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God & country

"God & country" Continued...

Issue: "Don't fence me out," April 21, 2007

Adams and James Madison were the prime architects of the Constitution. Adams is saying you can only have the degree of freedom and self-government that we have in the American constitutional system if most people obey the law voluntarily, because they have a sense of moral obligation to a higher power, namely God.

George Washington in his farewell address said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness."

The first and second presidents were stating this is a nation founded upon a Judeo-Christian understanding of what's right and what's wrong. They believed this system of government would not work unless a significant majority of the population had an internal code of morality that these presidents found inconceivable apart from a religious commitment.

WORLD: Does "Christian nation" talk feed the paranoia of the left?

LAND: We needlessly play into the hands of people who complain that evangelicals want to bring in some kind of theocracy when we start talking about America as a "Christian nation." Our goal should be the goal articulated in the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Vision Statement: "An American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority."

Imagine if the vast majority of the people in this country were converts to the Christian faith and had a personal relationship with Jesus. In our self-governing country, eventually the government and the legal system would reflect the will of the majority. This would include a respect for the soul liberty of all people, including those who are not Christians and are not religious.

Most Americans believe in pluralism. They hold a tremendous respect for the sanctuary of the soul and believe that no mere human being has the right to interfere coercively with the "soul liberty" of any other human being.

WORLD: Why do liberals love to pay attention to so-called dominion theology, aka Christian reconstructionism-and what's the problem with that doctrine?

LAND: Liberals focus attention on Dominion Theology or Christian Reconstructionism because it scares the living daylights out of the majority of the population. It's a tremendously effective political ploy in seeking to create a Christian Reconstructionist "bogeyman" to scare people into opposing the legitimate concerns of evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics.

The problem with Christian Reconstructionism is that it is a misunderstanding of how Christians should seek to be involved in public policy and in government. As a Baptist, I believe in the separation of the institution of the state and the institution of the church. That does not mean I believe that religious convictions and religiously informed moral values should be kept separate from public policy. It merely means that I do not have the right to have the government impose, or give favoritism to, my religious views any more than any other religious or secular group should have the right to impose its values or views.

It relates to what my Baptist forefathers in the 17th and 18th centuries called "soul liberty." If we have "soul liberty," then the government does not have the right to institute civil penalties for religious infractions. Under some formulations of Christian Reconstruction, there would be legal penalties for adultery. As a Baptist, I believe we have the right to preach against adultery. I don't think we have the right to put people in jail for adultery between consenting adults in private. I do believe we have the right to throw people in jail for forcing people into sexual acts against their will. That's called rape, not adultery. I also believe we have the right to prosecute people who engage in sex acts in public. That's called public indecency.

WORLD: In what ways has God blessed America, and which of those blessings do we deserve?

LAND: It would take hours, if not weeks, to describe the ways in which God has blessed America. We have been blessed with a huge swath of the world's most bountiful farmland, which has enabled us to become the breadbasket of the world. We've been blessed with enormous reserves of natural resources including oil, coal, gold, and iron. We've been blessed with an abundance of all the things that make for a productive and modern industrial state. We have been blessed with a veritable explosion of incredible genius in our founding generation who gave us our wonderful Declaration of Independence and magnificent Constitution. Its glorious First Amendment extends constitutional guarantees of basic human rights that are recognized and protected by our government, but which our own government asserts are given to us by God.

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