It seems that there never has been a time when separation of Church and State was the law of the land. This concept has been under attack by those of religious convictions and the mechanism devolves down to displays of the Jewish Ten Commandments. Of course, there were precursors to these ten rules revealed to Moses to give to his people waiting for him to come down from Sinai. While they waited, their need for religion was so great that they demanded of Aaron, Moses’ brother, that he should give them a god and settled on a golden calf. The story is well known and taught in religious schools all over the world. It ranks right up there with the story of the freeing of Hebrew Slaves by allowing them to leave Egyptian bondage and go into the desert and wander there for enough time for those who remembered slavery to die off before going into Philistia and taking possession of other people’s land. All of this religious history is packed into stories that are shoved down people’s throats.
Exactly what is now being injected into public life? The editorial in the NY Times today says that the Religious Right’s campaign to inject more Christianity into public life has paid off with the ruling that some depictions of the Ten Commandments are O.K. I do not see it that way. The Supreme Court made its decision and (in the words of Andrew Jackson) now let that Court enforce its decision. A split decision that says some monuments are O.K. but some framed texts in court houses are not, is no decision at all. The NY Times crows that “The Court Affirms Separation of Church and State …” but includes the caveat of the ellipsis at the end of that headline.
Religions are on a roll throughout the world. With the United States leading the movement, almost every country is reacting by returning to an earlier time. Then public displays of conformity were the norm. The dominant religion made it possible for persecution of those minorities who would not get in line or who managed to be “tolerated”. It was a given that minorities would not get into heaven because they believed the wrong thing or demonstrated belief in the wrong way.
Big things begin with little ones. Smoldering religious sentiments that had no public notice over time become thundering proclamations from Billy Graham down to elected officials who spearhead the move to make America more Christian. The fact that religious diversity rather than conformity now characterizes America does not stop the efforts of political advocates who persuade the Court to rule in favor of injecting a little more Christianity into the American vein. It is not shoved down our throats but is out there – waiting.