Forum: Separation of church and state keeps us from unholy wars

Civilizations have tried the route of state religion, only to see the rise of religious persecution.

By Phil O’Loane / Herald Forum

They finally said it out loud: “Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on Jan. 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this right here.”

Jack Posobiec, OANN commentator, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 25, then held up a cross necklace and continued: “After we burn that swamp to the ground, we will establish the new American republic on its ashes, and our first order of business will be righteous retribution for those who betrayed America.”

First a personal admission: I am an ordained cleric in a Christian denomination. Having said that, I would like to remind Americans that mixing politics, government and religion has, through out history, always been marked with oppression, violence and loss of the very lives religious people claim to be protecting.

Christianity, which started as a sect of Judaism, was quickly persecuted by the socially dominant religion of the region; a la St Paul. Removing itself from Judaism and expanding across the Roman Empire it found itself persecuted and its members tortured and killed by the dominant state religion of the Roman Empire.

With the ascendancy of Constantine, Christianity found itself free from oppression, but upon becoming the dominant religion of the New Roman Empire it quickly became entwined in the the affairs of government. This entanglement in government and the quickly following abuses, led ultimately to the Protestant Reformation. Eventually even many of these “reformers” couldn’t resist oppressing and in many cases murdering any others who didn’t believe as they did; even fellow Christians. This country’s beginnings are marked by the arrival of one set of Christian believers fleeing oppression from a different set of Christian believers.

Just surveying the landscape it is obvious that even amongst the same denominations there is no unanimity in beliefs.

My own ancestors used their religious beliefs to justify the the enslavement of black Africans: based on their reading of the Christian scriptures.

Remember that old saying “if you don’t learn from history, you will just keep repeating it.“ We Americans find ourselves on the precipice of repeating a terrible part of human history.

Each of the aforementioned groups, were convinced they knew God’s will not just for them, but for the rest of their societies. They all started out their reforms with the best of intentions, but ultimately only succumbed to the inevitable path of oppression.

My firm belief is that no one of us has all the ultimate answers. At the same time I believe that each one of us has a part of the answer; but together we can improve the human condition.

The brilliance to me of the American experience, is that it sought to eliminate this one source of oppression by a separation of church and state.

Religion, what ever the brand, is at its finest when it is held in tension with the dominant society, not when it is in control of the dominant society.

As an American you have a choice: Do you want myself and my brand of religion dictating the laws governing you and your family? Or would you prefer that we continue to point out to one another, what we feel might be a better path for our society.

It’s as simple as that, but based on historical precedent, the wrong direction could be devastating to many of our fellow Americans based solely on their gender, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs, their political affiliations or just the color of their skin.

What’s your choice going to be?

Phil O’Loane lives in Arlington.

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