Religion and politics are topics from which I will never escape. Having arrived at a particular point in which wisdom evolves, I am making certain declarations. You don't have to agree, but you will know precisely where I stand.
Today's sermon is about religion. Religion is about worshiping and believing in a superhuman power that controls humanity and everything else. "God" is used to identify the almighty.
My own definition is based on having reviewed history to learn about the evolution of religion among people. I conclude that religion is a coping behavior invented from the intellect of human beings to explain the unexplainable and to provide a context for establishing rules of civility in which people can live and survive together.
There were religions long before Moses inscribed God's words on tablets. In fact, The Ten Commandments have historical roots and being a wise man, Moses recorded them in a clear manner to declare that he got them from God. God made them legitimate because Moses along could not make it so.
In the Bible, beginning with the first book, Genesis, there is a beautiful story about how the world was created. In the context of people and knowledge at the time of the inscription, the story provided answers to many questions that made people feel more comfortable than not knowing.
As human knowledge advanced, accompanied by science, the old story fell apart in literal terms. It isn't that Genesis is a bad thing, it's just not supported by modern science and knowledge.
Disagreement about that is where religion begins to get cross-wired with politics., creationists versus evolutionists, for instance.
At the time when the US Constitution was written by the Founding Fathers, they had a challenge. They wanted to accommodate people of all faiths because many pioneers came to America seeking freedom of belief. They did not want to impose a "national religion" like the Church of England, for instance. They tried to separate matters of the church from state. They embraced the ideas of religious freedom, tolerance, and equality.
They had many caveats and deficiencies in the laws that created contradictions. American citizens have been working ever since to remove the contradictions and to replace them with as much freedom and equality as possible.
A solution to the discrepancy is the idea of "freedom from religion." People can believe what they want, however, in the context of the aggregate community that is the nation, religion is subordinated to the rule of law and Constitutional rights and freedoms.
Having examined my personal heritage, I discovered that lineage of the family tended to be Christian Protestants with some Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Anabaptists, Mennonites, and Jews.
Without getting into all of the details, I want, to sum up, some observations.
Religions are clannish -- the idea is that they each offer rules to live by and interpret "God's" will in different ways and customs. Participants generally assume that their faith and beliefs are superior to others. They have varying degrees of tolerance.
Governments are clannish -- those believing in democratic pluralism are broadly more tolerant than Godless communists, for instance. However, neither are acceptable to the other. Digging deeper, the differences are manifested in the value of individuals.
Individualism is important in establishing the value of self-determination and responsibility for self-sustainment.
The community is important in determining the value that individuals need to cooperate with others for the common good.
Therefore, religions and governments must compromise to balance accommodation for individual freedom and the common good.
In modern times such as ours, having invented a superior government and Constitution, the rule of law in the democratic republic is the standard for accommodating everything else.
Mennonites celebrating peace.