Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pandering 101

I am a supporter of Church-State Separation. You may have been able to glean my leanings by reading the subtle nuances in my posts that suggest this. I do not subscribe to the notion that, just because many (if not most) of the Founders of America were Christian, that we are, by devise, a Christian Nation. I have read many of Jefferson and Madison's writings, and they were both very careful about what they said. Both advocated for a separation of the two, to keep the State from interfering with religion, and vice-versa. Jefferson spoke of the beliefs of Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans in America - not solely Christians. Even George Washington wrote of America as a nation where individuals could believe as they wished, and worship as they wished. Yet, I somewhat understand the need for some people to equate America with Christianity. I mean, I don't completely get it. I don't see how a land that is equal for all should be more equal for those who have gone through Confirmation, but perhaps that comes from a weakness in those peoples' own faith...

At any rate, when it comes to politicking with religion, it's nice to see a refreshing approach to campaigning. And there's a new one out there. Paul Abramson is the founder of He has long supported Creationism over Evolution. I'm not opposed to Creationism as a religious belief, but inasmuch as I support separation of church and state because I don't believe that Hindus or Buddhists, et al. should have to learn one religious theory over any other, think it should be taught at religious institutions, and if a parent wants their child to learn only that theory, then that parent should send their child to a religious institution for his or her instruction, but I digress. Mr. Abramson has decided he's going to run for Congress. I admire that. I like it when people aspire to serve their nation. But I disagree with his platform: If elected, he would push the Public Expression of Religion Act, making public display of crosses, menorahs, nativities, etc. on public property injunction-proof. Additionally, he would introduce a bill mandating "display of the 10 Commandments in every federal courthouse in the United States and its territories."

His premise for this proposition is that America is supposed to have freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. I completely agree with his premise, but I think his proposed application is flawed. By mandating display of one religious doctrine over all religious doctrines rooted in this nation, then we are in effect favoring one religion over another at the best, and coercing those who believe differently into changing their beliefs at the worst. Imagine if you as a Christian were to walk into a Courthouse and the judge forced you to swear in on a Q'uran, and the sight greeting you upon entry was a giant tapestry of the Sharia. Would you feel as though you were going to get a fair judgment from the judge in your case? What if you knew that the State mandated this not only in the courthouse you visited, but in all courthouses? In all Government buildings? Would you feel free to worship as you choose?

By keeping religion free from government intrusion, we do not preclude Americans from believing in God, or in Christ or the Trinity. We instead make this country comfortable for those of all faiths to practice as they see fit.

If I were living in Abramson's district, I would vote for Brad Ellsworth, not because I don't believe in God, but because I believe my faith does not need our government's endorsement to exist.


photog said...

Amen! I agree with you, as always. Except for one point.

You state, "I'm not opposed to Creationism as a religious belief, but inasmuch as I support separation of church and state because I don't believe that Hindus or Buddhists, et al. should have to learn one religious theory over any other [in public school]...." Creationism is not necessarily unscientific nor is it necessarily specific to one religion. Many of the world's religions espouse the belief that the world was created by a higher power. And I have no problem teaching creationism - though not necessarily from a Judeo-Christian perspective - as a theory alongside evolution and any other theories. It takes as much "faith" to believe that a big bang created the universe and all life evolved from a single-celled organism as it does to believe that a supreme being - regardless of his/her identity - created the universe and all life therein.

The simple fact is no one was around at the beginning to time to decisively end this debate. Creationism cannot be absolutely proven or disproven, just as Evolution cannot be absolutely proven or disproven. In fact, very few things in life can be absolutely proven or disproven; we simple accept that life is rarely absolute. And we can't very well disregard the subject altogether in school. So why not teach all beginning-of-life theories? I don't think that the public school can be accused of promoting religion by telling children, "some people/scientists think a supreme being - God, if you will - created the world while others think we evolved. Go home and ask your parents." America is a melting pot of diversity - diversity of culture, language, faith, experiences, income, et cetera. That diversity can certainly extend into the science classroom without offending the constitution.

Steve said...

I would go for an all-or-none approach. If we go with Creationism, then we should embrace other hypotheses, like the Korean belief that we came from a she-bear, or the Mayan (I believe) belief that we were created last in a series of experiments including making people out of corn and making them out of mud (among others). To presume that there are only two theories out there (and that "other" one is wrong) is part of my issue with the concept.

I also have no problem with a class on comparative religion in public schools, but when a district such as Midland ISD embraces a Bible study class, particularly if it were to mandate such a class, then I have a problem. I agree that diversity can extend into the classroom, but there has to be care and consideration involved, not merely the pushing of agenda.

photog said...

I think the all-or-nothing approach is too simplistic. It sounds good in theory, but is not realistic in practice.

I am not advocating, as Paul Abramson, that we give teachers carte blanch to force a Christian agenda. But I think the idea of some supreme being is inherent in the study of science for many people. I don't think we should shy away from teaching (or at least mentioning) a certain perspective just because another might not agree. Many people of various religions disagree with Evolution, but I think it should be taught (or at least mentioned) as well. And I don't want to create a culture where any inadvertent slip of the word "God" and "creation" in the same sentence nets teachers fearing for their jobs. The proverbial witch hunt, if you will.

Education necessarily includes compromises. There will always be disagreements over educational materials: the music selected for the choir concert, whether a particular book is inappropriate for an English class, should "curse" words be edited from the school play, et cetera.

Educators should be allowed the latitude within reason to expose children to a wide variety of subjects and allow them to think and reason for themselves. That is the essence of learning, not to know, but to think for oneself. If a parent vehemently opposes a particular topic, perhaps they should find private education for their children or use an available absence to skip that day. But parents should also be enforcing whatever values and ideas they find important at home and not leaving it to the public school.

Again, I'm not suggesting teachers should possess unfettered discretion to force whatever agenda they want. But they should be given the ability to teach, and not simply the uncontroversial or irreligious subjects.

On a personal note, I grew up in a religiously conservative home. Yet I was taught evolution in public school, both by teachers who subscribed to the theory and those who did not. In fact, I probably had more in-school instruction regarding evolution than creationism. I never felt compelled, even at that age, to abandon my belief in the biblical account of creation.

Any ideas for 2d Sunday lunch? Your turn; I picked last time. It's only two weeks away. We had a blast at the park with the kids too. We're game to do that again anytime, though maybe we can find a park with better parking next time.