A recent article I read on the CBS news website has my hackles up again about the separation of church and state. And, as I’ve said before, I will say again, religion and politics do not mix.
Here’s what’s bugging me. Gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne of Alabama is being attacked by a “shadowy” group called “True Republican Political Action Committee” for suggesting that “evolution best explains the origin of life.”
Why in the world does it matter what a gubernatorial candidate thinks about evolution or creationism? Why do we care what any candidate for any office thinks about Genesis or Darwin? How does what one believes about the origins of the universe figure into whether or not he or she will govern fairly and do what’s best for everyone?
Now it could be said that a candidate who believes in creationism (i.e. the six - 24 - hour - day theory) also believes that humankind is made in the image of God and that makes them precious and worth treating fairly. That could be true. However, Mr. Byrne is an outspoken Christian who says that “everything in it (the world) is a masterpiece created by the hands of God,” and that he believes “every single word of the Bible is true.”
What is really happening is this political action committee is trying to discredit Byrne and they are using his faith and the minds of blindly conservative fundamentalists to try to create an uproar so that their candidate will win.
Not only is this tactic filthy and underhanded, it goes against the very things for which our founding fathers stood. Many of our fathers were Christians, some were deists, but they did not believe that politics and religion should mix. The reason? Absolute power absolutely corrupts. A cursory glance at history will demonstrate my point. Whenever the church and the government are ruling together, the people suffer. Anyone who dares to disagree with the state established religion either ends up in prison, sanctioned in some way, or dead, usually in very messy and pain-filled fashion.
That is not to say that Christians should not be involved in politics. They should. What better way to show the power of God than to live a life that is moral in the midst of an almost amoral environment? Our Christian beliefs should deeply affect our actions, our sense of morality, and the decisions we make, but faith should never be forced upon someone else. That’s not what Christianity is all about. On the flip side, no American should use someone else’s faith as a weapon against him by twisting his words in order to incite small-minded voters. That’s really low rent; but while unfortunately it is politics, it is decidedly un-Christian, no matter what anyone says.
Whether God created the earth in six 24 hour days or in 6 billion years is immaterial. Whether the Bible is literal or metaphorical or combination of both is immaterial. The fact that God did it is what matters. Anyone who asks a candidate what his or her opinion is on this matter is fishing for something else and he or she should proceed with extreme caution.
I’ve recently come across the Latin phrase “imago dei,” which means “image of God.” At first, I thought it was a nice phrase, something to remind us that we are made in God’s image.; it made me feel warm inside. However, over the last couple of weeks, the phrase has taken on deeper meaning as I studied it for our Sunday discussion group at church.
The book of Genesis says that when humankind was first created, God said “‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (1: 26, 27, NRSV).
If you’ve spent any time in church at all, you know that after God uttered these words, humanity fell miserably. We fell under a curse which meant that we had to work hard for our food, suffer pain in childbirth and were under a physical death sentence. Before the fall, we lived in complete joy and harmony with our Creator. After the fall, there was a wall of sin between us.
Since the first century, most Christians have agreed that the image of God referred to an original spiritual possession that was lost in the fall. To what degree you believe that spiritual possession was lost depends on what theological bent to which your denomination subscribes. Some Christians believe that humanity only lost the supernatural aspects of that image, such as “sanctifying grace,” justice, immortality and integrity. What was left was a wounded human nature that still had the powers of reason and free will. Others believe that humans lost everything related to that image after the fall, including freedom of will. Still others believe that the image was so corrupted that whatever remains is horribly deformed.
I like what Matthew Henry said, “The soul of man, considered in its three noble faculties, understanding, will and active power, is perhaps the brightest clearest looking-glass in nature wherein to see God.” Henry believed that Christ was the exact image and that humanity was the most like God in relation to any other being.
By watching the news alone, anyone can see that at the very least the image of God within humanity is wounded, but there is hope. Colossians says, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator,” (3:9,10, NIV). The image of God can be renewed through Christ. We may not completely live up to that image, but it is something for which to aim. God will help us. All we need to do is ask.