Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Robert Grossmann The United States is the first (and unfortunately the last) nation on earth to be founded on the basis of several fundamental ideas.

Other nations are founded on an ethnic identity, the power of a great ruler, or on geography, but the United States was founded on the ideas that "all men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights."

Thirteen weak colonies of a European nation strung along the east coast of a large continent banded together to found a nation "conceived in liberty," as Abraham Lincoln put it in the Gettysburg Address. Yet this almost insignificant group of colonies, already populated with people of several nationalities and native languages, was destined to become the greatest nation on earth.

While not the largest nation in the territory, the United States has become the economic engine and a reliable food source for the whole world, all the while absorbing new immigrants from everywhere in the world who seek the liberty and prosperity to be found here.

In spite of the greatness of our nation, the United States is today going through a large internal struggle about basic ideas. This has shown up again in the recent election process.

Part of our nation wants to move into a brave new world where God is unnecessary, in fact where God, and especially the Christian God, should be removed from every part of public life. Others of us, on the other hand, are convinced that the fundamental reason for the greatness of our nation is exactly that our nation's founders not only acknowledged God in the founding of our nation, but they purposefully followed God's word in the Bible when looking for basic principles, such as the equal rights of all human beings before the law (see, for example Leviticus 19:15).

Our founding fathers put "In God We Trust" on our coins, they began all legislative sessions with prayer (beginning every day's meeting of the Constitutional Convention � on a motion by Benjamin Franklin), and their immediate successors wrote the Ten Commandments three times on the Supreme Court building. They did this very carefully so as to avoid establishing a government sponsored church, such as existed in Europe and which they considered a bad thing, and we do too.

I know of no Christian group in America that is seeking to establish a state church, or to silence non-Christians from the public forum. But I do read letters to the editor and editorials arguing that religious ideas should be kept out of the public forum.

The problem here, of course, is our definition of "religion." The fact is that all ideas are religious in a basic sense. All human beings, including atheists, have certain convictions about the existence of God, about what is right and what is wrong, and they hold to these ideas tenaciously, which is to say, "religiously." It is quite as much a religious statement to say, "I do not believe in the existence of God," as it is to say, "I do believe in the God of the Bible." Both are statements about God to which the person speaking confesses a faith-commitment.

In the same way, it is just as much a moral statement to say, "Abortion is right," as it is to say, "Abortion is wrong." Therefore for some of us to try to outlaw the other's position from public speech because they speak about "morality" or "God," is self-contradictory and ultimately destructive of our own freedom of speech.

The point is that the only right system in a free nation is one where we really do believe in the freedom of speech, freedom of speech not just for those who agree with us, but especially for those who disagree. I may not like your position on abortion at all, but I must be ready to defend your right to argue for it in public, even if it means that my side with lose the election.

I believe that in spite of our differences on issues, it is in all of our best interest to preserve real freedom of speech for everyone in our society, and not only for those who agree with us!

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