The Wall and Why it Matters

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***  Originally posted on 4/5/13 ***

I had this very skillfully written essay crafted to dive into the controversial waters of the big issues of marriage equality and it was very articulate.  It was also very divisive with unbridled ego chest banging and gnashing of teeth.  I was chastising those within the church for the unkind arrogance and I was verbally attacking the more progressive thinkers in and outside of the church for their righteous indignation.  I bemoaned the way the politicians on both sides of the aisle are not being helpful and it was poetic.  But as important as it is to think critically about what our leaders and peers are saying, my tone gave my secret away… I was not offering commentary, I was offering judgement and that is just no good.  I don’t want to use my voice in that way and so after pondering I decided to scrap it and speak a very different truth with the space I have carved out here.

I choose to use my voice to speak truth as I see it and my soul is crying out to speak to the underbelly of many social justice issues at hand, not just the current favored topic of conversation.  I feel we need to bring light to the underlying dynamic that has our culture trapped in an unending battle of ideals with little room for kindness, justice, freedom, and reconciliation.  Until we as a people confront the dysfunctional systems that keep us all in gridlock, we will continue to deteriorate as a culture.  Our core problems are not feminism, or conservatism, or liberalism, progressivism, relativism, humanism, capitalism, communism, terrorism, or any of the other isms.  Our problem is how we are responding to the changing times we are living in.

There is a silent majority in our midst and I know this with all that I am…because I am part of it.  The silent majority includes most of my friends, family, and peers within the church and outside of the church.  I am sick of the rhetoric and I am not alone in this sentiment.  Yet I stay quiet.  I stay quiet out of fear.  I stay quiet out of a desire to be respectful.  I stay quiet to calm the waters.  But I cannot not stay quiet anymore.  I will use my voice to call upon our leaders and advocate for moderation, because we need moderation now more than anything else.  The silent majority must rise up with one voice and declare that we stand for something very different from the voices that are shouting over the people for the last word.  That time is now.  People matter.  People are suffering at the hand of those in power and this is not the American way.

I will use my voice to speak out against injustice, even if that means that I will face social consequence.  I want to shed my polite girl cloak and speak with the voice of my full humanity.  I want to shy away from judgement yet speak directly to my point.  And here is what my belly yearns to speak freely…

I consider one of the most unique aspects of our American democracy to be the separation between Church and State.  I do not want the government to be granted the power to define my religious belief system nor how I can express my beliefs in any way.  On the other hand, I do not want the church to be granted the power to define my rights and my liberty based upon some moral high ground that declares they know what is godly and what is just because God told them so.  This separation is the thing I cling to always.  It is what I would die for.  I am willing to concede that others will not agree nor participate in my chosen form of religion or morality, because if I want that freedom then others deserve the same.  I am also willing to concede that the law cannot be dictated solely on the grounds of my particular moral code.  I make such concessions to preserve the separation of government and religion, so that our society can maintain balance.  Saying all of this though, I must also express the reality that just because the law allows something, doesn’t mean I have to adopt everything that is legal into my personal moral code or spiritual journey and neither does anyone else.  Those things get to be mutuality exclusive because that is the point of the separation between church and state.  Every person’s self evident rights rest not on group think, but rather the ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.  Laws ideally provide a balance between personal and collective liberty, so that we can all pursue these virtues.

Most of the social issues of our time or of any age really, are intimate and they are not black and white, so of course we are going to disagree with how to address the issues.  That is a good thing, not a liability.  So from the middle I say to the loud voice on either side of me…stop blaming the middle ground or the opposing side for our cultural decay just because we disagree about solutions.  In fact, stop blaming anyone for the problems we face and start controlling your temper and the way you are communicating.  We all need to come to the middle ground to resolve these dynamics.  Humanity, liberty, and empathy live in the middle ground between opposing ideals, that’s why our democracy has worked to this point.  Let’s trust it to continue working and submit to the art of compromise.

Thomas Jefferson wrote these words to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1801 addressing the social issue of his time and they still ring true today:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

If we use the wall of separation to ensure our right to exercise our religious freedom, we must also use this wall to ensure that rights are not denied based on one specific religious ideology.