I have elected to write a few pieces in conjunction with the ongoing blogswarm, Blog Against Theocracy, April 10-12, 2009. As it happens, in the process of writing this, I spotted a bumpersticker that was sublime in its relevance: Freedom Is The Distance Between Church And State.
Why is that idea so difficult for some people to understand?
I was reared as a secular person. I had no religion in my upbringing whatsoever. I recall once when, as a child, I had spent the night at a friends’, and their parents took us all to their Christian Science Sunday school, and this old lady started talking about this old guy who built a boat, and I’m telling you, she might as well have been speaking Serbo-Croatian. If I had to pick a faith, it would be one involving dancing in moonlight and casting circles and there would be no crosses or Christs anywhere near it. So, that’s where I’m coming from. I am, by any strict or loose definition, a heathen, one of the unwashed, a nonbeliever by rearing, by genetics, and by choice.
So it terrifies me that a guy like Mitt Romney was actually in the running to be President of the United States. Because that guy really doesn’t get it.
We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America—the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
No, Willard. You’re wrong. I mean, that shit doesn’t even make sense on its face. “Religion of secularism?” Not collecting stamps is a hobby? (Thanks, Lionel.)
He also said this:
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
Why this speech didn’t send more Americans running screaming the hell out of the country is beyond me. It is terrifying. And ironic, considering that he offered the speech to squelch concerns that he shouldn’t be President because of his own religious affiliation. But that a serious contender for the nation’s highest executive office doesn’t understand the the very basic notion of the vital, urgent value in a deity-free commons.
The fact of the matter is that we do have a national secular deity. His name is “Santa.” And the Jebus crowd isn’t even happy with that. (A forthcoming KIAV joint for this blogswarm will talk about this.) But worse, they just can’t understand that everyone, including them, should be worried about talk like Romney’s. Because a secular commons is the only true failsafe we have for protecting religious freedom.
Here’s an odd analogy for a straight, NBM male to make: Being a theocracy is a little like being pregnant. There’s no such thing as “a little pregnant,” and there’s no such thing as a degree of theocracy. You either are, or you’re not. If government buys a soapbox and puts it in the commons for an Eastern Orthodox fella and doesn’t buy one for me, guess whot? We live in a theocracy!
The only way to guarantee that Uncle Sam doesn’t march Leah and Rekem off to Catholic mass by gunpoint is to vigorously defend the secular commons. This is as intuitively correct a notion as is “what goes up must come down” and “regulating business is probably a good idea.”
A secular commons protects the religious rights of everyone, from Janeane Garofalo to Rebbe Schneerson to Joel Friggin’ Osteen. What I wish folks would realize is that if they vote out of fear for religious freedom, they need to be voting with the long-hairs, not with the squares.
Considering that the closest the government has come in recent years to out-and-out sanctioning a religion was to place a Crown of Peace on the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s head and to have him declare himself a messiah at the Senate’s Dirksen Building in 2004 (this ACTUALLY HAPPENED), I’m surprised that even the likes of Mittens Romney aren’t mighty concerned about mixing that ol’ time religion with affairs of state. Because, by action of the United States Congress, the guy closest to gracing that subsidized soapbox is Moon, not Thomas Monson.
Let’s say it again in Comic Book Guy Speak: Freedom. Is the distance. Between church and state.
Let’s say it like Vice President Joe Biden: Freedom is literally, literally the distance between church and state, ladies and gentlemen. Literally.
If Tina Fey were here, I’d ask her to say it like a ’40s movie heroine: Freedom is the distance between church and state. (I can do it!)
Freedom is the distance between church and state. I like that. If I were inclined to do so, I’d get a tattoo.