Monday, October 09, 2006

FLIP-FLOPPING ON CHURCH AND STATE

In 1802, the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut wrote Thomas Jefferson in support of the Constitutional separation of church and state. But in 2006, another Baptist church in Danbury, Connecticut is coveting taxpayer money, through the Bush administration's faith-based initiative, to build a children's center. Their Danbury Baptist forefathers would be horrified, but more and more of today's Baptists, now a majoritarian voice in America, expect and even demand tax dollars to prop up their faith.

In fact, the New York Times reports that religion in America, especially of the evangelical stripe, in recent decades has gained more and more government privileges at the burden of American taxpayers. Not only that, but increasingly churches and other religious institutions are not only hungry for taxpayer dollars and insistent on government privileges, but, ironically, are enclaves in which employees have few rights and in which individuals are often treated in anything other than a Christian manner.

The last two stories are the first two in a series of four in a New York Time's special entitled, "In God's Name," an expose on how religious organizations, including a large percentage of Baptist churches, increasingly press for, and receive, special privileges and favoritism from an accommodating government.

As Randall Balmer noted, "Where have all the Baptists gone?"

25 comments:

Looney said...

Somehow I am not horrified at the notion that a cup of water might be given in Jesus name, rather than only the name of the government.

Bruce Gourley said...

What if that cup of water, paid by your tax dollars, came in the name of Mohammed or Buddha?

Looney said...

Middle Eastern charity is always given in the name of Mohammed. Buddhists are quite aggressive here in California. It is only Christians who are bugged by giving in the name of Christ!

Bruce Gourley said...

Oh, so you approve of the government giving Buddhists and Muslims your tax dollars so they can spread their message!?

Looney said...

Whether we like it or not, Hezbollah, Hamas, and countless other Jihad organizations are basically government funded charities with considerably more coercive methods than any Christian ones. There is the Annoor Islamic Institute which is a government funded private, religious school!

Are only Christians to be banned from being vehicles for charity?

Bruce Gourley said...

Looney, you're not answering the question: do you approve of your tax dollars funding Muslim and Buddhist religious activities? A simple yes or no will do.

Looney said...

Well, a simple "no" would be the best per the question. Having said that, I believe there is a real Spririt of Secularism that claims itself to be a fair, balanced and neutral arbitrer over all the other spirits, including God himself. Don't much care for tax money being given in the name of this Spirit either.

So to waffle, as long as the Spirits are going to be handling my money, I don't see why Christianity should be excluded.

Bruce Gourley said...

Your Baptist forefathers (assuming you are a Baptist) shed their blood to ensure that America was founded as a secular nation with strict separation of church and state. They specifically insisted that religions, including Christianity, receive no privileges or favoritism from the government.

Looney said...

Yes, I am a Baptist. The words "Separation of Church and State" are incredibly ambiguous and need to be distinguished from the concept of "Separation of Church and State" that existed in the 17th/18th century. Iran, North Korea and China all have a form of separation of religion from state. Also, the role of government in our lives (vastly more intrusive) is completely different today than it was 200 years ago.

In other words, the fact that earlier Baptists believed in a concept entitled "Separation of Church and State" is totally irrelevant to today's circumstances.

Bruce Gourley said...

For you to say that the foundational beliefs of your faith forefathers are "totally irrelevant to today's circumstances" is a bunch of bull. You obviously know very little about your own faith heritage of separation of church and state. The fact is, if you were a Baptist in colonial America in the 17th or 18th centuries, you likely would have been persecuted (jailed, whipped, beaten, or worse) by the state "Christian" church, just for being a Baptist ... because Baptists were considered, by the ruling "conservative" Christians, to be liberal heretics who were nothing more than a bunch of trouble-makers. And now the Religious Right in America looks to the model of those very colonial "Christian" governments as they try to make America a "Christian" nation.

Looney said...

So which of these is more important to you: Telling people about Jesus? Or making sure that your chances of being persecuted are minimized?

Bruce Gourley said...

You're advocating letting the government use your tax dollars to evangelize for Jesus ... and Buddha ... and Mohammed ... and any other religious figure.

The Bible is clear: witnessing for Jesus is the responsibility of the church, not the government. And faith in Jesus is voluntary, not coerced by government.

As far as persecution goes, your Baptist forefathers stood up for Jesus and the Bible when they opposed the merger of church and state and advocated equality for all persons, whether Christian, or religious, or not ... and were persecuted for it. But you apparently support the Religious Right and cry "persecution" when you do not receive privilege and favoritism from the government solely based on your personal religious beliefs.

In other words, you cheapen and slander the very real persecution of your forefathers in the faith.

Looney said...

Maybe I am a masochist (certainly I am!), but avoiding suffering isn't the only thing on my agenda. Didn't Jesus say that we are to rejoice when we are persecuted? Did he say blessed are the whiners?

I visited a very old Baptist Church in England and read some of their history of sufferings. It wasn't nearly as bad as the early church nor can it be compared to today's Indonesia.

The other side of the question is whether or not Christians should be the only group excluded from spending tax money, especially given that we are one of the primary givers of the tax money in the first place.

Bruce Gourley said...

First of all, Christians are not excluded from spending tax money in today's America'; in fact, they receive more tax money than any other religious group!

Secondly, why are you whining (incorrectly) about Christians not receiving as much tax money as other religious groups, when on the other hand you claim that Christians should rejoice when "persecuted"?

And lastly, your Baptist forefathers insisted that NO TAX DOLLARS should go to any religious group, including Baptists. All the other denominations immediately after the Revolutionary War were willing for the government to collect a general church tax to be distributed among all religious groups in America, but Baptists stood firm against any tax money going to religion, and ultimately prevailed.

Looney said...

"NO TAX DOLLARS should go to any religious group"

Yes, I agree - this is the ideal. Unfortunately, 36% of the US GDP is spent by the government and most on programs that have massive overlap with our Christian obligations (especially education). People with other religious obectives have already wormed their way into these programs. i.e. no tax dollars going to any religious group or some religously motivated activity simply is not an option.

The US government already pays for abortionists and promotion of the gay agenda. The primary objection against our local Islamic Charter schools is that the Teachers Union deserves 100% of government school funding - not that the US shouldn't be funding Jihad values.

This being a Democracy, why shouldn't Christians try to get a bigger slice of the pie? Especially when everyone else is demanding a bigger slice ...

Enriqueta said...

Your Baptist forefathers (assuming you are a Baptist) shed their blood to ensure that America was founded as a secular nation with strict separation of church and state. They specifically insisted that religions, including Christianity, receive no privileges or favoritism from the government"

Loony is just what is name prescribes!!!


Then why are we soo hungry to push today?

Why are we not stopping our "leadership" why is Tony Perkins the only voice being heard. James Dobson?

They are Not my spokesman infact i long for the day when my generation pushes the envelope and the hypocrits out!

Peter talks about the false teachers we have soo many rigt now in our "leadership" in this country.
We bedded with the enemy when we began forceing our faith in the town sqare. We chose randomly who to support and to many of you older people sat back and watched it happen. Where was the leadership when King needed help fighting segragation in the south?

they were along side the Klan...our history is jacked in American and if our "babtist" roots really were for seperation why are leading Christians advocating just the opposite.

why?

because of POWER!!!

corruption and as Peter speaks up falling into sing of world lusts.

One thing about being a evangelical and trying with everything i have is i will not be silent to our leadership. America is not the world. We have to much at stake all over the world then to allow our own ego's in the body to hyjack our identity in America.

I only hope more of my friends and those graduating from Seminary today fight from the inside for reform and these old guys who have mocked our amazing God by falling for corrupt lives are totally revealed. So that we have real social changes within our body.

We can only pray!!!



Please tell me , why sir do we not hear more voices with in the body to halt the lines being blurred of church and state.

It makes my job harder all the way around. I truly believe it is our own fault. We opened Pandoras box and the door to other faiths to be preached to our children in public schools. It is America and the way we pushed our selves on others there is bound to be push back. We have infact helped our adversary.


peace
Q

Bruce Gourley said...

looney, if "no tax dollars to religious groups is the ideal," not to mention biblical, why not stick with the biblical ideal (like your faith forefathers) instead of compromising by using the excuse that everyone else is doing it?

As my mother used to say, "If everyone else sticks their heads in the fire, are you going to stick your head in the fire?"

Looney said...

"not to mention biblical"

I believe that the temple in Jerusalem (in Ezra 1:11-28) was rebuilt under the orders of the Persian Empire with property and resources of the Persian government and all obtained through tax or conquest. The sponsors were Zoarastrians. Even the sacrifices were paid for by tax money. Paul's mission trip to Rome was also sponsored by the government!

Can you point out anywhere in the Bible that it indicates using tax money for God's purpose is wrong?

Not that I agree with what is being done, but it seems to me you are locked into an artificial, non-scriptural thinking box!

bowtiebaptist said...

Looney,

Jesus said "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." It's a stretch to think that Paul's missionary endeavors were paid for by the government. Paul even refused sometimes to take money from churches and chose to work instead. One practical reason to refuse the government's money is that with government money comes government intervention in the form of control how the money gets spent.

Former Baptists like George W. Truett from FBC Dallas were proud to say that "religion needs no props."

Looney said...

Bowtie,

"Jesus said "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." "

Ah, but in a Democracy, Caesar is the people and we are thus part of Caesar.

Also, there is nothing that says that Caesar can't hire Christians to do his work!

Paul knew what would happen when he went to Jerusalem, so it was clearly his intent to make use of the government resources to further the gospel!

Another thing to consider: While y'all have argued that governement money is tainted so that even Christians can't do good works with it, how could it be possible for non-Christians to do work with it? Aren't the same people who argue that government money is tainted the same ones who push for increasing tax rates so we can fulfill are Chrstian obligations in helping the poor? These positions are mutually exclusive!

Either government money is tainted or it isn't. You can't hold that it is tainted if government gives to Christians, but holy if it isn't given to Christians!

Bruce Gourley said...

looney, your interpretation of the Bible is looney! It goes to prove that anyone can make the Bible say what they want it to say.

Looney said...

And I will stick with my accusation that you have carelessly embraced a notion that charity is moral and necessary, but only if it is NOT done in the name of Jesus. i.e. The spirit behind your ideology is that giving in the name of Jesus is morally wrong and unacceptable, especially in a society that denounces morals and considers everything acceptable!

Bruce Gourley said...

Your reading of me is as looney as your reading of the Bible! I'll leave you to play your little game with yourself ...

bowtiebaptist said...

Bruce,

Perhaps we should lament "where have all the strict separationists gone?" I have long suspected that the accomodationists would win the war for how most Christians view church/state relations.

Most people are willing to choose to accomodate with respect to church state simply because they have not seen any negative effects from such a stance.

My real struggle is related to the idea of how to demonstrate to people that the experiences of our Baptist forebears are not irrelevant to the conversation about church/state issues today.

Accomodationists simply do not think that there is a danger in accepting favors from the government or in taking money from the government. They don't run into a problem until the government tries to tell them what to do with the money, especially if they have to follow eeoc guidelines on hiring etc.

Poor John Leland, I'll bet he has turned over in his grave so much lately that he is getting worn out.

Bruce Gourley said...

Well said, bowtiebaptist!