News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Rev. Cameron Douglas

In defense of a secular government

I hear from the political and religious right how great our American government is because it was founded on Christian principles.

It is being said as though we Christians have a world evangelism mandate that is like a manifest destiny, shrouded in the American flag and advanced with American militarism, to convert the world to our Christian democracy.

It simply won't work in a place like Iraq.

I understand that the genius of our founding fathers was not in establishing a Christian society, far from it actually, but in establishing a secular (i.e. non-religious) society in which our American democratic form of government can flourish.

America was meant to be a place where the diversity of ideas and opinions is respected, encouraged and cherished. I see and read none of that going on in Iraq.

Consider the words of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."

Isn't it fascinating how our religious freedom is listed in the First Amendment before our other civil freedoms of speech, press, peaceable assembly and petition of our government?

Did you ever wonder why religion was listed first?

Our American democratic civil liberties are the birth child of European descent from both the Renaissance and the Protestant reformation. Our forefathers, and particularly the Pilgrims, had learned from centuries of political and religious tyranny to avoid having the head of state and the head of the church centered in the same person or position, such as it was with the Church of England in the time of the Pilgrims.

What I see happening in Iraq is the attempt to secularize their society without the historic religious and social foundation that makes American democratic politics possible. Iraq is the product of another culture, history and religious perspective than our own. It is not rooted in European understandings of religious individualism.

They would prefer to see themselves under a theocracy, or rule of God vis--vis the Quran, rather than under a democracy, or rule by and for the people.

I love America and its rule of law.

I love our heritage and history.

I admire the fortuitous genius of our founding fathers in seeking a secular society where free religious practices are not interfered with and where political diversity and the exchange of ideas are protected.

I am delighted as a Christian pastor to be able to express myself in this way whether you agree with me or not. You see, that's the point.

The Rev. Cameron Douglas, minister of First Christian Church, Decatur, is one of several local ministers writing religion columns for The Daily. For more information, call Melanie Smith at 340-2468.

Rev. Cameron Douglas Rev. Cameron Douglas

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