Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Keep me safe through the separation of church and state

I grew up on the evangelical right. In fact, in eighth grade when our school held a mock election, I was Barry Goldwater's campaign chairperson.

Now I find myself fearful that conservative evangelicals will continue to gain power in the USA. I also find myself a passionate beleiver in the separation of church and state.

I kind of shake my head and think, How did this happen?

Generally I prefer to live a life of joy and hope. So bear with me for a couple of minutes as I give voice to my fears.

In 1977 I became a Mennonite (maybe someday I'll do a blog on that amazing pilgrimage). Mennonites introduced me to a book called the Martyrs Mirror, first published in 1660 in the Netherlands.

Pardon me while I do a bit of history.

In the early 1500's when the first Mennonites were part of the reformation they believed in two things that separated them from other Christians--believers baptism and not going to war.

In the third century when Emperor Constatine became a Christian he declared that everyone in the empire was a Christian. After that for many centuries there was no separation of church and state. During the reformation some of the countries in Europe were Catholic, some were Lutheran, and some were Reformed.

And then along came the Anabaptists (today's Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites) who refused to do infant baptism and refused to go to war for the "Christian" state.

These Christian states began killing Anabaptists. Here's what has to say about the number of Anabaptists killed by other Christians:

''Some estimates place the number of martyrs at around 50,000 by 1535, and it may be that other Christians killed more Anabaptists than Romans killed Christians during their 300 years of persecutions.''

Martyrs Mirror tells the stories of hundreds of these Christians singing hymns and praying as they were killed by "Christian states."

I think our country's founders had the right idea when they included in the Bill of Rights: ''Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...''

No wonder the evangelical right makes me a little nervous. Christians in power used to kill people like me.

So, please keep me safe through the separation of church and state.

Okay, that's enough fear for today. The rest of the day I'm going to share with folks I meet the joy that flows from the roots of God's love.

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