While we are certainly right to be zealous in our protection of the separation of church and state, the editorial in last Monday’s Hatchet, “Disunion of Faith,” was particularly bizarre in its paranoid tone and anti-religious bias. Clearly, The Hatchet does not have a firm grasp of the reality of the relationship between the American people and expressions of faith.
First, I feel compelled to argue with The Hatchet’s view of history. The earliest American settlers did not come to this continent to worship freely. North America’s European settlers were largely drawn by self-interested, capitalist motives. In other words, they were tired of being poor in the Old World, so they came to America in search of a better life. Those who did come for religious reasons, such as the Puritans who settled in Massachusetts Bay, came to prevent the erosion of their beliefs in an increasingly secular society. These settlers did not believe in the separation of church and state; they came to establish a theocracy, their “city upon a hill.”
I make this point for reasons beyond the education of The Hatchet’s editorial staff. Much of American history and much of the narrative of the development of the American character involves a social relationship with God. Recent attempts to banish God from public discourse are contrary to American traditions and history. This does not mean that we should jettison the First Amendment and reinstall the Massachusetts Bay theocracy. Indeed, the right to worship, according to the dictates of one’s own conscience, is perhaps the most cherished freedom enjoyed by the citizens of this country. The obverse of this truth is that religious expression in public by public men and women is a part of our collective heritage as Americans as well.
When Rev. Franklin Graham asked us to atone for our national sins, he did so from an earnest desire to improve our country. Unlike The Hatchet, I do not believe different faiths necessarily oppose one another. As a Jew, I do not accept Jesus Christ as a personal savior, but I understand and accept his value as a moral guide and a symbol to the vast majority of Americans. I would disagree with a literal interpretation of Rev. Graham’s sermon, namely that Jesus Christ is personally the savior of our nation.
That said, I think it is fair to say that the teachings of Jesus could go a long way in solving our country’s problems. Even those of us who do not personally accept Jesus as a religious figure would do well to adopt the value of compassion and charity as well as the primacy of the virtue of love.
These were the messages I took from the invocations offered at President Bush’s inauguration. I am quite certain that no one offered any allusion to hellfire and brimstone. I did, however, hear a clear message of hope and compassion. Perhaps if The Hatchet had listened to the prayers offered at the inauguration more closely rather than wasting their energy being offended, it could have left that cold winter morning with a seed of inspiration rather than the bitter fruits of outrage.
-The writer is in the five year BA/MA program for political science.