You know, I just love watching those reruns of “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston. It beats the politically correct “Prince of Egypt” by the distance from Goshen to Sinai. And as Moses raised the stone tablets and cried “Those that shall not live by the Law, shall die by the Law!” before shattering them, I did not fully appreciate there was another battle to shatter stones inscribed with those divine commands right on American doorsteps today.
Except in this case, it is no man of God wielding the stones. Thus, was the latest instalment of the ACLU versus Christianity in Indiana and this has all the features of the psychologically obsessed equivalent of a stuck record needle.
The new commandment “Thou shalt not display the Ten Commandments in a public place.” is being pursued (again) with as great a dogmatic zeal as any medieval heresy hunters would have relished. And “dogmatic” is certainly the operative word for the absence of such a stone or plaque would certainly not improve State school exam results or local government decision-making by one iota. It is quite simply new theology versus old theology and the ACLU ought to stand for Atheistic Civil Liberties Union rather than anything which recognises the role of Christianity in influencing and shaping American history from the lowliest farm hand to the greatest president.
One has comparable visions of Stalin bulldozing churches to make way for the glorious socialist revolution but we haven’t quite got to the stage yet where public displays of crosses and the like have to be removed because they might offend a passing Muslim or Hindu. By way of ironic comment, the statues of Lenin and Stalin were being torn down just as the churches were being prepared for rebuilding. God obviously has a wry sense of humour though I do not think it was humour that prevailed on Stalin’s deathbed as he flailed his arms against invisible foes come to prepare his descent to the lowest circle. Christian monument destroyers take note.
Now, even Bill Clinton, who wouldn’t exactly pass the entrance exam for a monastery, recognised the role of religion in school life when he said “Common sense says that faith and faith-based organisations from all religious backgrounds can play an important role in helping children to reach their fullest potential.”, though the guidelines he was endorsing over two years ago added that schools “may not endorse or favour religious activity or doctrine, coerce participation in religious activity or seek to impose their religious beliefs on impressionable children”.
In that respect, he is following the likes of Voltaire and Hume, who though atheists, recognised the value of religion in the public arena. It is just as well they don’t follow this dubious logic through to banning parents from imposing their religious beliefs on their children.
But, this new theology of man as the Supreme Being seeks the supplanting of the old theology of supernaturalism. This is not something new. Christianity so effectively eradicated the old theology of Paganism that one has to watch reruns of “Jason and the Argonauts” or visit the local museum to get an idea of who the ancient Greeks and Romans worshipped. Christianity achieved this stupendous victory with the aid of the State and Constantine was happy to oblige. The ACLU thinks they can employ the same tactics and revert us back to the pantheon of Rome or possibly worse for Imperial Rome only sought the destruction of Christianity when it attempted to assert the royal prerogatives of its God over the Divine Caesar. If only it had sheepishly acknowledged the divinity of the Emperor then a statue of Christ may even have been erected alongside the other gods in the Pantheon.
Such is the panacea offered by an ACLU inspired vision. A seat at the table of a polytheistic society but the chief place belonging to secular humanism whose self-appointed destiny is to hold all these “patently false” beliefs in check and balance until man “grows up” and rejects them.
All the ACLU and its ilk now desires is that the modern-day emperor has the secular equivalent of “”In hoc Signo vinces” to dazzle his vision. The trouble is that the product on offer is so Frankenstein in its insipid fragmented, sterile and uninspiring political correctness that not even a god could convince anyone that this was a great market brand.
That is why such organisations lobby for a socialist-type system where price and protectionist controls are analogised into beliefs control. Each “product” must be kept under strict anti-competitive laws, which forbid them from having too much market share. Thus, the brand-name logos of Christianity as exemplified in public Decalogue monuments are the equivalent of a historic monopoly that must be subjected to anti-trust laws and broken up.
In effect, they view plaques displaying the Ten Commandments outside County Courts as akin to Internet Explorer being packaged with Microsoft Windows. Christianity has spent centuries building up its brand name; Christian CEOs (such as bishops, superintendents and moderators) should not allow the products they have been employed to promote be so easily demoted.
To this end the ACLU’s interpretation of the First Amendment is vital. What would blow it clean out of the water would be the privatisation of the public school system. The majority of the American population is overwhelmingly christian in profession which makes this ban on public christian symbols all the more ludicrous and putting education to float in the free market would revitalise the christian-school sector so much that the ACLU would become a veritable voice in the humanist wilderness. There isn't a thing they could do about private Christian schools erecting a forest of Ten Commandments monuments right outside their own offices!
Of course, we would also get a minority of Muslim, Jewish and Hindu schools but I am far more comfortable with this consumer realism than the hotchpotch secular solution foisted on spiritual America today.
In one sense, even if the secularist’s view of the First Amendment was correct, public sentiment, as expressed in the Free Market would produce a private sector expression of Christianity, which would challenge it and indeed begin to influence it again for the good – just like it did nearly 1700 years ago at Milvian Bridge.
So, a God-less interpretation of the First Amendment in collusion with a State-run education system that promotes it ensures protectionism and anti-competitive practises in the spiritual realm. If secular humanism is so cock-sure about its own ethos and future, it should let the whole issue float free. I suspect the uptake on humanist schools will be about as popular as the market for second hand statues of Josef Stalin.
How do I know humanist schools would be a resounding failure? Over here in less religious Britain, people are falling over themselves to get their kids into the Church of England schools with their added religious ethos as opposed to the secularised State schools. They are prepared to move lock, stock and barrel into the catchment areas of these schools and pay the higher mortgage costs for such popular areas. I tell you, they are even prepared to feign religion by becoming members of the Anglican Church for the required minimum qualification period of six months.
In conclusion, and going back to free market terminology, the customers know a proven brand when they see it. Christianity has been around for millennia whilst Humanism, historically speaking, has the commercial kudos of a dot com start-up trying to sell paper clips online.
Moreover, they will find out that there is one inscription of the Ten Commandments they can never remove – that which God Almighty Himself has etched onto the very DNA of every man, woman and child.
Go and sue God, ACLU!
February 27 , 2002