This may seem controversial, I don’t really mind though.
What is a Christian?
Depending on your personal beliefs, this question will be answered very differently. Especially when you consider the role Christianity has played in shaping the western hemisphere.
What, if any, are the qualifications?
What is expected of a declarant believer? Should the scripture be accepted in its entirety? If so, what does it mean to “accept” the scripture? What role does Jesus Christ play in the discussion? What about the church itself? Does the church hierarchy hold authority apart from scripture?
Well Richard Dawkins has come up with a solution that will have part of the church cheering victoriously and the other part rending their clothes like an Old Testament Priest. Mr. Dawkins describes himself as a secular and cultural Christian. He states that he appreciates the artwork and much of the ceremonial liturgy of the Anglican Church. He actually compared his Christianity to cultural/secular Judaism. Many Jewish people consider themselves racially or ethnically Jewish, but not theologically. Mr. Dawkins has effectively extended the definition of a Christian to a majority of westerners.
Ironically, the same people who will complain about violations of separation of Church and State, will love the idea of Christianity being extended to westerners by virtue of being a westerner. Christianity becomes defined by what society thinks Christianity ought to be about.
(Note: The following is mainly a theological statement not a political one. This isn’t intended to make a strong argument in favor or against any interpretation of the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution or Jefferson’s letters to the Baptist convention.)
Christianity is not a democracy nor is it even a dictatorship; it is a constitutional (2 Timothy 3:16) monarchy (Matthew 21:5) for its followers. Said monarchy cannot be abdicated, usurped, or inherited by another (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). Likewise, the constitution cannot be amended (Numbers 23:19) (note: clarification and translation is encouraged (2 Timothy 2:15)). Christianity also presupposes that its followers have a relationship with the monarch (Matthew 22:37, Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30)). This relationship is supposed to lead to feelings of peace (Philippians 4:7, John 14:27) and blissfulness (Psalms 34:8) while on Earth that will be even greater in the afterlife (Matthew 6:20, Matthew 16:19, Revelation 21:1-4). “Statutes” written within the constitution are supposed to guide followers in strengthening their relationship to the Monarch (Luke 9:23) and sharing feelings of love, peace, patience, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23) among other followers (siblings; 1 John 2:9-11) and outsiders (neighbors; Matthew 19:19, Mark 12:31, Matthew 5:43).
With this largely psychological expectation (Philippians 2:4-6, Proverbs 3:7, 2 Corinthians 10:5) set forth in Christianity; it should be fairly clear why Christians ought not to fight against statements like “Separation of Church and State”. Believers are supposed to make the decision to accept Jesus Christ on their own, without force. When Christianity becomes politicized, it becomes clear that you can’t force somebody to mentally (or spiritually) take on the necessary change. In contrast, forcing some behaviors and condemning others without sound doctrine becomes sufficient for political growth. So many Christians are following teachings without knowing what they mean or where they come from (Hosea 4:6). This is particularly noted among people in the “religious right”. Many of us “know of scripture” without knowing what it means or where it’s found. Our knowledge is limited to what someone else told us instead of doing our own research (2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Because we CANNOT force people to believe (Matthew 10:14, Luke 9:5), you get a very different, often times hateful, religion when Christianity goes on the offensive.
As a result we have progressive (liberal) Christianity as an offshoot of the union of Christianity and political influence. The apostate is oftentimes more intellectually honest the “progressive” reformer. The progressive reformer takes what they dislike about Christianity, and “pushes it somewhere else”. Whereas the apostate (whether through ignorance or personal preference) simply does away with their belief altogether. What’s perhaps the most hypocritical however, is that the progressive and the apostate criticize the religious right for imposing religion on society, when both of them do so when it’s convenient for them (see: Pres. Obama’s glass house quote and John Kerry on environmentalism to name a few).
I would argue that those who believe Christian to be a sacred title ought to go on the offensive by declaring that they are not yet a Christian. To be a follower or Christ (or a “little Christ”) should be seen as a much bigger responsibility than we give to it. We ought to follow the Apostle Paul’s example when he states that he presses toward the mark of the prize of the high calling (Philippians 3:14). In other words, becoming a Christian ought to be seen as an ongoing journey rather than a set destination. You continue to grow until you reach the end wherein we become “perfect” (Matthew 5:48). For believers, we must reevaluate who we believe we represent. Don’t allow Christianity to be a term that can be defined by those who aren’t invested in it.
Hopefully this sets the stage for my subsequent posts. I believe that Christian standards are achievable, but seldom seen due to confusion and pride on the part of believers. I don’t believe I’m better or more spiritual than anyone else, but I will not bring Christianity down to my level. If I’m wrong, I welcome correction on this front.