The Residue of God

It’s popular in American culture these days to discuss the concept of separation of Church and State as the concept of how Christianity should have nothing to do with politics or public life.  This is, of course, the exact opposite of the Founding Father’s intention with this phrase, which was to protect Christianity (and other religions) from the machinations or intrusions of any political authority.  They understood that Christianity influencing the world is a good thing, whereas politics influencing Christianity, such as the state religions of Europe and England, was a negative thing.

But this decidedly warped interpretation of separation of Church and State is being extended, so that now, anything with any sort of religious connotation, influence, or history can be deemed inappropriate for public, strictly secular events.   This may sound like a good and reasonable thing – until you begin to think about just how much of Western civilization’s art and culture has been influenced, informed, or based in Christianity.

This school determined that an instrumental performance of Ave Maria is inappropriate for a public high school graduation ceremony.  Of course, this school was extra gun-shy because of a controversy the previous year due to clearly Christian lyrics in a song that was performed.  The school’s statement that students deserved a graduation free from “controversy” seems reasonable to me.  However the goal of avoiding “controversial messages” is more problematic.  Isn’t part of the educational process exposure to controversial messages and learning how to interact with them?

What constitutes a controversial message?  And what sorts of lengths are we willing to go to in order to avoid any possibility of controversy?  And is what we’re left with at the end of this purging process worth paying any attention to?

Christianity has had a huge influence on the arts in Western civilization.  Bach, anyone?  How about Johnny Cash?  Should we ignore Michaelangelo’s David because it’s a Biblical person?  Is excellence only worth admiring or listening to so long as it’s not inspired by or based upon anything that anyone might take offense at, or any religious source?  Should we ban from public consideration an artistic work from someone who is anti-religion or atheistic?   In a culture that is so frenzied to promote the mistaken goal of tolerance, how is it that the intolerance of a vocal minority determines public policy for everyone?

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