|First Constitutional Convention|
Here is an interesting video from Professor Clay Christensen of the Harvard School of Business:
Concerns about religious freedom in America are beginning to be articulated by academics and progressives as well as by conservatives.
I believe the historic record is clear and unambiguous that the framers of our constitution had no intention whatsoever in creating a purely secular republic and as a group would have agreed with the sentiments expressed in this quote by Edmund Burke (1729-1797), member of Parliament, supporter of the American revolutionaries and opponent of the French Revolution:
Men are qualified for liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites….society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within (that is within the individual), the more there must be without (that is from an external source). It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate disposition cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
Each day’s news seems to bear out the truth of Burke’s observation. The paradox and dilemma of freedom is that if we do anything and everything that we are free to do, then we will wind up not free and slaves to one thing or another. The counter-intuitive claim of the Gospel is that true and perfect freedom comes from choosing to make ourselves servants of Jesus Christ.
The genius of the framers was in recognizing that the freedom available in a democratic republic requires a virtuous people and their survey of history and philosophy convinced them that religion better than any other force, fosters in people a desire and an intention to voluntarily restrain themselves. At the same time, they recognized from their interpretation of history, that whatever the truth claims of any religious faith, they are not well-served by theocratic government and imposition, hence no religion was to be established under the new constitution of the United States.
Freedom of religion is one of the many tensions that American civic and political life must manage for us to thrive and prosper as a free nation and people. I believe the balance is currently out of kilter, the collective result of incessant challenges and subsequent judicial rulings on the question over the last fifty years. These rulings have unintentionally relegated religion to the institutional sideline of the public-square conversation that creates American culture, mores, policies and law.
Is this why religion in America is so impotent when it comes to positively influencing the quality of national culture, manners, civility, cooperation, and behavior?