By Jon Meacham
Washington Post, July 2, 2006
Whatever they (the USA's Founding Fathers) were, they were united against an established national church. They wanted religion to be one factor in our public life, but not the dominant one. "Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and observe the religion which we believe to be of divine origin," Madison wrote, "we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us."
The key Founders were committed to the idea of religious liberty in part because they knew history. The conflicts of the Old World had often been ignited or exacerbated by theological considerations, particularly during the 16th and 17th centuries in England. The colonial experience in their own land also had little to recommend it....There was a religious case for religious freedom, too. If God himself did not compel obedience from his creatures, then who were men to try?
As we face more such battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, we ought to bear our legacy of religious freedom in mind. In many parts of the Islamic world, of course, there is little distinction between secular and religious authority. Theocracy and tyranny have a tragic tendency to go hand in hand, and it is difficult to imagine that many mullahs will be moved by American homilies on the virtues of religious liberty.
But we should still try. As we know from our own past, history is full of surprising turns. What seemed unthinkable in one generation can become commonplace in the next. While it is naive to think that simply talking about freedom of conscience will change the world, it can do no harm, and may just do some good, for us to tell our own story -- how we, too, once lived in a world in which our civil rights were dictated by religious affiliation, and how we came to see that the causes of God and of country would be best served if they were connected but not chained to one another.
For entire article go here.
technorati: politics, emerging church