My son is a historian, and retains a ridiculous amount of information in his brain about the world--practically from the dawn of civilization. When our kids were in middle school, after a particularly animated conversation at the dinner table, E said, "It's probably best to start with the premise that J is always right." And I'm pretty sure his friends have discovered this about him more than once in their associations with him. A person thinks they know something, something so true we take it completely for granted, then J comes along and debunks that notion completely.
For example, tonight he was telling me about how a friend of his was certain that the principle of separation of church and state comes from the 14th amendment to the Constitution. But it doesn't, J told me. In fact, it's not in the Constitution at all. Really. He looked it up for me so I could see for myself, and sure enough, it's nowhere to be found. The idea was first coined by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. The phrase he used was, "a wall of separation between church and state." The point he was making in this letter was that 'religion' is a private matter between a person and his/her God, and that government should not interfere with that.
And here's another interesting fact about this principle that we consider almost 'sacred' in our country: The Supreme Court did not use that exact phrase in relation to the First Amendment rights--"that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"--until the 1870s. However, it wasn't until 1947 that the Court actually considered the question of how this applied to the states, in Everson v. Board of Education.
What a progression, huh? Within the rights of the First Amendment is the right to worship and practice our faith. But not only is there no sense that all government, public, educational activities are to be kept separate from faith, but in the first 150 years, work and study and prayer were not seen and indivisible from each other. And that said notion came from the pen of Jefferson in a semi-private letter, and ended up as one of the lasting 'walls' of society reminds me of the exact progression of our country in many ways.
A week or so ago, a pastor friend said that we're now living in what is termed, 'post-Christendom.' And it seems to me that the garden path we've been led down in privatizing our faith is emblematic of whatever that post- implies. More people don't go to church than do. More don't believe in God than do. More aren't than are.
And He weeps.
And we should weep as well.
Go into all the world, He told us. I've been chewing on my friend's words for the last week, thinking that even if we've gone into all the world once, maybe we have to start over. Go out. Go into. Be with those who don't believe, who don't go to church, who are tax collectors and sinners. Maybe we need to break down that wall of separation between church and state, and say there is NO place God does not belong. We need Him to come in. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing. In schools, in our jobs--and certainly, certainly in our government. We need Him to come in!