Religion and the Federal Government are strange bedfellows, some would argue they are too closely related, others would say that they are too separated. I think that Church and State have more in common than we might think, and that the commonalities will make us uncomfortable.
Remember this video?
It made the rounds on the internet about a year and a half ago. Many people whom I dearly love think it's brilliant and wonderful, and many others, also dearly loved, think it's terrible. But the fact that it both exists and is popular says something about our cultural view of religion.
The single most viewed post on my blog came when North Carolina voted to add a discriminatory amendment to their constitution last May. The change to their state constitution made me rethink the pride in which I hold my home state. Then, earlier this month, I encountered this nonsense.
If only this were an April Fools Joke. But alas, it is not. Here's the full bill.
This Bill does not, as many people may assume from the headlines, establish a State Religion for North Carolina. Rather, it endorses a principle known as "nullification." Nullification essentially says that States can interpret what actions are and aren't constitutional, and ignore federal actions that they deem unconstitutional. These issues have popped up a number of times through history, and seemed to have gained some popularity over the last couple of years.
Anti-religious sentiment on one hand, Anti-federialist feelings on the other. That says something about who we are as a people, even if we don't share those feelings.
What I see reflected in these two disparate works in a mistrust of institutions. The larger the institution the less we, as a culture, tend to trust it.
The video contends that the institutional church is manipulative and coercive, and that a personal relationship with Jesus should not be constrained by that institution.
The NC Bill, and other nullification laws, make the same claims about the Federal Government, that its interest is in maintaining its own power, not in serving the people who have entrusted them to govern.
"I don't need the church, I can love Jesus all by myself"
"We don't need the government, we can solve these problems by ourself"
Now for the word of the day:
Antidisestablishmentarianism - the belief that establishments (usually the church) should not be dissolved.
I put myself pretty firmly in that camp. The Church certainly has mistakes for which it will be judged, and the Federal Government does as well. But large bodies of committed people working together have also accomplished some of the greatest good in this world.
Because the truth is, as John Donne wrote, "No [person] is an island, entire unto [themselves]." We exist in communities and need one another. If we just opted out of the culture it would affect more people than just ourselves. These establishments, Church and Government, serve two radically different purposes, but both recognize the truth that we cannot do what needs be done by ourselves.
What do you think? Are we our own? Do we need each other? Do we need established bodies?