I enjoyed the unique opportunity to hear Dr. Martin Marty speak earlier this week at Samford University. It has sparked several thoughts in my heart and head, most unresolved but not unimportant. I list a few of them here for initial consideration with the hope that I can flesh these thoughts out in future posts.
1. Dr. Marty states that it is "historically untrue that our laws are "Christian" laws and that the Founders did not set out to create a "Christian" nation. That said there can be no doubt that Christian thought exerted a strong influence on the thinking of the Founders."
My response: Is it possible that though it may not have been the intent it was, however, the inevitable result?
2. Dr. Marty spoke of the harmful result of "privileging" the church citing the example of Finland where the "official" religion is Lutheranism. 94% of the population is Lutheran and only 2% attend services with any regularity.
My response: I think he is on to something significant here.
3. Dr. Marty asked, "Can the church be prophetic if it is privileged?" and then quoted John Leland (I believe) "Whoever takes the King's shekels gets the King's shackles."
My response: I have always been more than a little suspicious of the "Faith-based Initiatives" approach from government. The church can only speak to power when it is clearly not beholden to that power.
4. Dr. Marty speaks of the Deism of Benjamin Franklin and it being a poor example for the religiously passionate.
My response: While I agree that Franklin is, at best, pragmatic in matters of faith I must call to question his commitment to Deism. If I correctly understand the notion of Deism being that of a disinterested Deity, then many of Franklin's statements fly counter to that notion. One cited by Dr. Marty is a fine example, "A super-intending providence...God governs in the affairs of men." (From Franklin's speech to the Continental Congress, June 27th, 1787). This does not sound like a man who would advocate for a God who made the watch, wound it up and left it to run it's course. It sounds suspiciously like someone who believes that somehow God is engaged directly in the comings and goings of the lives of all mankind.
5. Dr. Marty noted that Franklin did indeed propose that prayer be offered at the Continental Congress but that the motion was not acted upon. The reason being that those present recognized the terrible can of worms this would open. Would the prayer be Anglican or Congregational?
My response: This is a cogent point. Though not well remembered, 9 of the 13 colonies had "official" religions. (Always an interesting recollection as they were steadily recreating what so many of them had fled, i.e. religious persecutions.) A similar point I often make in discussions of this nature concerns prayer in the public schools, who will lead the prayer? Here in the Bible belt I have a reasonable assurance that it will be a "Christian" prayer of some sort. In some other part of our nation it might be a Mormon prayer, or a Muslim prayer, or perhaps even Wiccan! Who is to decide and am I willing for others to be teaching my child, or anyone's child, how to pray?
What response do these thoughts spark in your head and heart?