Who is John Stott? It doesn't Matter.
The Religion Problem in the US
David Brooks, a regular OP-Ed columnist at the NY Times wrote an OP-ED piece discussing the apparent religiosity that has come over the US. In line with most other columnists, and lay people, there is much discussion about the Christian nature of the US and what that should mean. Let me discuss the religion angle first.
To be sure, this is an overwhelmingly Christian country. As it should be given it's history. That history is that it was founded by Europeans who are overwhelmingly Christian. Since these Christians decimated the indigenous population and forcibly "discouraged" the religions of Africans who they bought here in a most un-Christian manner, they remained as the "top dog" in terms of religion. These particular Christians also knew quite a bit about religious persecution (even while practicing it on others. Hence they knew that the State, which was supposed be protective of individual liberties, was in cahoots with "the Church' then problems would arise. I believe that the reason for the prohibition of the State to "establish" religion was so that no single denomination could impose it's interpretation of the Bible upon others Christian groups. It is entirely possible that the Founders did indeed intend for the US to be a Christian country, in perpetuity but once they added that clause in the constitution, that idea was and is bound to fall.
Let's look at the issue of school prayer. Most of it's proponents are Christian. Muslims don't appear to be too concerned even though their religion requires 5 daily prayers at set intervals, some of which occur during school hours. People who practice Santeria, Lukumi, Ifa, Buddhism, Taoism also seem to not be up in arms about school prayer. So why is it that Christians feel this need to have prayer in school especially when nobody has ever been stopped from bowing their head at their desk and saying whatever prayer they want. If one can pray in school to oneself, then one does have "School prayer." What we don't have and what some people don't want, is out loud, mandatory prayer. This is a critical thing because it speaks to the Christian need (and Muslim too) to have public shows of faithfulness. Something almost entirely absent in other religions. So not only must one be accosted by "Jesus is my co-pilot" bumper stickers. and my favorite: "no Jesus, No Peace" (as If Christians haven't caused wars...Ha haaa...Anyways) But when we get to school we would then have to be lead in prayer as if we were at a church. When I ask Christian proponents of School prayer what they would do if their children were in a school that had to make salat, I've been informed that they would remove their children immediately. Now how hypocritical is that? So we know that this is not about prayer or even so much about public prayer. No folks, This is about public Christian prayer. In essence these advocates of School prayer are actually advocates of school prosylization. Herein' lies their legal problem. Schools are funded by public money from people of all religious backgrounds. It is illegal for the state to give funds to public institutions that discriminate against any part of the tax paying public covered under the Civil Rights Act. In any case where a student who does not wish to participate in "School prayer" is asked to leave the room, we have discrimination. Why should that student who's parents pay taxes be required to leave the room? Why not all the praying folks?
But lets take this further, since the constitution does NOT read that the state cannot establish a Christian religion, but instead reads that the state cannot establish religion [at all]. If the state were to say that prayer must happen (or should happen or can happen)it puts the public institution in a position of deciding which type of prayer is acceptable. Once that public institution does so it is in effect establishing a religion, a clear violation of the constitution. In fact given that some tax payers are atheists and therefore do not ascribe to any form of "God recognition" the very requirement of a prayer would be de-facto establishment of religion.
So we should not be fooled by certain Christians who think they are somehow "defending American values" when they talk of school prayer. What they are doing is passing off a clear biblical agenda (to which many Americans ascribe to) but is clearly contradictory to the Constitution. Let me return to Brook's article though.
Brooks quotes a man, John Stott who states:
Most important, he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativism of good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed. As he writes:
"It is not because we are ultra-conservative, or obscurantist, or reactionary or the other horrid things which we are sometimes said to be. It is rather because we love Jesus Christ, and because we are determined, God helping us, to bear witness to his unique glory and absolute sufficiency. In Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ God's revelation is complete; to add any words of our own to his finished work is derogatory to Christ."
Well this is the problem. If I don't believes in "Christ,' Then that opinion is simply that, an opinion. It is also quite arrogant and not to mention flat out wrong when this John fellow or any other Christian for that matter thinks that they are in possession of the one and only "truth." It is simply not the case and that can be proven. These "truthists' believed that blacks were not even capable of "salvation" That is not an accepted "truth" anymore (well in most denominations). Furthermore; What is "relativization" of good and evil? Is it relativizing when in the Bible it clearly states that "Thou Shalt Not Kill" yet many, many Christians support the killings in Iraq? That many many Christians approved of the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. That many many Christians to this day believe it was OK for the US to kill in Vietnam? If that is not 'relativization" then I don't know what it is. But Christians, especially white ones, have no problem killing non-Christians that they feel are a threat to them, no less than Muslims believe in Jihad. Oh Christians have access to the most efficient killing machines in the world, yet believe that one should "not kill" and "turn the other cheek." Moral relativism indeed!