feel that the church is out of step. In essence, "the church" has become a symbol of ideologies that cannot fit into today's world? According to a study conducted by Duke University, "congregational life and religious expression are becoming more informal among the Protestant churches while the Catholic Church has remained considerably more formal." The study went on to report, "it appears that non-denominationalism is on the increase."
Of course, there is always the matter of politics. The Duke researchers also reported, "the more liberal wing of society is less accepting of church and religion as dictates of faith and higher moral values."
It is not likely that the conflict that exists between the tradition of religion and politics is going to go away any time soon. It is almost impossible to balance religion, politics and the various social movements in today's world when dealing with issues such as abortion, gay marriage, unmarried parents, and civil rights.
The studies and research papers continue to show us how the makeup of religions and the role religion plays in American politics impacts our everyday lives. While the data can be overwhelming, I believe what it really shows is that we as a people have become apathetic. When we see God being removed from our town and city landscapes, we accept it without question. Whether it is a cross, a nativity scene at Christmas or even the baby Jesus in a school play, we turn our heads, shrug our shoulders and just go on.
In Jonathan Chan's book, "The Harbinger," he speaks of the greatness of the United States and the inevitable fall should we, as a nation, continue to turn away from God. We can't afford to turn our heads any longer and watch God taken out of our lives. We must stand up and remind those who would turn their heads that God is very real.
The holidays are upon us. We have Thanksgiving next week, and the religious holidays of many faiths to follow. Whether a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or of another faith or no faith at all, we are all on this earth together. Corinthians 12:12 tells us "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body." The United States of America is one body of many parts.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org