One can but wonder what Christians living under the repressions of Communism will think of the efforts here to secularize the American government.
We think of Red China, where religious freedom is the freedom to follow the Communist line; of North Korea, where churches no longer exist and believers worship in secret; of Soviet Russia, where every effort is being made to drive Christ and the worship of God out of the hearts of the people.
That responsible Christian leaders should advocate a new policy for America, one which would in effect secularize the State and eliminate from its official declarations and acts an allegiance to God, is unthinkable, but nevertheless true.
That which the United Presbyterian Church does at the meeting of its General Assembly in May will have an effect far beyond that one denomination. For that reason all Christians should be concerned.
The report which will be before that assembly recommends, in effect:
• That the celebration of religious holidays and religious observances shall never be introduced into the program of our public schools.
• That the Bible shall be eliminated from the public schools except in connection with courses in literature, history, or related subjects; and that public prayers should be omitted because they either are meaningless or tend toward indoctrination.
• That in schools there shall be no seasonal activities having to do with religious holidays, such as Christmas.
• That public property shall not be used for religious displays (the Christmas manger scene, for instance); such scenes are thereby eliminated from courthouse lawns, schools, and so on.
• That candidates for public office shall be accepted or rejected solely on their competence to govern and without reference to their religious convictions or lack of them.
• That the State should not take into account religious concepts of sin and guilt in administering divorce laws but should grant divorces when, and only when, there is irretrievable human failure in the area of marriage. The basis of divorce would then have sociological and not spiritual significance, because “the family has been so broken that it is no longer socially desirable to maintain [the marriage].”
• That the State “consider the adoption of children solely on the basis of the temporal benefit to the child; to the family to which the child is being adopted; and, if necessitated by circumstances, the family which the child is leaving.” Here is a proposed recommendation of a church group asking the State to make the decision “solely on the basis of temporal benefit to the child,” ignoring the most important part of all—the spiritual welfare of the child and the fitness of the foster parents to provide such training.
• That all forms of censorship are wrong: “We are convinced that no human being or agency has the wisdom to decide on religious grounds what the general public may see or hear.” This, of course, means that no form of evil may be proscribed on “religious grounds.” This would completely unfetter those who cater to pornography and other smut and filth by film, the printed page, or other devices.
And here we find a decision of the Supreme Court in perfect accord. In this decision, liberty and license were confused. The Post Office Department had barred from the mails three magazines that cater to homosexuals. The publisher had escaped indictment by claiming insanity, and at the time of the court’s decision was confined to a Washington mental institution. The Supreme Court ruled that the magazines, although “unpleasant, uncouth, and tawdry,” could not be considered “so offensive … as to affront current community standards of decency.” By its own admission, the court used as its standards our own current moral decadence—not an offense against decency itself. Here again we find a relativism similar to that found in the report of the committee.
This relativism is expressed in these words: “It must be recognized anew that our God is a dynamic Lord, a truly unpredictable source of ongoing revelation.… We must see these recommendations as provisional for our current witness and realize that tomorrow’s problems may defy today’s solution.” And, “the sole constant in its mandate is the fact of Jesus Christ.” Here the finality of God’s present revelation is rejected for an “ongoing revelation,” which must be revealed to modern man and which may be at variance with the written Word.
Admitting that the Holy Spirit gives us new insights into the Holy Scriptures, many of us believe with all of our hearts that God’s holiness and the principles that flow therefrom are absolute rather than relative.
From these direct references to the recommendations of the United Presbyterian committee, it is obvious that there is envisioned a completely secular or neutral state, acknowledging at no point its responsibility to a sovereign God.
To fill in the vacuum thus created, this report affirms that the Church is the conscience of the State. (The report points out that a new concept of the Church’s obligation in the social order was adopted by the General Assembly of 1910.) This new concept has led to the increasing activity of the Church as such in the realm of social, economic, and political pronouncements. Nor is it strange to note that as a result of this shift from spiritual to secular concern the Church has found herself involved in lobbying for specific legislation, such as medical aid for the aged under Social Security, federal aid to education, recognition of Red China, and scores of other programs on which her members, men and women of equal piety and social concern, often find themselves in utter disagreement.
Not for nought has there rested on the institutions of our land a forthright acknowledgment of God in our heritage, our culture, and our official life. Are all these things to be abandoned through a new doctrine of Church and State wherein the State would be completely secular, owing no allegiance to God?
Nations have rejected God and faded into oblivion. By official action Communism denies Him today. But all nations have stood and now stand under the judgment of him who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Shall America reject her own Christian heritage? Shall our government remove from her official life every vestige of recognition of Him?
The warning of the psalmist can be for us too: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (Ps. 2:4, 5).
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