Separation of Church And State Within Congress
By: Cade Powers | Our Voice Contributor
The First Amendment, ratified in 1791, states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The phrase “separation of church and state” itself does not appear in the United States Constitution and were words from Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson was a Christian man who felt religion was a personal matter and not an issue with which the government should interfere. Meaning that people had a right to choose to express and live by their religion rather than by mandate, or national law. The words were written by Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, January 1 1802, in response to calm their worries over the possible impact.
A majority of people take it to mean that religion is not to be a deciding factor in Congress upon establishing or creating legislature. Not so, as it was meant to keep the state out of church’s business, not to keep the church out of the state’s business.
Currently, 88.2% of Congress identifies as Christians whereas the majority (71%) of the United States population identify as Christians. This is important to know as Christian ideology is prevalent in today’s current political climate. An overwhelmingly high number of Americans support progressive policies, yet both the Republican and Democrat party leaders are against these popular ideas. These ideas range from healthcare as a right for all citizens to student load debt cancellation; from addressing climate change issues to removing Cannabis from schedule one federal drug statutes.
So what effect does a majority Christian Congress have on politics? One reason is that many 18-29 year olds do not identify with any organized religion, compared to those over the age of 65. This means they are less inclined to vote because the issues raised by the candidates do not resonate with them. They are likely to be independent voters and more than likely to sit out at election time due to feelings of both under-representation and misrepresentation.
A big reason for this lies within the teachings of Christianity. It teaches that achieving social justice through organizations or governments is not the Christian way. How can that be when Jesus is famous for having helped and fed the poor? Because the final temptation of Christ was the offer of political power. Full stop.
Let’s clarify this, shall we?
Christians are taught that government programs and Federal laws intended to help ALL people are actually allowing people to circumvent God’s will. Redistribution of wealth is theft under the 8th commandment, yet in these social equity and equality-related instances, they see government take from the rich and give to the poor. They do believe in helping and feeding others, but only when the person is so low or in dire need on an individual assessment which is determined by God alone. You must have faith in God for Him to enable himself to use his strength to pull you up by your bootstraps and rise from poverty or else – suffer from homelessness without God’s grace. When the government implements social programs, Christians believe class distinction and political affiliation tend to take precedence over one’s own religious identity.
Social justice in Christianity means that helping others should be on an individual level, not as a collective. The Christian view is that our government wants to play the role of savior, rather than leave it in God’s hands.
Struggling to feed your family? God will save you. Making $5.75 and needing 3 jobs to get by? Minimum wage is being grateful you are employable because anything more, you must work hard as it is God’s plan. According to those who hold these beliefs, any wealth gained by an individual is theirs because they earned it and any form of socialized medicare is wrong because it is not the government’s job to look after your neighbors health.
With this being said, the need to vote is even more crucial. Voting for social causes is not just about getting rid of big money, equal representation or even socialized programs. We need to end the practice of government using their religion to impose their views on the rest of the population. Trying to equate God’s law with man’s law must come to an end as it does not represent the majority of the people. By not getting out to vote, we enable our current elected lawmakers to continue using their religion to roadblock Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, Universal Basic Income, or any other socialized programs that would grant us the freedom to be a leader among nations. As citizens, in the name of progress and humanity, we must work together to free ourselves from those that would deny us the ability to care for one another.