Religion and politics are the two most incendiary topics of conversation imaginable. Everything we think, say, and do is influenced by our view of God and government. President Obama's observation that we are not a nation beholden to any particular religion has struck the match of ardor and ignited the debate over whether America is a Christian nation.
Let me clarify that there is no such thing as a Christian nation. A Christian, by definition, is an individual follower of Christ. No nation can be "a" Christian, although we understand that those who debate the question mean our law is based on Christian (or "Judeo-Christian") principles. Without floundering in a sea of theology, let's just say that the principles in discussion predate Christianity and Judaism. They were incarnated in the very womb of Creation.
Some tell us we need to "embrace universal principles that emphasize our common humanity and promote greater understanding and appreciation of different cultures." This sounds well and good and politically correct, but is it practical or possible?
The Book of Judges is a horror story right out of a Gothic novel, except it's all true. It honestly and almost matter-of-factly documents scenes of rape, murder, dismemberment, unbridled lust, idolatry, robbery, economies of truth, betrayal, assassination, warfare, torture, suicide, filicide, and other best-seller fodder. The key verse and epilogue are identical summaries of the culture of the time: "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6, 21:25). In other words, every person followed the dictates of their common humanity, unfettered by government standards.
If we are to appreciate different cultures, then we need to embrace them uncritically lest we offend. We were wrong to interfere with Nazis, and must appreciate Holocaust deniers. Beheading and terror are innate to some cultures, and we need their cooperation to make this a better global village. Forced abortion is practiced by a country with over 20% of the world's population. Genocide rules in many countries, and a caste system in others wears a heavy boot that keeps the people crushed and oppressed. So we wonder: Whose principles of common humanity should we embrace and cooperate with?
A cursory consideration verifies God's view of common humanity: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). Jeremiah reminds us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (17:9). God ordained human government, based on His righteous character, to rein in man's evil: "For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:4).
Are there "good" common principles of humanity and culture that we can embrace? There are values that are shared by humans that manifest themselves in almost every culture, such as private property and the right to life. But these are not beliefs that evolved or sprang up from the fertile soil of man's own heart. "Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them" (Romans 2:14, 15). God has written His standards in every heart, and we either live by them or make excuses to go our own way.
It is historical fact that the founding fathers based the nation's laws on the Bible. They were not all Christians or Jews but recognized the wisdom of having a righteous standard of law, a law that respects life and encourages true freedom.
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