September 8, 2011

Church and State

Earlier this week I got an email the subject of which was "Raising the Right." I knew it would either be innocuous or deeply offensive. It was, in fact, the latter. It began a little something like this:

The U.S. has one of the lowest birth success rates in the world, schools are testing four-day class weeks, and liberals want to take “one nation under God” out of the pledge of allegiance. What is happening to our country?

Ahhh, the old what is happening to our country ploy. It got better since it was, after all, an email promoting a Christian artist and apparent patriot.
Patriotic artist, Bob McBoberson*, created a painting representing his fear, sorrow and hope for this nation titled, “One Nation Under God.” He painted it in the hopes to awaken Americans and the government to return to the principles of freedom under the Constitution and recognize God as the source of these blessings. With over 60 figures and symbols in Bob’s painting, Jesus is holding the Constitution while the founding fathers and other symbolic individuals from the past stand directly behind him. This is to show the belief that God & Country should be united. To the left side of the painting are the strong Americans who hold the country together while on the other side are those who are weakening it.

And I swear Abraham Lincoln is on the right hand side, along with "those who are weakening" our country. Which include a scientist holding The Origin of the Species, a reporter, a pregnant woman clutching her swollen belly, a lawyer counting money, and a man "on his cell phone not paying attention." I wish I was making this up.

I'm an atheist, liberal (who doesn't think liberal is a bad word), Fox News loathing, evolution believing, women's rights supporting, pro-choice championing, separation of church and state upholding kind of guy. And I found this deeply disturbing.

I don't foist my beliefs on anyone else. They're mine and mine alone. Everyone has every right to believe whatever they want to believe because that's precisely the thing that makes this country great. The problem with this example of extremism is that it both laughs in the face of separation of church and state doctrine while clearly excluding the other religions and cultures that went (and still go) into making this country so fantastic.

Am I wrong? Isn't there enough division in this country as it is? Shouldn't we be trying to find compromises instead of differences?

* Not his real name. I refuse to give this guy publicity.

Posted by Chris at September 8, 2011 7:04 AM

I find this sort of "Us and Them" attitude as dispicable as you do. I wish I had a solution. Maybe we need a giant do-over button to reset us to 50,000 years ago or so.

Posted by: Elizabeth at September 8, 2011 7:55 AM

Fear-mongering at its finest. Or dumbest. I'm sorry, I know you're trying to have an intelligent exchange here (something "the right" seems to have given up on), but I got to the part about Jesus holding the Constitution and lost it.

Posted by: Fraulein N at September 8, 2011 8:51 AM

Just for the record, I'm a practicing Catholic with right-of-center leanings and I am horribly distrubed by the work of the "artist" as you described it. Separation of church and state is about not forcing anyone to practice a particular belief, not about taking faith away from anyone who has it. Also, the "one nation under God" is not part of the pledge as originally written, so you liberals are just trying to restore it to its text as revised in 1924- the original 1892 version didn't even have "...the United States of America..." in it.

Posted by: MamaKaren at September 8, 2011 9:50 AM

I try not to think about this stuff, at all. At times like these, I jokingly think that I should have had more children to offset this a bit on my end. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but I never understand how someone becomes like this.

From where I sit it seems to be based on fear, protecting their own and a totally different way of thinking about the issues and what is important. Most of the people in my life happen to think somewhat along these lines to one degree or another. Anyone that knows me really well, knows what I believe in and what issues I fight for and support. They don't like to discuss issues with me and it rarely ever comes up as I can't be swayed.

I lost an old, dear friend like this. She forwarded a mass email to my in box too everyone else in her address book. I called her on it as she sent me a hate filled racist rant about President Obama. I told her she was out of line and she should have realized that everyone wouldn't appreciate this. She was mad that I called her out on attacking in her words "my guy". I saw it differently. It was about decency and respect.

I miss the days when politicians seemed to work together and not constantly tear each other down. How anything is ever going to change or get better, I don't know.

It bothers me because we have very serious issues to address and real consequences for how we live our lives based on changes on the table to retirement plans and pensions, health care, Social Security, Medicare, etc., and little time for some of us to recover from.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at September 8, 2011 10:37 AM

Separation of church and state...I agree
The crap you received is ridiculous! I'm all for people having their own beliefs, that's what this country was built on...but keep them to yourself if they are this radical!!!!

Good job sharing a response. Maybe you should send it to him!!!! Give him a taste of a rebuttal because most people will just delete it and move on.

Posted by: Krush at September 8, 2011 1:03 PM

I'm a follower of Christ who absolutely refuses to take the label "Christian" because of crap like that.

It's decisive, fearmongering, hate mongering and there is no sign of fruit of the spirit.

And as someone who follows Christ - he made it clear a couple of times that He doesn't give a damned about countries/politics/politicians. Him holding up the constitution is laughable. He would never.

And I betcha the pregnant woman holding her swollen belly represented the break down of the family unit and the problem with babies born out of wedlock. They have a massive problem with that but they also have massive issues with birth control and abortion. PICK WHAT YOU WANT.

Posted by: Mindy at September 8, 2011 2:28 PM

"The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian relgion." John Adams. 2d president of the US and devoted Christian.

Posted by: joss is boss at September 8, 2011 3:17 PM

Gah. I'm with Mindy. My parents however, probably ordered the picture, framed.

Posted by: Jess at September 8, 2011 5:52 PM

Not wrong! Not wrong at all. Too much division in this country and not enough compromising. We all can't be right, but together, we can make it right! And I'm sick of this "I'm right, you're wrong" crap that seems to be going on from a lot of fronts. It's got to stop.

Posted by: cyndy at September 8, 2011 9:11 PM

How did you end up on that newsletter? HA!

I'm agnostic myself, but anyone talking about God doesn't bother me in the least.

Also while I'm sure many reading this like to blame the "right" for division in the country, the left has equal blame to go around with all their "racist" talk constantly, that is certainly not bringing the country together and has become a joke now for all it's overuse on anything the left doesn't like the other side saying.

Neither far right or left side impresses me which is why I sit squarely in the middle where most of the country is

Posted by: Dee at September 8, 2011 11:36 PM

Ok, I too have seen this painting (at least, I assume it's the same one). As a point of clarification, I think the explanation in that email you received was an oversimplification, and therefore a little misleading.

According to the artist, Lincoln and everyone standing behind Jesus (regardless of which side) is part of the "patriotic americans" group - including a few liberals, democrats and atheists (or at least deists).

The group in the lower right corner is the group that the artist believes is having a negative impact on the country - reporters, lawyers, judges, politicians, professors that use evolution to push Christianity out of the educational forum. The pregnant woman in this corner, however is supposed to represent hope (for pro-life) instead of being a negative persona, according to the artist.

Playing a bit of devil's advocate here...

Separation of church and state is one of those concepts that - by necessity - has a different definition for conservative Christians (or, I would imagine, anyone staunchly devoted to any religion).

You, I assume, interpret it to mean that the two entities are completely separate and should not involve or influence one another.

The Christian Right interprets it to mean that state should not have automatic control of the church and the church should not have automatic control of the state. Influence is another matter entirely.

Honestly, the idea that religion shouldn't influence government is completely incompatible with deep religious belief.

Through the lens of a Christian worldview (that phrase means there are a lot of loaded phrases coming up - just bear with me for the sake of looking through someone else's belief system), the church SHOULD influence the state because 1) the church is made of citizens and voters, who should have the ability to promote their beliefs and what benefits them to build a country that reflects themselves, 2) this country exists through the blessing and hand of God/Jesus, so our responsibility is to make sure the nation conforms to his will or we risk losing his favor and reliving the fate of various nations in the Bible that did that, and 3) Christianity should influence everything in the whole world, everywhere, because that's the truth of the matter when you believe that something is right and best. (It's similar to the United States' well-known view that everybody everywhere should be given democracy because it's RIGHT, or the belief that black people should be granted the same rights as white people - because that's what's RIGHT.)

Basically, all that is to say that while the painting appears to you to "laugh in the face of separation of church and state," I think a conservative Christian wouldn't see it that way at all - because it's still compatible with what that doctrine means to them.

Posted by: Amy at September 9, 2011 11:05 PM

On another note, I find it somewhat disturbing that the school teacher looks so much like Sarah Palin. Because gah.

Posted by: Amy at September 9, 2011 11:17 PM

Quelqu'un peut-il me dire comment obtenir les avatars peu à montrer dans ma section des commentaires? merci!1

Posted by: Lancel at November 18, 2011 3:19 AM