What A Crèche, Nativity Scene, Menorah, and Civil Religion have in Common
It is interesting to note that enlightened philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau – whose ideas of socialism and nationalism were greatly influenced by the French Revolution that took place in an approximate ten year period from 1789 – 1799 – penned the famous book entitled The Social Contract, or Principles Of Political Right. In this work he speaks of two forms of religion, namely the religion of the individual person and then the religion of the citizen of a country. Considering most forms of religion as deceptive and worthless, he does point out that there is a concept of civil religion which purposely eschews the negative aspects of the superstitious rituals he observed around him, but instead served to enforce the belief that there is a creator being that is inherently omnipotent and intelligent, that there is a life that follows this one, and that generally speaking the good will be repaid according to their goodness, and the evil will be punished according to their deeds. The details of this civil religion are left to the individual to flesh out. One thing that Rousseau rejected completed was religion driven intolerance.
What does Civil Religion mean in the context of politics?
Well, bad news for the “I’m okay – you’re okay” crowd, and anyone else whose offense-meter takes off at the notion that a person may be making a value judgment. Civil Religion – provided it does not establish a religion within the confines of the political system – encourages the mentioning of a Supreme Being in word and display on public buildings; it sees nothing wrong with the quoting of any religious texts by political leaders; it acknowledges that Civil Religion is a useful tool for teaching and upholding moral ideals; it permits the use of religious symbols on public buildings and public lands; and it will not forbid the use of public buildings for private worship.
It appears that Monsieur Rousseau was light years ahead of his time with respect to his theory of Civil Religion. The odds are good that he would be vastly amused at those who are suing time and again to finally have it forbidden for school children to say the words “under God” when pledging allegiance to the flag; our struggle over having the Ten Commandments displayed on public land would probably make him shake his head; but it is the tug of war that has ensued over the display of the trappings that make up the national holiday that is Christmas would quite possibly send him over the edge to a point that he might throw up his hands in utter disgust. As it stands, most everyone of the habitually offended appears to have forgotten that Christmas is little more than a federal holiday, since the Bible very clearly does not make it a required celebration of any kind.
As a matter of fact, the only celebration that the Bible does require takes place every Sunday in Bible-believing churches that celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah via the communion. And for all those who are mightily offended by the word “God”, the fact remains that they do not have to set foot inside the church to have their sensitive sensibilities assailed thusly. So for those who have begun to habitually succumb to hissy fits at the display of a baby in a manger – get over it and bake some Santa Claus cookies. What is wrong with a federal celebration that commemorates the birthday of one of the world’s most famous philosophers whose teachings have influenced the founding of this nation and many others, and whom some people believe to be a god? You are getting a day off, might net yourself a few presents, and even get to spend time watching your kids put on some kind of holiday performance at school – unless, of course, you have already forced the school to abandon any kind of holiday celebration, display, or performance.
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