Friday, July 17, 2009

God's Rightful Place

My fellow conservative and Jefferson Countian Frank Cagle expresses concern about what he sees as a proliferation of conservative politicians who beat their proverbial religious drums, but live another way when the cameras aren't rolling. Cagle believes that these elected leaders are merely using Godas a political prop, and he doesn't think religion was as important in our government in years' past:
It’s interesting how Tennessee attitudes toward religion in public life have changed. In the original state constitution, Article IX, Section 1, preachers are forbidden to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly. That’s because “their profession dedicated to God and the care of souls ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions...” It was sound advice then and it’s sound advice now. Not that preachers ought to be banned from public service, but rather the attitude that if your mission is to care for souls and serve God, you don’t need to be doing it in politics.

Frank Cagle is correct that using the Almighty as a political crutch is neither sound theology nor appropriate for the political arena. One does not need to make a flashy show of one's faith for the world to understand that a person has faith. The framers of the Tennessee Constitution clearly did not intend our Capitol to be a church.

At the same time, the constitutional fathers also didn't mean for people in our State government to check their faith at the entrance to the House or Senate Chamber. How necessary is faith in God to holding office in Tennessee? Our State Constitution says that it is a requirement:

No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.

While the Tennessee Constitution says that ministers may not serve in the Legislature, atheists are not to be welcomed into any department of State government. Clearly, having a conscience that is informed by faith in a Higher Power-known more popularly as God-was very important to those who laid the foundations of government in Tennessee. Obviously, these men did not believe that it was right for someone to compartmentalize their life because they enter politics. We were not intended to live under a regime made up of people who say "I shall worship and serve the Almighty one day a week, and ignore the principles of my faith when I enter the halls of government, lest others be offended." Tennessee's founders wanted people in public life who believe in God and are willing to conduct themselves accordingly.

As Frank Cagle shows us in his column, we have the same problem today that governments throughout modern history have had, the hypocrisy of some of the so-called faithful:

Sin is not the exclusive province of either political party. What most of us find disturbing, however, is not the sin. We understand it. All have sinned and fallen short, the New Testament tells us. What we find particularly disgusting are politicians who get elected and reelected mouthing Biblical platitudes and family values, and attacking the private lives of others while they are busy getting it on with a staffer or a south of the border mistress.

Our Lord was quite clear that none of us should concern ourselves with the splinter in our neighbor's eye without first removing the plank in our own. The Church is not a political party, and its purpose in this world is the salvation of souls, not electoral success at the polls. Neither does GOP stand, as some seem to believe, for "God's Own Party." The difference in the modern age in America, however, is that while some in one party use God in a way that is politically inappropriate, a great many in the party opposite run from God like the plague, ridicule those whose politics are informed by and rooted in their sense of faith, and make a mockery of God's rightful place in the public square. One attitude is both unhealthy and unwise, while the other is ungodly and uncalled for.

God is neither meant to be used for political gain, nor is God to be ignored by those in power. Perhaps the best advice on the place of God in anyone's life, but certainly a public figure, comes from that very public (and very flawed-he had an affair too) figure King David in the First Psalm:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

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