Civil Religion: Not Always Civil

When it comes to gratitude for our blessings, November reminds me that there is a very healthy civil religion in the U.S. With Thanksgiving, each generation has added to the richness of it. Being grateful for your life is good for you, and if practiced, can lead to doing good things.

But there's also a toxic sort of civil religion that really doesn't do anything for me, like when I hear the refrain that "they" have taken God out of schools, (where did "they" put God?). We have "secularized" Christmas so we need to "Put Christ back in Christmas." The literalism of moving God or putting Jesus anywhere is baffling to me.

As a life-long student of the Bible, I doubt that a pristine worship of the One and Only, the God who made heaven and earth, ever really existed in ancient Israel. But it's not about what "they" have done to "take" God away. If the whining does anything truly constructive, it challenges Christians to ascertain where in the world is God moving in our lives.

We need to thank God we're free from the terrible religious wars that our founders had the wisdom to protect us from, constitutionally, by law. Wars among self-professed Christians. Or try the book, Holy Terrors. As the majority faith, we're limited from using our "faith-based" anything on others, or as a pretext, a cover, for doing actual harm to others.

Do you really think that the One who is Lord of all the powers of the universe cares about having a space in our cultural pantheon, whether it's on the bumper of a car or statuary in front of a civic building? No, I don't see Jesus as a culture wars commander and I don't hear the call to engage in a continual battle for most favored religion status. Rather, I see Jesus' way as the one where disciples take responsibility for their own faith- and express it in concrete action. The freedom from doing harm and the freedom for doing good is a gift for which we can be truly grateful!











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