The Separation of Church and State

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I believe we might have gotten it wrong on this one. The contrivance of a gulf between the doings of humankind in the spirit of the creator and their doings in the spirit of secular governments has been an egregious failure in terms of producing humanely spirited and sustainable societies – and wasn’t this the whole point behind the two going their separate ways?

Some want to believe that the world got better, particularly in the West, because of this separation. Really? Just look at the world’s secular societies: western (such as the U.S. and Canada, Britain, France, and Germany) and eastern (such as Turkey). Yes, look at them:

Poverty, misery, anxiety, unmitigated stress, unbridled violence (even directed at children), and malfeasance perpetrated by some of those whom we elect or select into positions of public trust -from priests to politicians…

– and these are among the attributes of sustainable, cohesive, and progressive human societies?

These things are, rather, symptomatic of deeply rooted social pathologies. ‘Deeply rooted’ because they have been a feature of the societies we humans have produced since the very beginning. We have become so accustomed to such outcomes that we have lost any inkling at all of the existence of something better; something capable of benefiting all of humankind.

One which has been there all along. It is an opportunity offering humankind a wonderful future. One we are capable of achieving if we set our sights upon it and never look away; a future we are all entitled to –because we are children of the creator (i.e., we were all created). We are all in serious trouble, if we sit back and do nothing.

Plainly, secular nations can perform just as poorly as theocratic nations, albeit theocracies one-up most secular nations (Turkey excepted) by rewarding non-compliance with horrifically violent punishments – punishments that were in vogue at the time their scriptures and religious traditions were being formulated and/or written. Although these punishments are set out in the scriptural canons of many great religions, they are in conflict with their own seminal commandment: Do not kill or commit violence. Is this obvious internal disconnect the reason why we tacitly accept violence when it is done by sovereign governments; be it to the people of other nations or to its own people? Every created soul, as yet unsullied by life-experience and brainwashed by the thought systems of others (aka ‘ideology’), must conclude that,

  • because a nation declares itself to be, ‘Muslim,’ or ‘Christian,’ or ‘Jewish,’ or ‘Hindu,’ or ‘Buddhist,’  or whatever, does not make it so, and;
  • that any nation suborning violence in any form and in any part of the world, is simply not manifesting the will of the creator.

With respect to any sovereign government, it appears that what their leaders desire above all else, is control over what goes on under their purview -trouble is, in a theocracy this also subjects god to the government. Because the last thing anyone in government wants to do is share power, it inevitably becomes a case of a particular government or leader rendering god in man’s image; rather than, as my scriptural tradition declares, man having been made in the image of god.[i]

Theocratic governments are no more effective in producing viable and enduring societies than secular ones are. God is not the people and the people are not god. It is god’s people, not god, who are creating and disseminating social policy. It is people, not god, who are the de facto supreme authorities in theocratic societies, just as in secular ones.

No sovereign nation would ever make war upon another nation if its leaders truly aspired to manifest the will of god in their societies; nor would they ask their citizens to do violence to citizens of another country. How can we persist in the belief that it is the will of god (however you name him/her/it) to do violence to other souls created by god, to purge the ‘body of god’ of ‘unbelievers,’ say, when it has been so plainly communicated, in all religions, that we should not go around hurting one another?

Seriously folks, what sort of god makes such big mistakes as to make it necessary to parachute foreigners into lands that he/she/it had given to somebody else, have them slaughter men, women, and children in order to fix things; such as we have seen in the Christianization of the East and of the New World? What sort of parent (the creator is at least our mom and dad) would command one sibling to do violence to another, rather than grounding them both for not getting along? Has anyone EVER even heard of such a parent? Yet this is exactly what every single leader of a sovereign nation is behaving as, when they preside over violence to any other soul. It is only in defence where violence committed is ‘forgivable’ and this only to the point where the threat to the self (whether you are an individual or a family or a nation) has been neutralized.

We in Canada, up until not too-too long ago, were different from other secular democracies. We were peacekeepers by nature. We were this way because anyone living or emigrating here, prior to our becoming a nation, was obliged to collaborate with their neighbours or succumb to the climate or the occasional offer of ‘inclusion’ from our friends south of the border. We were very good at peacekeeping by nature. We were good at it because this happened to match the spirit of our nation – which used to be – at least on into WWII and throughout our peacekeeping missions, a spirit of selflessness and bravery, compassion (even to the point of sacrificing one’s life) and kindness toward others; in particular, the vulnerable.  Lester B. saw this and recognized an opportunity for which, owing to its nature, Canada was suited to serve the world.

We in Canada do not need to be like everybody else. Nor are we: we have too much of the French in us to be able to imagine living any other way, than by walking to the beat of our own tom-tom. We may keep to our national heart’s rhythm (and to our hearts we must be true), and remain friends with other nations -though they may gripe from time to time.

In the days of Lester B., we used to be friends with everyone. I was in grade school in those days, but by the time I reached high school, the street-wisdom was that you’d sew a Canadian flag on your blue-jeans jacket if ever you left home for places abroad: you would be recognized as Canadian, and have strangers being as friends to you, no matter where you were, or what religion you professed, and you would be as safe as at home. Nowadays, Canadians worry about becoming the next target of extremists and lone-wolf looney tunes.

What has changed since the days of the venerable Lester B.? I believe it is because we are beginning to look and behave like everybody else. We try not to, but the geopolitical pressure is mounting. When Syrian children play in their sandboxes, they are as likely to see the Canadian flag as when I was little – only not on someone’s jeans-jacket shoulder, but on the underside of a bomber’s wings.

What has changed in Canada is our spirit. We are no longer what we were. What we were produced the venerableness of Lester B. Pearson and the selflessness of our soldiers at the Marne. They were unafraid to protect and to lead us. What we are now risks limiting ourselves to producing the sorts of leaders that are consensus followers; coming up from behind the pack rather than leading from the front, and kow-towing to the ruling class. In the world of today, we cannot have leaders who are followers –the national and global situation will no longer tolerate that.

Canadians used to see the value in others, no matter their culture, skin colour, religious beliefs, gender, or ‘orientation’ -without even having to try. My mother surely did. Perhaps it was because she was French; but I think it was because she was a good soul. She sought out and focused upon the good in others. She accepted the good, the bad and the irritating (especially from her kids J but only up to a certain point). She grew up poor, often staying in boarding schools run by nuns. Needless to say, she got little to nothing at Christmas time -certainly none of the love that she extended to us five siblings from some deep inexhaustible wellspring within. Given that among these five siblings war was perpetually threatening to break out, my mother, true to her Canadian soul, was a master peacekeeper. I’m positive Lester B. would have been inspired by her parenting strategies to help bring peace to the world.

 

 

 

End Note:

The controversy surrounding the display of religious emblems in public institutions we will likely resolve by banning all religious symbols from display. Personally, I would prefer the symbols of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and First Nations be displayed in full honour, side-by-side, rather than having them not displayed. In that way, an example of Canada’s spirit of honour, diversity, tolerance, respect, equality of opportunity and justice (and of worship) is in daily evidence; a visible reminder to the folks who deliver and rely on those services of where we are all coming from.

Ps

‘God’ is what my religious tradition named the creator, while other faiths have their own names. I chose not to capitalize my references to ‘god’ the creator out of respect for the other Faiths, not out of disrespect for ‘the big guy/gal.’

 

 

[i] The natural antipathy governments have toward power sharing is precisely why we in Canada have to endure the unending litany of calls to abolish our unelected Senate (now more than ever because it’s existence is contrary to the modern trend among western democracies toward centralization of power). We do not want to do that. If we make sure that the men and women who serve in the Senate are, above all else, the sorts who strive to be true to themselves, then it follows, ‘as night does the day’ that they will be true to Canada and Canadians, and that they will save our bacon more than once in the future. We will be glad to have never abolished them and to never have made them an elected body.